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History, Role, &Mission of the Middle East Institute
26 Oct 2010

Founded in 1946, the Middle East Institute is the oldest Washington-based institution dedicated solely to the study of the Middle East. Its founders, scholar George Camp Keiser and former US Secretary of State Christian Herter, laid out a simple base ‘to increase knowledge of the Middle East among the citizens of the United States and to promote a better understanding between the people of these two areas’.

MEI has earned a reputation as an unbiased source of information and analysis on this critical region of the world, a reputation it has meticulously safeguarded since its creation. Today, MEI remains a respected, non-partisan voice in the field of Middle East studies.

MEI launched several programs that still exist today. The George Camp Keiser Library was established along with the Institute in 1946. It is home to the most comprehensive English collection of source material on the Middle East in Washington, DC, outside of the Library of Congress.

The Institute published the first issue of The Middle East Journal in 1947. It is a highly-regarded academic publication that now appears in two-thirds of university libraries in the United States and is available electronically to students and academics around the world.

Despite limited funding in the early days, MEI became known for its reliable, unbiased and insightful analysis of the Middle East. MEI initiatives included seminars, biannual newsletters and annual conferences. Conferences addressed a myriad of contemporary issues including the impact of the Middle East energy crisis and petrodollar problems on Americans; violence and dialogue in the Middle East; and Soviet policy toward the region.

Under the current leadership of President Wendy Chamberlin and Chairman of the Board Wyche Fowler, MEI serves as a primary resource on the Middle East for policymakers, journalists and the public. Its mission is to “promote knowledge of the Middle East in America and strengthen understanding of the United States by the peoples and governments of the region.” MEI continues to develop new ways to reach out to these audiences through events, publications, original web content, and the classroom.