In the middle of the nineteenth century, a wave of anti-Christian violence broke out in Ottoman Syria. Prevailing interpretations tie this social turmoil to the region’s sudden integration into the modern world economy, further aggravated by state reforms that upset long-standing political hierarchies. This paper argues that the origins of these disturbances lay not in the penetration of the modern world economy but in the extended political crisis that shook the Ottoman Empire during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Sectarian tensions therefore need to be seen, at their root, as political reactions to the slow disintegration of the early-modern political order. In its timing and causes, this Ottoman experience helps to highlight a broader “sectarian turn” that overtook many other parts of Eurasia in the same period.
BarsoumianHagopBraudeBenjaminLewisBernardThe Dual Role of the Armenian Amira Class within the Ottoman Government and the Armenian Millet (1750-1850)Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Empire1982PrincetonPrinceton University Press171184
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HaydonColinClaydonTonyMcBrideIan“I Love My King and My Country, but a Roman Catholic I Hate”: Anti-Catholicism, Xenophobia, and National Identity in Eighteenth-Century EnglandProtestantism and National Identity: Britain and Ireland c. 1650-18501998CambridgeCambridge University Presschap. 2.
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al-JamilIlyasShihabHaydar AhmadShibliAntuniyusʿAbdu KhalifaIghnatiyusBayna Lubnan wa-Suriya fi ʿahd al-Shihabiyin: Athr tarikhi qadim min ayyam al-Jazzar fi BayrutTarikh Ahmad Basha al-Jazzar1955BeirutMaktabat Antwan
el-LeithyTamerMacGregorRichardSabraAdamSufis, Copts, and the Politics of Piety: Moral Regulation in 14th-Century Upper EgyptThe Development of Sufism in Mamluk Egypt2006CairoInstitut Français d’Archéologie Orientale75120
MaʾozMoshePolkWilliam R.ChambersRichard L.The Impact of Modernization on Syrian Politics and Society during the Early Tanzimat PeriodThe Beginnings of Modernization in the Middle East: The Nineteenth Century1968ChicagoUniversity of Chicago Press333350
WinterStefanPhilippThomasSchumannChristophThe Nusayris before the Tanzimat in the Eyes of Ottoman Provincial Administrators, 1804-34From the Syrian Land to the States of Syria and Lebanon2004WürzburgErgon97112
See e.g. S. KhalafLebanon’s Predicament (New York: Columbia University Press1987): chap. 3; G. Krämer “Moving Out of Place: Minorities in Middle Eastern Societies 1800-1914.” In The Urban Social History of the Middle East 1750-1950 ed. P. Sluglett (Syracuse: University of Syracuse Press 2008): 182-223; U. Makdisi The Culture of Sectarianism: Community History and Violence in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon (Los Angeles: University of California Press 2000); M. Maʾoz “The Impact of Modernization on Syrian Politics and Society during the Early Tanzimat Period.” Ιn The Beginnings of Modernization in the Middle East: The Nineteenth Century ed. W.R. Polk and R.L. Chambers (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1968): 333-50; B. Masters Christians and Jews in the Ottoman Arab World: the Roots of Sectarianism (Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press 2001); J. Reilly “Inter-Confessional Relations in 19th-Century Syria: Damascus Homs and Hama Compared.” Islam and Muslim-Christian Relations 7 (1996): 213-24.
B. ʿAbbud al-GhustawiBasaʾir al-zaman fi tarikh al-ʿallama al-Batriyark Yusuf Istifan (Beirut: Ghustawi1911): 81. The sight of throngs welcoming a Christian dignitary was not necessarily unseemly or upsetting to Muslim opinion. Entering Aleppo in 1659 the Orthodox patriarch of Damascus received the help of a detachment of Janissaries who beat back the crowd and opened a path for him; B. al-Halabi Nukhba min safrat al-Batriyark Makariyus al-Halabi ed. Q. al-Basha (Harisa Lebanon: Matbaʿat al-Qiddis Bulus 1912): 78-79.
Abdul-Rahim Abu HusaynThe View from Istanbul: Ottoman Lebanon and the Druze Emirate (New York: I.B. Tauris2002): 12; W.R. Polk The Opening of South Lebanon 1788-1840: A Study of the Impact of the West on the Middle East (Cambridge ma: Harvard University Press 1963): 129; K. Salibi A House of Many Mansions: The History of Lebanon Reconsidered (Berkeley: University of California Press 1988): 103-105; R. von Leeuwen Notables and Clergy in Mount Lebanon: The Khazin Sheikhs and the Maronite Church (1736-1840) (Leiden: Brill 1994): 101.
E. Frangakis-SyrettThe Commerce of Smyrna in the Eighteenth Century (1700-1820) (Athens: Center for Asia Minor Studies1992): 59-60. One consular report no doubt inflated estimated that five thousand Christians had died in the riots.
For a general discussion see B. MetcalfIslamic Revival in British India: Deoband 1860-1900 (Princeton: Princeton University Press1982); T. Ahmad Nizami Muslim Political Thought and Activity in India during the First Half of the Nineteenth Century (Aligarh: Three Mens Publications 1969).
P. CareyThe Power of Prophecy: Prince Dipanagara and the End of the Old Order in Java 1785-1855 (Leiden: Brill2007). On similar movements in Sumatra at the turn of the nineteenth century see C. Dobbin Islamic Revivalism in a Changing Peasant Economy: Central Sumatra 1784-1847 (London: Curzon Press 1983).
See e.g. M. GammerMuslim Resistance to the Tsar: Shamil and the Conquest of Chechnia and Daghestan (London: F. Cass1994); K. Karpat The Politicization of Islam: Reconstructing Identity State Faith and Community in the Late Ottoman State (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2001): chap. 1.
See B. Abu Manneh“Sheikh Murad al-Bukhari and the Expansion of the Naqshbandi-Mujaddidi Order in Istanbul.”Die Welt des Islams53 (2013): 23-25; M. Zilfi Women and Slavery in the Late Ottoman Empire (New York: Cambridge University Press 2010): 51; ead. “A Medrese for the Palace: Ottoman Dynastic Legitimation in the Eighteenth Century.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 113 (1993): 189-91. On the possible role of economic factors in the sartorial campaigns see especially D. Quataert “Clothing Laws State and Society in the Ottoman Empire 1720-1829.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 29 (1997): 403-25. For evidence of heightened sectarian tensions among Istanbul guildsmen by the late eighteenth century see O. Yıldırım “Ottoman Guilds as a Setting for Ethno-Religious Conflict: The Case of the Silk-Thread Spinners’ Guild in Istanbul.” International Review of Social History 40 (2002): 407-19.
By1799the Ottoman state had decided to arm Christian peasant militias against the refractory Janissary garrison of Belgrade. This experiment would lay the groundwork for the later Serbian revolt (1804-17) which ended in autonomy for the province. On the origins and consequences of this policy see R.W. Zens “In the Name of the Sultan: Hacı Mustafa Pasha of Belgrade and Ottoman Provincial Rule in the Late 18th Century.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 44 (2012): 129-46.
S.A.A. RizviShah Abd al-Aziz: Puritanism Sectarian Polemics and Jihad (Canberra: Maʿrifat Publishing House1982); J. Voll Islam: Continuity and Change in the Modern World (Syracuse: University of Syracuse Press 1993): 110-11.