The Genesis of Arab Nationalism

  • Bassam Tibi


In the early nineteenth century the social structure of Greater Syria, the birthplace of Arab nationalism, was similar to that of Egypt before the reforms of Muhammad ‘Ali. The system of tax-farming known as iltizam in Egypt was called muqata‘a in Syria.1 Although also under Ottoman rule, Syria differed from Egypt in that it had not been governed centrally, but by a number of contending independent local dynasties. Hence it was more difficult to surmount the feudal system in Syria than in Egypt, and the feudal system in fact survived longest in this part of the Ottoman Empire.2 In Egypt the social structures had undergone an almost complete transformation as a result of the destruction of the feudal system 3 by Muhammad ‘Ali after 1805. In the Ottoman heartlands a similar transformation had taken place in the reign of Mahmud II (1808–39), particularly after the dissolution of the sipahis and the Janissaries.4 In Syria, however, social conditions remained virtually unchanged until the 1830s.5 The continuous internecine struggles between the local dynasties on the one hand and between themselves and the civil and military representatives of the Porte on the other had exhausted the country. Furthermore, outlying cities were regularly pillaged by Bedouin raiders, and, ‘the inevitable consequence of this state of affairs was the impoverishment and depopulation of both towns and the countryside’.6


Critical Enquiry Arab State Secret Society Mission School American Mission 
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Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bassam Tibi
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of GöttingenGermany

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