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The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism

By Michael Provence

Publication Year: 2005

The Great Syrian Revolt of 1925 was the largest and longest-lasting anti-colonial insurgency in the inter-war Arab East. Mobilizing peasants, workers, and army veterans, rather than urban elites and nationalist intellectuals, it was the first mass movement against colonial rule in the Middle East. The revolt failed to liberate Syria from French occupation, but it provided a model of popular nationalism and resistance that remains potent in the Middle East today. Each subsequent Arab uprising against foreign rule has repeated the language and tactics of the Great Syrian Revolt. In this work, Michael Provence uses newly released secret colonial intelligence sources, neglected memoirs, and popular memory to tell the story of the revolt from the perspective of its participants. He shows how Ottoman-subsidized military education created a generation of leaders of modest background who came to rebel against both the French Mandate rulers of Syria and the Syrian intellectuals and landowners who helped the colonial regime to function. This new popular nationalism was unprecedented in the Arab world. Provence shows compellingly that the Great Syrian Revolt was a formative event in shaping the modern Middle East.

Published by: University of Texas Press

Series: CMES Modern Middle East Series

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

It is a pleasure to record my thanks to the people who contributed to this book. The indelible traces of wonderful teachers and friends are imprinted on each page, and the existence of this project is unimaginable to me without their help. Rashid Khalidi, Cornell Fleischer, and Beshara Doumani generously guided the dissertation from which it grew. They have long supported ...


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p. xiii-xiii

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p. xiv-xiv

Arabic words have been transliterated into Latin script according to the system employed by IJMES. The diacritic ^ has been used to indicate long vowels. Ottoman Turkish words have been rendered into Latin script according to the rules of modern Turkish. Names and words reasonably familiar to the English-speaking reader have been rendered in their familiary form (for ...

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CHAPTER 1. Introduction

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pp. 1-26

In late July 1922 a small group of men waited in the shade of a tree alongside a lonely road in rural southern Syria. Syria was a new country in 1922. The victorious European powers had carved it out of the defeated Ottoman Empire in the wake of the First World War in 1918. Less than two years later, in 1920, France occupied the country against the wishes of most of its ...

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CHAPTER 2. The Ḥawrân Frontier

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pp. 27-47

On 19 July 1925 Druze farmers shot down a French surveillance airplane circling above their mountain home, Jabal Ḥawrân, some 100 kilometers south of Damacus.1 These were the first shots of a revolt that would last two years, beginning and ending in Jabal Ḥawrân. On the same day Druze rebels attacked french troops in the Jabal. The next day Sulṭân al-Atrash ...

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CHAPTER 3. Mobilizing the Mountain

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pp. 48-64

Resistance movements emerged in various parts of the Syrian countryside on the eve of the French occupation. Though nationalist feelings and ideas were on the rise all over the country, local articulation differed from place to place. One of those places was Jabal Ḥawrân. Syrian Arab nationalism, as it evolved in Jabal Ḥawrân was inspired in part by newly ...

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CHAPTER 4. Mobilizing the City

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pp. 65-107

Notices like this appeared in Damascus repeatedly during August 1925. Such appeals demonstrate the existence of a sophisticated but not necessarily widespread nationalist consciousness. Despite repeated entreaties, the notices seemed to have little effect. The language, or perhaps the medius of transmission, failed to incite Damascenes to rise against the ...

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CHAPTER 5. The Spread of Rebellion

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pp. 87-107

Protests and agitation continued into September 1925 and gradually spread to all the cities of mandate Syria. Mme. Shahbandar immediately assumed the mantle of her fugitive husband and engaged in a series of meetings with the wives of exiled and jailed Damascene nationalists and with other prominent women. she organized women's marches and ...

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CHAPTER 6. The Politics of Rebellion

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pp. 108-140

The bombardment of Damascus changed the direction of the uprising. The nationalist leadership of Damascus had fled abroad or to Jaban Ḥawrân. Some were in jail. Impassioned and artful appeals to patriotism and nationalism nailed to shop doors and passed from hand to hand in the bazaar stopped too. Still, the insurgency expanded every day in the region ...

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CHAPTER 7. Epilogue and Conclusions

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pp. 141-154

The Great Syrian Revolt began with dramatic rebel victories, but it ended with the slow and inexorable reassertion of government control over the devastated countryside, district by district and village by village. Most of the hundreds of insurgents named and sentenced in absentia by government courts fled into exile. The truly anonymous rebel masses ...

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pp. 155-190



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pp. 191-204


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pp. 205-209

E-ISBN-13: 9780292797109
E-ISBN-10: 0292797109
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292706354
Print-ISBN-10: 0292706359

Page Count: 223
Illustrations: 7 b&w illus., 2 maps
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: CMES Modern Middle East Series