The Ottoman Empire at least nominally ruled Mount Lebanon from its conquest in 1516 until the end of World War I in 1918.

The Ottoman sultan, Salim I (1516–20), invaded Syria and Lebanon in 1516. Salim I, moved by the eloquence of the Lebanese ruler Amir Fakhr ad Din I (1516–44), decided to grant the Lebanese amirs a semiautonomous status. The Ottomans, through the Maans, a great Druze feudal family, and the Shihabs, a Sunni Muslim family that had converted to Christianity,[dubious ] ruled Lebanon until the middle of the nineteenth century.

Ottoman administration, however, was only effective in urban areas, while most of the country was ruled by tribal chieftains, based largely on their ability to collect taxes for the sultan.[1] The system of administration in Lebanon during this period is best described by the Arabic word iqta', which refers to a political system, similar to other feudal societies, composed of autonomous feudal families that were subservient to the emir, who himself was nominally loyal to the sultan; therefore, allegiance depended heavily upon personal loyalty.[2]

It was precisely this power structure, made up of fiefdoms, that allowed Bashir II, an emir from the Shihab dynasty in the Druze and Maronite districts of Mount Lebanon, to become the most powerful figure in Ottoman Syria during the first part of the 19th century.[1] It was during this period that Lebanon saw increasing class and religious antagonisms that would define Lebanese social and political life for decades to come.

Ottoman conquest and early rule

The Ottoman sultan, Selim I (1512–20), after defeating the Safavids, conquered the Mamluks of Egypt. His troops, invading Syria, destroyed Mamluk resistance in 1516 at the Battle of Marj Dabiq, north of Aleppo.[3]

During the conflict between the Mamluks and the Ottomans, the amirs of Mount Lebanon linked their fate to that of Ghazali, governor (pasha) of Damascus. He won the confidence of the Ottomans by fighting on their side at Marj Dabaq and, apparently pleased with the behavior of the Lebanese amirs, introduced them to Salim I when he entered Damascus. Salim I, moved by the eloquence of the Lebanese ruler Amir Fakhr ad Din I (1516–44), decided to grant the Lebanese amirs a semiautonomous status.

Maan family rule

Shihab dynasty

Bashir II

The reign of Bashir II saw an economic shift in the mountain regions from a feudal to a cash crop system, in which Beiruti merchants (largely Sunni and Christian) loaned money to peasants, freeing them from dependence on their feudal mountain lords and contributing to the development of a handicraft economy with the growing specialization of agriculture.[4]

The emir's relationship with Muhammad Ali, the Albanian-Ottoman viceroy of Egypt, began in 1821 after Bashir II was forced to seek refuge in Egypt by revolting Maronites upset about overtaxation.[1] In 1822, the emir returned to Lebanon, backed by Muhammad Ali, and reestablished his semi-autonomous rule, making allies with Maronite patriarchs and surrounding himself with Christians, causing many historians to retrospectively accuse the emir of fomenting religious tensions between the ascendant Maronite community and the historically dominant Druze.[1]

Lebanon under Egyptian Occupation

After the failure to put down the insurrection in some of the Greek provinces of the Ottoman Empire due to the intervention of European powers sinking his naval fleet at the Battle of Navarino, the wāli of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, sought the province of Syria, which had been promised to him by the Ottoman government if he succeeded in the war. When the Porte refused to give him the province, Muhammad Ali raised an army under his son Ibrahim Pasha to occupy the province and bring it under Egyptian control. Bashir II had sought refuge in Egypt during the aforementioned troubled times in Lebanon from 1821–1822 and had become an ally of Muhammad Ali, thus his help was sought to help secure Egyptian rule in the province.[1] During the occupation, Ibrahim Pasha and Bashir II enacted high taxes, eventually producing resistance, and Bashir II's provision of Christian forces in battles against the Druze may have served as a source of future sectarian tensions.[5] Bashir II had previously attempted to not appear as favoring the Maronites to the degree that he was required to under the Egyptian occupation, however as his help was required to hold the territory, Muhammad Ali was insistent that he provide forces to his son, even threatening Bashir II personally when he appeared to be hesitating in bringing his soldiers.[1][6] The occupation also introduced social measures that raised the legal rights of Christians in the area and imposed conscription and disarmament.[5]

Foreign intervention in the 19th century and changing economic conditions

The tensions that burst into the sectarian conflict during the 1860s were set within the context of a fast-paced change in the established social order in the region. Under Bashir II, the agricultural economy of the Mount Lebanon region was brought into greater interdependence with the commercial economy of Beirut, altering the structure of feudal obligations and expanding the influence of cash crops.[4] This created increased economic and political ties with France, leading to the French becoming an international patron of sorts to the Maronites of Lebanon. This left the British to side with the Druze to the extent that a counterweight to France could be established in the region and that such tensions would not result in separatism that would threaten the integrity of the Ottoman Empire.[7] The reforms within the Tanzimat also provided a source of increasing disagreement between Maronite and Druze populations. The European powers attempted to make sure the Tanzimat was interpreted as a mandate to protected Christians in the region and grant them great autonomy; while Druze elites interpreted the Tanzimat as restoring their traditional rights to rule the land.[8] Youssef Bey Karam, a Lebanese nationalist played an influential role in Lebanon's independence during this era.

Religious conflicts

On September 3, 1840, Bashir III was appointed amir of Mount Lebanon by the Ottoman sultan. Geographically, Mount Lebanon represents the central part of present-day Lebanon, which historically has had a Christian majority. Greater Lebanon, on the other hand, created at the expense of Greater Syria, was formally constituted under the League of Nations mandate granted to France in 1920 and includes the Biqa Valley, Beirut, southern Lebanon (up to the border with modern Israel), and northern Lebanon (up to the border with Syria). In practice, the terms Lebanon and Mount Lebanon tend to be used interchangeably by historians until the formal establishment of the Mandate.[3]

Bitter conflicts between Christians and Druzes, which had been simmering under Ibrahim Pasha's rule, resurfaced under the new amir. Hence, the sultan deposed Bashir III on January 13, 1842, and appointed Omar Pasha as governor of Mount Lebanon. This appointment, however, created more problems than it solved. Representatives of the European powers proposed to the sultan that Lebanon be partitioned into Christian and Druze sections. On December 7, 1842, the sultan adopted the proposal and asked Assad Pasha, the governor (wali) of Beirut, to divide the region, then known as Mount Lebanon, into two districts: a northern district under a Christian deputy governor and a southern district under a Druze deputy governor. this arrangement came to be known as the Double Qaimaqamate. Both officials were to be responsible to the governor of Sidon, who resided in Beirut. The Beirut-Damascus highway was the dividing line between the two districts.

This partition of Lebanon proved to be a mistake. Animosities between the religious sects increased, nurtured by outside powers. The French, for example, supported the Christians, while the British supported the Druzes, and the Ottomans fomented strife to increase their control. Not surprisingly, these tensions led to conflict between Christians and Druzes as early as May 1845. Consequently, the European powers requested that the Ottoman sultan establish order in Lebanon, and he attempted to do so by establishing a majlis (council) in each of the districts. Each majlis was composed of members who represented the different religious communities and was intended to assist the deputy governor.

This system failed to keep order when the peasants of Kasrawan, overburdened by heavy taxes, rebelled against the feudal practices that prevailed in Mount Lebanon. In 1858 Tanyus Shahin and Abou Samra Ghanem, both Maronite peasant leaders, demanded that the feudal class abolish its privileges. When this demand was refused, the poor peasants revolted against the shaykhs of Mount Lebanon, pillaging the shaykhs' land and burning their homes.

Foreign interests in Lebanon transformed these basically sociopolitical struggles into bitter religious conflicts, culminating in the 1860 massacre of about 10,000 Maronites, as well as Greek Catholics and Greek Orthodox, by the Druzes. These events offered France the opportunity to intervene; in an attempt to forestall French intervention, the Ottoman government stepped in to restore order.

Christian refugees during the 1860 strife between Druze and Maronites in Lebanon.

On October 5, 1860, an international commission composed of France, Britain, Austria, Prussia, and the Ottoman Empire met to investigate the causes of the events of 1860 and to recommend a new administrative and judicial system for Lebanon that would prevent the recurrence of such events. The commission members agreed that the partition of Mount Lebanon in 1842 between Druzes and Christians had been responsible for the massacre. Hence, in the Statue of 1861 Mount Lebanon was separated from Syria and reunited under a non-Lebanese Christian mutasarrif (governor) appointed by the Ottoman sultan, with the approval of the European powers. The mutasarrif was to be assisted by an administrative council of twelve members from the various religious communities in Lebanon.

Direct Ottoman rule of Lebanon remained in effect until the end of World War I. This period was generally characterized by a laissez-faire policy and corruption. However, a number of governors, such as Daud Pasha and Naum Pasha, ruled the country efficiently and conscientiously.

Lebanese soldiers during the Mutasarrifia period of Mount Lebanon

Restricted mainly to the mountains by the mutasarrifiyah (district governed by a mutasarrif) arrangement and unable to make a living, many Lebanese Christians emigrated to Egypt and other parts of Africa and to North America, South America, and East Asia. Remittances from these Lebanese emigrants send to their relatives in Lebanon has continued to supplement the Lebanese economy to this day.

In addition to being a center of commercial and religious activity, Lebanon became an intellectual center in the second half of the nineteenth century. Foreign missionaries established schools throughout the country, with Beirut as the center of this renaissance. The American University of Beirut was founded in 1866, followed by the French St. Joseph's University in 1875. An intellectual guild that was formed at the same time gave new life to Arabic literature, which had stagnated under the Ottoman Empire. This new intellectual era was also marked by the appearance of numerous publications and by a highly prolific press.

The period was also marked by increased political activity. The harsh rule of Abdul Hamid II (1876–1909) prompted the Arab nationalists, both Christians and Muslims, in Beirut and Damascus to organize into clandestine political groups and parties. The Lebanese, however, had difficulties in deciding the best political course to advocate. Many Lebanese Christians were apprehensive of Turkish pan-Islamic policies, fearing a repetition of the 1860 massacres. Some, especially the Maronites, began to contemplate secession rather than the reform of the Ottoman Empire. Others, particularly the Greek Orthodox, advocated an independent Syria with Lebanon as a separate province within it, so as to avoid Maronite rule. A number of Lebanese Muslims, on the other hand, sought not to liberalize the Ottoman regime but to maintain it, as Sunni Muslims particularly liked to be identified with the caliphate. The Shias and Druzes, however, fearing minority status in a Turkish state, tended to favor an independent Lebanon or a continuation of the status quo.

Youssef Bey Karam, a Lebanese nationalist played an influential role in Lebanon's independence during this era.

Originally the Arab reformist groups hoped their nationalist aims would be supported by the Young Turks, who had staged a revolution in 1908–1909. Unfortunately, after seizing power, the Young Turks became increasingly repressive and nationalistic. They abandoned many of their liberal policies because of domestic opposition and Turkey's engagement in foreign wars between 1911 and 1913. Thus, the Arab nationalists could not count on the support of the Young Turks and instead were faced with opposition by the Turkish government.

World War I and the French Mandate

The outbreak of World War I in August 1914 brought famine to Lebanon, mainly resulting from a Turkish land blockade and confiscations.[9] It killed an estimated third to half of the predominantly Maronite population over the next four years. Turkey, which had allied itself with Germany and Austria-Hungary, abolished Lebanon's semiautonomous status and appointed Djemal Pasha, then minister of the navy, as the commander in chief of the Turkish forces in Syria, with discretionary powers. Infamous for his brutality, he militarily occupied Lebanon and replaced the Armenian mutasarrif, Ohannes Pasha, with a Turk, Munif Pasha.

The Turkish Army also cut down trees for wood to fuel trains or for military purposes. The date, May 6, is commemorated annually in both countries as Martyrs' Day, and the site in Beirut has come to be known as Martyrs' Square.

The end of Ottoman rule in Lebanon began in September 1918 when French forces landed on the Lebanese coast, and the British moved into Palestine, opening the way for the liberation of Syria and Lebanon from Turkish rule. At the San Remo Conference in Italy in April 1920, the Allies gave France a mandate over Greater Syria. France then appointed General Henri Gouraud to implement the mandate provisions.[3]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kisirwani, Maroun (October 1980). "Foreign Interference and Religious Animosity in Lebanon". Journal of Contemporary History. 15 (4): 685–700. doi:10.1177/002200948001500405. JSTOR 260504.
  2. ^ Hamzeh, A. Nizar (July 2001). "Clientalism, Lebanon: Roots and Trends". Middle Eastern Studies. 37 (3): 167–178. doi:10.1080/714004405. JSTOR 4284178.
  3. ^ a b c Collelo, Thomas; Harvey Henry Smith (1989). Lebanon, a country study (3rd. ed.). Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. pp. 12–18. ISBN 978-0-16-001731-5.
  4. ^ a b Fawaz, Leila (November 1984). "The City and the Mountain: Beirut's Political Radius in the Nineteenth Century as Revealed in the Crisis of 1860". International Journal of Middle East Studies. Cambridge University Press. 16 (4): 489–495. doi:10.1017/s002074380002852x. JSTOR 163154.
  5. ^ a b Hitti, Philip K. (March 1930). "Review: Ibrahim Pasha in Syria". The Journal of Modern History. 2 (1): 142–143. doi:10.1086/235576. JSTOR 1871159.
  6. ^ Rustum, Asad Jibrail (April 1925). "Syria under Mehemet Ali--A Translation". The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures. 41 (3): 183–191. doi:10.1086/370068. JSTOR 528700.
  7. ^ Salih, Shakeeb (May 1977). "The British-Druze Connection and the Druze Rising of 1896 in the Hawran". Middle Eastern Studies. 13 (2): 251–257. doi:10.1080/00263207708700349. JSTOR 4282647.
  8. ^ Makdisi, Ussama (January 2000). "Corrupting the Sultanate: The Revolt of Tanyus Shahin in Nineteenth-Century Ottoman Lebanon". Comparative Studies in Society and History. 42 (1): 180–208. doi:10.1017/S0010417500002644. JSTOR 2696638.
  9. ^ Melanie Schulze Tanielian, Charity of War: Famine, Humanitarian Aid, and World War I in the Middle East. (Stanford, CA.: Stanford University Press, 2017) url=