Why, in the years around 1920, did the concept of ʻminority ʼ suddenly spring to prominence in public affairs worldwide? Within a decade of World War One, the term became fundamental to public and academic understandings of national and international politics, law and society: ʻminorities ʼ, and ʻmajorities ʼ with them, were taken to be an objective reality, both in the present and the past. This book uses a study of Syria under the French mandate to show what historical developments led people to start describing themselves and others as ʻminorities ʼ. Despite French attempts to create territorial, political and legal divisions, the mandate period saw the consolidation of the nation-state form in Syria: a trend towards a coherent national territory with fixed borders, uniform state authority within them and the struggle to control that state played out in the language of nationalism - developments in the post-Ottoman Levant which closely paralleled those in contemporary Europe, after the demise of the Austro-Hungarian and tsarist empires. Through close attention to what changed in French mandate Syria, and what those changes meant, the book argues for a careful rethinking of a term too often used as an objective description of reality.