History Department
History Department

Talk: "Competing commodities: Interwar Syria and Palestine between national protectionism and regional primacy
" by Cyrus Schayegh, 
Princeton University

Mon, September 29, 2014 | GAR 4.100

2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

In the 1930s, two economic developments shaped Greater Syria (GS), a region increasingly integrated in the late Ottoman period and in 1918/21 divided into Palestine, Transjordan, Syria, and Lebanon. One was the global Great Depression, hitting Lebanon and Syria worst and narrowing all four countries’ access to foreign markets; the other a surge of well-off Jewish immigration, lifting the Yishuv. My lecture examines two key results. First, GS nation-state movements grew stronger and economic energies were channeled more decidedly into GS, which thus matured as an ‘umbrella region:’ those four countries, while crystallizing as separate nation-states, were doing so inside one regional framework. Second, GS became the economic framework for competitive interweaving. Interweaving was driven by increasing difference: that between Zionist boom and Syrian(/Lebanese) bust. Those differences created commodities production, trade, and consumption incentives inside a GS-wide tariff-free zone created in 1921. Flush in cash, the Yishuv became the principal importer of Syrian commodities desperately looking for an outlet. Competition was driven by increasing similarity. Most crucially, the thriving Yishuv – while importing more from Syria than vice versa – joined Syria as a manufacturing center with regional ambitions. This triggered a rivalry, which continued to 1948 and thereafter took on a new, geostrategic form.

Cyrus Schayegh is Assistant Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. His areas of research include Post-Ottoman Levant, Pre-revolutionary twentieth-century Iran, Transnational history, and social history. Read more at his faculty home page.

Sponsored by: Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Institute for Historical Studies in the Department of History

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