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Ottoman Syria: Social History Through an Urban Lens



A body of work on the social history of Ottoman Syria has developed in the years since 1980, written largely from the perspective of the region’s cities. Material from the interior towns of Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Nablus and Jerusalem all has contributed to the literature. This article highlights major issues broached in the international scholarship. Topics include social bases of political factionalism, histories of elites and commoners, families and gender roles in various aspects of urban life, marginalized populations including prostitutes and slaves, and relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims in Ottoman Syrian towns. Although Ottoman provincial histories are sometimes criticized as being anachronistically proto-nationalist, the literature under review largely avoids this characterization. Its authors aim to explain the past, and sometimes to relate the past to the Middle East’s national present, but they do so within the historical context of the Ottoman sultanate.