BTS 105

Imperial Norms and Local Realities. The Ottoman Municipal Laws and the Municipality of Beirut (1860-1908)

Malek Sharif

Beirut 2014, 272 pp., engl. text

In this study, Malek Sharif (AUB) revises and rejects the widely held assumption that the municipal institution of the Ottoman Tanzimat period was imposed on the provinces by the central authorities of the Empire. This study provides a differentiated picture of the Beirut municipality, achieved through the careful perusal of the consecutive Ottoman laws, in addition to a variety of other contemporary sources including the local press, Ottoman almanacs, memoirs, Western consular correspondence, travelogues and Ottoman archival material.Special attention is given to the formative years of a number of municipal institutions in Syria which so far had been overlooked. The detailed examination of primary sources has revealed that the municipal institutions in Syria were not established only in the 1870s, as has been a common view among historians, but a whole decade earlier. As Sharif shows convincingly, the history of the municipality of Beirut is more nuanced than hitherto assumed.

Malek Sharif was Visiting Assistant Professor at the History and Archaeology Department and Civilisation Sequence Program at the American University of Beirut from 2008 until 2010, since then he is lecturer at the same departments.