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  • The Urban Social History of the Middle East, 1750-1950
  • Donald Quataert
The Urban Social History of the Middle East, 1750-1950. By Peter Sluglett, ed. (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2008. xiv plus 321 pp.).

Together with an introduction by the editor and Edmund Burke III, the book's seven articles effectively treat many of the major issues in Mid East urban history. These include cities' economic substructures, their demography, political relations with the broader state entity and the spatial place of minorities. Divided approximately equally between the Ottoman and post-Ottoman eras, the articles nearly exclusively emphasize the Arab regions at the expense of the Anatolian and Balkan portions of the Ottoman Empire and its successor states. This emphasis is hardly a surprise given the interests of the editor and the authors. But the volume would have been the richer with a contribution or two from the northern portions of the region.

I found the introduction to be quite useful for its overview of the sources and problematics in Mid East urban history. At the same time, I would quibble with its stress on French scholarship. While this is enlightening, it does overlook important other historiographies such as the Turkish and the German.

The article by Sarah Shields offers a very helpful overview of Ottoman urban-rural relations and the deep dependency of each upon the other. It certainly should be recommended reading for students entering the field. Gudrun Kramer's article should lay to their final resting places two favorite incorrect stereotypes, the one concerning the alleged but not real division of labor. The other regards the false image of cities' communal segregation by quarter. Kramer's findings for the Ottoman era fit remarkably well with that of other authors who emphasize the 20th as well as the 19th century.

Among the other contributions, Abdul-Karim Rafeq offers a fine survey of economic organizations in the cities of Ottoman Syria. This piece offers a rich array of primary data as well as comparisons with other areas of the empire. When read in conjunction with the Shields article and those by Dina Rizk Khoury on Ottoman city and state relations and by Leila Fawaz and Robert Ilbert on the colonial [End Page 267] era, a particularly well-rounded perspective on the urban environment emerges. Like Rafeq, Bernard Hourcade presents an empirically-rich offering, this time surveying demographic changes and the changing forms of urbanization since c. 1800. Sami Zubaida's analysis of social movements treats the Ottoman and post-Ottoman eras and reminds us of how many evolutionary paths have been choked off thorough a combination of domestic and international repression.

Overall, this book is highly recommended for both introductory and advanced readers on the subject. It offers a series of fine syntheses of genuine value and sets a new benchmark for future studies.

Donald Quataert
State University of New York at Binghamton


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pp. 267-268
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