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Socio-political Changes, Confessionalization and Inter-confessional Relations in Ottoman Damascus from 1760 to 1860

Ms. Anaïs Massot defended her thesis on 26 January 2021

A.K.J.M. Massot
26 January 2021
Leiden Repository

This thesis analyzes the relation between socio-political changes and inter-confessional relations in Ottoman Damascus from 1760 to 1860. Through a cross-reading of contemporary chronicles, Ottoman archives, French and British consular archives, court records, as well as missionary archives, this research explores how religious communities were imagined and constructed in the context of the social, political, and economic transformations of the late 18th century and the early 19th century Tanzimat period, and how it affected inter-confessional relations.
On the one hand, the traditional interpretation of the history of Bilād al-Šām in the 19th century based upon an essentialist reading of inter-confessional relations and violence relied upon the narrative of ancient and enduring hatred between religious groups. On the other hand, the social history reading minimizes the role of religious in these dynamics. This study reintroduces the religious factor, but through a social science analysis. It adopts a diachronic approach to study the interaction between long term developments within communities and short term socio-political reforms of the 19th century. It brings to light the relation between the internal transformation of communities and inter-confessional relations. First, this thesis analyzes the development of confessional cultures among Greek Catholics, Jews and Muslims. Then, it points to the politicization of religious identifications in the 19th century through the transformations of state-society relations, foreign intervention, power struggles for access to urban and rural resources, and the reconstruction of the hierarchies of the non-Muslim communities through the institutionalization of the millet system.


  • prof. dr. E.J. Zürcher
  • prof. dr. B. Heyberger (Ehess, France)
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