Abstract

This book is a socio-spatial history of the Middle East, and uses that case to reflect more broadly on the making of the modern world. Pivoting around Bilād al-Shām (Greater Syria) - alternatingly zooming in on cities and nation-states and zooming out to neighboring countries, imperial and transnational links, and overseas diasporas - it asks: Why, how, and in which stages did well-rooted cities and regions mold a dynamic modern world economy and powerful modern states, and how were they remolded in return? Covering culture, the economy, and administration from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century in five chapters, each prefaced by one person's illustrative story, the book identifies three key developments in the late Ottoman period. Cities were transformed but remained powerful ; interurban ties grew stronger ; and Bilād al-Shām became more integrated. These developments did not end in 1918 but, as is shown next, deeply shaped post-Ottoman times. While quartered, Bilād al-Shām became an umbrella region for Palestine, Transjordan, Syria and Lebanon, and forced French and British rulers to coordinate policies. And while cities lionized their weight in transnational circuits as well as reimagined themselves as national places to assert their rank in new nation-states, the latter were from the start multi-urban and transnationalized spaces. Building on the Middle Eastern case, the book argues that the modern world cannot be truly grasped by studying globalization or state formation or urbanization, as many histories do. Rather, the modern world's most fundamental socio-spatial feature is what can be called transpatialization: the intertwinement of cities, regions, states, and global circuits in faster changing and more mutually transformative ways than before in history.

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