In 1860, Damascus was a sleepy provincial capital of the weakening Ottoman Empire, a city defined in terms of its relationship to the holy places of Islam in the Arabian Hijaz and its legacy of Islamic knowledge. Yet by 1918 Damascus had become a seat of Arab nationalism and a would-be modern state capital. How can this metamorphosis be explained? Here Leila Hudson describes the transformation of Damascus. Within a couple of generations the city changed from little more than a way-station on the Islamic pilgrimage routes that had defined the city's place for over a millennium. Its citizens and notables now seized the opportunities made available through transport technology on the eastern Mediterranean coast and in the European economy. Shifts in marriage patterns, class, education and power ensued. But just when the city's destiny seemed irrevocably linked to the Mediterranean world and economy, World War I literally starved the urban centre of Damascus and empowered its Bedouin hinterland. The consequences shaped Syria for the rest of the twentieth century and beyond.
Leila Hudson is Assistant Professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Arizona.
Table of Contents 1. Topography, Capital Flows and Production of Space 2. On Political Capital 1860-1880: Imperial Reform and Publicness 3. Datamining the Sharia Archives: Sketches of a Changing City 4. On Money and Goods: 19th Century Patterns of Liquidity 5. On Human Capital: The Reproduction of Family and the Production of Class 6. On Intellectual Capital: The Sufi Lense for Reform 7. On Political Capital 1897-1913: Roads to Sovereignties 8. Crisis in the System: Reorienting Damascus