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Acre

Acre: The Rise and Fall of a Palestinian City, 1730-1831

THOMAS PHILIPP
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/phil12326
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    Acre
    Book Description:

    Thomas Philipp's study of Acre combines the most extensive use to date of local Arabic sources with commercial records in Europe to shed light on a region and power center many identify as the beginning of modern Palestinian history. The third largest city in eighteenth-century Syria -- after Aleppo and Damascus -- Acre was the capital of a politically and economically unique region on the Mediterranean coast that included what is today northern Israel and southern Lebanon. In the eighteenth century, Acre grew dramatically from a small fishing village to a fortified city of some 25,000 inhabitants. Cash crops (first cotton, then grain) made Acre the center of trade and political power and linked it inextricably to the world economy. Acre was markedly different from other cities in the region: its urban society consisted almost exclusively of immigrants seeking their fortune.

    The rise and fall of Acre in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Thomas Philipp argues, must be seen against the background of the decay of central power in the Ottoman empire. Destabilization of imperial authority allowed for the resurfacing of long-submerged traditional power centers and the integration of Arab regions into European and world economies. This larger imperial context proves the key to addressing many questions about the local history of Acre and its peripheries. How were the new sources of wealth and patterns of commerce that remade Acre reconciled with traditional forms of political power and social organization? Were these forms really traditional? Or did entirely new classes develop under the circumstances of an immigrant society and new commercial needs? And why did Acre, after such propitious beginnings as a center of export trade and political and military power strong enough to defy Napoleon, give way to the dazzling rise of Beirut in the nineteenth century? For centuries the object of the Crusader's fury and the trader's envy, Acre is here restored to its full significance at a crucial moment in Middle Eastern history.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50603-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-8)

    The city of Acre on the Syrian coast was once a famous Crusader stronghold. In the centuries following the Crusades the city had slipped into oblivion, and by the time of the Ottoman conquest, Acre was a collection of ruins in which only a few Arab fishermen found shelter. But in the eighteenth century Acre witnessed a dramatic rise in its fortunes, making it in 1785 the third largest city in Syria—after Aleppo and Damascus—and the largest port on the Syrian coast. By that time it had become the capital of a major politically integrated area in southwest...

  5. CHAPTER 1 SOUTHWEST SYRIA IN THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY: HIGHWAYS, SEA LANES, AND POPULATIONS
    (pp. 9-28)

    The Arab lands of the eastern Mediterranean region had first been incorporated into the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Syrian region between the Taurus Mountains and the Sinai Peninsula—known to its inhabitants and neighbors as Bilād al-Shām, usually translated as the Geographic Syria or the Land of Syria—fulfilled an essential function in the imperial strategy of Istanbul. The region insured the overland link to the rich province of Egypt for an empire in which the use of maritime connections always remained of secondary importance. With the city of Damascus, Syria also provided the...

  6. CHAPTER 2 THE POLITICS OF ACRE
    (pp. 29-93)

    So far we have only looked at the physical layout, the existing infrastructure, and the demographic trends of Acre and its hinterland during the period studied here. The aim of this chapter is to reconstruct a political history for this region with Acre as the focal point. A number of chronicles from the period itself and shortly afterward exist, often written by eyewitnesses. They touch on Acre in various forms, dealing with one ruler or another, with regional or communal affairs of various groups, with the history of the vilayets or with the major urban centers such as Damascus and...

  7. CHAPTER 3 TRADE: LOCAL RULERS AND THE WORLD ECONOMY
    (pp. 94-135)

    Now that we have considered the analysis of the political history of Acre and its realm during the period, we shall turn to the economic underpinnings of these developments. It is my contention that only the unique economic opportunities and the specific ways in which they were used made the political developments possible. The focus will be on the development of Acre’s export trade during the eighteenth century, which means mainly the new development of the export of raw cotton to France. Several basic questions may be raised here: How was the cotton trade with Europe handled? Who was engaged...

  8. CHAPTER 4 GOVERNMENT: THE MILITARY AND ADMINISTRATION
    (pp. 136-169)

    In the preceding two chapters we have seen how a local political power developed on the Syrian coast in an unprecedented shape with Acre as its center. For a while it became the most important center of power in all of Syria. On the one hand this was linked to the then apparent weakness of the Ottoman Empire at its center, on the other hand it had everything to do with the integration of Acre and its realm into the European world economy. The innovative and radical application of state monopolies over the trade and export of raw materials insured...

  9. CHAPTER 5 SOCIETY AND ITS STRUCTURE IN ACRE
    (pp. 170-186)

    It remains for us to have a look at the sort of urban society that evolved in Acre. Because of the dearth of relevant sources more questions will be raised than can be answered. Acre as a city and as a urban society distinguished itself by several unique features, which make it difficult to fit it into the typology of Ottoman provincial cities, though it also shared some features with such cities.¹

    In terms of time, Acre could look back, of course, on a long and distinguished history from antiquity to the Crusades. But the Acre of the eighteenth century...

  10. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS
    (pp. 187-192)

    The set of maps¹ of the Syrian region reveals the development of a unique territorial political entity between 1730 and 1831 on the coast of Syria. It had originally expanded from Tiberias, but Acre soon became its permanent center. This entity always included the Galilee, the Jabal ‘Āmil region of the Metualis, and, at times, attached the Druze region to the north through alliances. Control over a coastal strip, extending first from Acre to Haifa and Sidon and stretching at its greatest extension from Gaza to Latakia, was essential to this political entity. At some occasions official appointments from Istanbul...

  11. APPENDIX A. THE POPULATION OF ACRE
    (pp. 193-196)
  12. APPENDIX B. TRADE: TABLES AND FIGURES
    (pp. 197-214)
  13. APPENDIX C. ADMINISTRATIVE POSITIONS AND THEIR OCCUPANTS
    (pp. 215-222)
  14. APPENDIX D. MAPS
    (pp. 223-232)
  15. NOTES
    (pp. 233-266)
  16. Translations
    (pp. 267-276)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 277-282)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 283-299)