Times of strife dominate discussion on Lebanon, with the 2019 ‘revolution’ the latest to headline after the civil wars of 1860 and 1975–90. The reorganisation period after 1860, known as the mutasarrifiyya, was, however, remarkably peaceful under the Ottomans – although now mainly a forgotten time with scholars neglecting the sources and perspective of the Sultan’s reformers. Instead, nationalist historians used local chronicles and European records to present the mutasarrifiyya as nurturing a Lebanese nation. Likewise, later Western accounts, utilising similar material, argued that European contact prepared the Lebanese for independence. Therefore, the existing historiography follows a teleological bent in unearthing supposed signs for the eventual end of Ottoman hegemony.
To counter this approach, I conducted research in the National Archives, supplemented with Ottoman sources referenced in secondary works and guided by theories on colonial centralisation to combat Orientalist narratives. I also looked for evidence of the antagonistic factors of foreign interference, nationalism and internal divides. As a result, I opine that Istanbul’s centralisation was effective to a great extent in precluding European influence and rendering Lebanon’s secession by no means certain. This paper should help reshape our understanding of Lebanese history by accentuating longer peaceful periods over sectarianism and foreign collusion.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Copyright (c) 2022 Charles Ough