The Urban Notables Paradigm revisited - article ; n°1 ; vol.55, pg 215-230
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The Urban Notables Paradigm revisited - article ; n°1 ; vol.55, pg 215-230


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Learn all about the services we offer
17 Pages


Revue du monde musulman et de la Méditerranée - Année 1990 - Volume 55 - Numéro 1 - Pages 215-230
16 pages
Source : Persée ; Ministère de la jeunesse, de l’éducation nationale et de la recherche, Direction de l’enseignement supérieur, Sous-direction des bibliothèques et de la documentation.



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Published 01 January 1990
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Philip S. Khoury
The Urban Notables Paradigm revisited
In: Revue du monde musulman et de la Méditerranée, N°55-56, 1990. pp. 215-230.
Citer ce document / Cite this document :
Khoury Philip S. The Urban Notables Paradigm revisited. In: Revue du monde musulman et de la Méditerranée, N°55-56, 1990.
pp. 215-230.
doi : 10.3406/remmm.1990.2345 KHOURY Philip
In the late 1960s, two studies were published that offered historians important
and lasting instruction on how to comprehend politics at the macro and micro
levels in geographic Syria. Ira M. Lapidus' Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages
appeared in 1967 and Albert Hourani's article «Ottoman Reform and the Politics
of Notables» followed a year later. Written independently of one another and for
different periods of Syrian history, both studies posited that local politics in the
major towns and in the countryside around them were dominated by groups of
notables in competition with one another for power and influence. To become
and remain viable political actors, notables relied on a variety of vertical linkages
both to dependent elements in the wider society below them and to their foreign
governors or rulers above them, whether in the provincial capitals of Damascus
and Aleppo or in the imperial capitals of Cairo and Istanbul. To enhance their
strength, notables also formed horizontal alliances, often of a temporary sort, with
other notables. The material base of their power and influence frequently was rooted
in control of the land or land tax in the vicinity of the towns, urban real estate,
local handicrafts, regional and long-distance trade (merchant capital), and awqâf.
Some notables belonged to the ranking families of the religious establishment while
others derived power from the local military organizations which they controlled.
If one characteristic can be said to define the notables then it was their ability
to act as intermediaries between government and local society. «Access» and
«patronage» were the code words of the politics of notables.
Versions of the notables paradigm that Lapidus and Hourani established have
been employed by historians concerned with geographic Syria in the medieval period
(Shoshan, 1986 and Humphreys, 1988) and in Ottoman times (Rafeq, 1966; Ma'oz,
REM.M.M. 55-56, 1990/1-2 216 / P. S. Khoury
1968; Barbir, 1980; Khoury, 1983; Roded, 1984; Schatkowski Schilcher, 1985;
Masters, 1988 and Marcus, 1989). The notables paradigm has also been applied
to the twentieth century, especially the interwar years (Porath, 1974; Lesch, 1979;
Khoury, 1987) and the immediate post-war period in Syria (Seale, 1965). Historians
have used notables to study the political configuration of towns and the factions
that dominated them (Khoury, 1983, 1987 and Schatkowski Schilcher, 1985) and
their role in land control (Abdel-Nour, 1982 and Reilly, 1987), production and
trade, and religious organizations, including the sufi orders. At least one historian
has examined the changing role and status of women within the notables framework
of analysis (Meri wether, 1981). Some have concentrated on the conflicts between
pro-imperial and pro-localist factions of notables (Schatkowski Schilcher, 1985 and
Abu-Husayn, 1985), while others have examined the relations between notables
and foreign rulers and, in particular, the role of notables in provincial administration
(Khoury, 1983 and Roded, 1984). Within the framework, several historians
have explored the ideological orientations of notables and the paradigm has been
of considerable value in studying the emergence of nationalism in Syria and Palestine
(Dawn, 1962/1973; Khalidi, 1980; Porath, 1974; Khoury, 1983 andMuslih, 1988).
Other historians have utilized the paradigm to produce full-scale biographies of
twentieth century political and intellectual leaders (Cleveland, 1977; Wilson, 1987
and Mattar, 1988).
Historians working within the notables paradigm for the medieval and Ottoman
periods have relied on three principal written sources: local chronicles, biographical
dictionaries, and local sharVa court registers. These have been supplemented by
published Ottoman Yearbooks (sâlnàme) and a variety of European consular
documents and travelogues. Few, however, have made significant use of the Ottoman
imperial archives to study the notables of geographic Syria; therefore, the view
from the imperial capital remains largely a mystery.
This article will provide one example of how the notables paradigm has been
applied to the study of Syrian political history in order to assess its strengths and
weaknesses. The example is drawn largely from my own study, Urban Notables
and Arab Nationalism: The Politics of Damascus 1860-1920 (1983). Although the
book focuses almost exclusively on Damascus, the example provided can be
generalized to include other towns in geographic Syria, but with all the obvious
caveats. The decision to use my book as a stalking horse is quite straightforward
and is not intended to be self-indulgent; it is sufficiently behind me to permit
a first take at an auto-critique. First, the book is directly concerned with the
articulation of the notables paradigm and its application to life in Ottoman Damascus
during a period of profound political and social change. Second, its central thesis
has been formed in large part by earlier studies of notables, and the book belongs
firmly to the Lapidus-Hourani-Dawn tradition. Third, the book has had some
influence on the research of other historians. Fourth (and most importantly), its
central arguments have spawned some interesting criticisms that are eminently
worthy of re-examination and discussion.
Before re-examining a few of the issues raised by the notables paradigm as The urban notables paradigm revisited I 217
articulated in Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism, let me mention in passing
the book's general shortcomings, some of which critics have brought to my attention.
1. It does not supply adequate information on the notable families, their economic
interests, political acitivities, and marriage alliances. 2. Some of the information
provided is inaccurate or incomplete such as that on the wealth of different families
and status groups like the *ulama\ the ashràf, and the aghawat. 3. The
appropriateness of class analysis for understanding change in Syrian politics and
society requires a deeper exploration of the Syrian political economy in the
nineteenth century. 4. Inadequate attention is paid to the relations of the main
class discussed in the book, the landowning-bureaucratic class, to the merchants,
artisans, religious minorities, and sufi orders. 5. Insufficient attention is paid to
the ways notable politicians mobilized and/or dominated local society. 6. The book
does not discuss fully other channels that were developed to articulate popular
interests and demands once the notables began to abandon their traditional role
as intermediaries between state and society. 7. The book does not sufficiently account
for the contributions made to the development of Arabism before 1914 by elements
outside the local upper class. 8. Insufficient attention is paid to the changing
expressions of political consciousness and cultural identity in nineteenth century
What follows is a re-examination of three broad features of the notables paradigm
as articulated in Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism.
Nearly all historians who have employed the notables paradigm agree, at least
implicitly, that the relations between the notables and the Ottoman state can be
usefully periodized for the eighteenth and long nineteenth century. In Urban Notab
les and Arab Nationalism, I presented the following periodization for the Damasc
us province: 1. 1700-1760, when the provincial governorship reasserted its authority
and checked the independence of the notables; 2. 1760-1830 when the central author
ity was weak and the notables acted, in Barbir's (1980) words, as «semiindepen-
dent surrogates » for the state rather than as « intermediaries » between state and
society; 3. the 1830s when the Egyptian occupation of Syria inaugurated an unpre
cedented era of intensified state control in Damascus (and other Syrian towns);
4. 1841-1860, when the return of Ottoman control was accompanied by a series
of centralizing reforms that were not, for the most part, warmly received by the
notables of Damascus whose resistance helped to precipitate the crisis of 1860;
5. 1860-1908, when a reinvigorated central authority drew the notables more comp
letely into the state administration as a provincial aristocracy of service, espe
cially after 1880; 6. from 1909, when the Young Turks imposed rigid centrali
zing reforms and «Turkification » policies that caused resentment among a growing
number of notables, who began to demand greater autonomy for their province
and, in some cases, to agitate for separation from the Ottoman Empire.
Periodization schemes are generically problematic because they are not well-
designed to account for variations within specific periods or the overlapping of
periods. In the case of geographic Syria, changes resulting from the rise of new
local forces or the imposition of external forces in one town or province may have 218 / P. S. Khoury
come earlier, later, or not at all, making it difficult to put forth a cogent periodiza-
tion scheme for the whole of geographic Syria.
My clearly has its difficulties and perhaps the best thing that can be
said for it is that it incorporates many (but not all) of the divisions that other his
torians have established in their own research. For instance, although Rafeq (1966)
and Barbir (1980) have periodized the eighteenth century somewhat differently,
they have also found much in common. Rafeq was concerned with the rule of the
'Azm governors and therefore studied the period covering the rise of the first 'Azm
governors (1723) until the final decline of 'Azm authority in 1783, but he breaks
up this long period into several important sub-periods. Barbir was interested in
the re-assertion of Ottoman provincial power and authority over the notables and
thus began his story in 1708, somewhat earlier than Rafeq, but also ended it ear
lier, in 1758, after Ottoman prestige and authority were severely taxed and weakened
by a variety of local and external forces. Although Rafeq and Barbir take different
approaches and produce different interpretations of events, their studies felicitously
complement one another in the sense that Rafeq is principally interested in the
view from Damascene society and Barbir is more concerned with the Ottoman
imperial view. For the purposes of periodization, both concur on the importance
of understanding the crisis of the late 1750s culminating in the sacking of the pi
lgrimage in 1757; not only did the balance of power between the Ottoman gover
nors and the local notables in Damascus shift back in the direction of the nota
bles, but also the political and economic center of gravity in the Syrian provinces
gradually shifted away from the interior and toward the coastal regions around
Sidon and Acre.
Polk (1963) has examined how the balance of power established in the late eigh
teenth century was overturned by the Egyptian occupation (1831-1840) of geogra
phic Syria, at the expense of both imperial and local forces, and Ma'oz (1968) has
explored the re-assertion of imperial control and the hostile (and eventually vio
lent) reaction of notables between 1841 and 1860. The crisis of 1860 had an even
more dramatic impact on the balance of power between the Ottoman state and
the local notables in Damascus than the crisis of the late 1750s, and a number
of historians have concentrated on the 1860 events, none more systematically than
Schatkowski Schilcher (1985).
There is considerable (but not incontrovertible) evidence, some of which I pre
sented in Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism^ to suggest that a significant
realignment of power and authority followed the 1860 events; as I posited, this
was particularly visible after 1880, when Damascus and its hinterland began to
enjoy an era of comparative political and social quiescence that lasted until the
Young Turk revolution of 1908. Some historians have discovered that the period
1880-1908 was not as tranquil as I claimed, but the relative stability of the
has yet to be seriously questioned.
Undoubtedly, new research on the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries will pro
duce refinements of my periodization scheme, and it may be necessary one day
soon to revise it. But, so far it seems to be holding up fairly well. The urban notables paradigm revisited I 219
In Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism, I posited that class analysis is helpful
to our understanding of the nature and behavior of notables, but only after 1860.
My definition of class owed much to Batata's (1978, 1979) seminal studies of class
formation in Iraq. A class is both an economic and social formation that can be
defined with respect to property or, more precisely, in its relationships to the means
of production, and to the social position of its constituents, whether individuals
or families. The existence of a major class presumes the existence of at least one
other class with a different set of relationships to the means of production and
with a different social standing. This definition accepts a certain degree of internal
differentiation within each class and does not presuppose that a class's behavior
at all times will be motivated by class consciousness. Indeed, for class members
to feel obliged to close their ranks and clarify their interests as a class on significant
political issues, there has to be a need. Otherwise, intra-class (or even ethnic) conflict
expressed in terms of vertically structured factionalism, rather than conflict between
classes, is likely to be the active force behind the emergence of particular political
and social movements.
In Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism, I suggested that classes probably existed
before the mid-nineteenth century, but that they were not meaningful units of
analysis; their lifespans were too short because their relations to the means of
production and especially to property were generally unstable. Other historians
who have researched the history of Syrian politics in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries appear to concur (Rafeq, 1966; Hourani, 1968; Barbir, 1980 and
Schatkowski Schilcher,1985). The question remains: can we devise meaningful
units of analysis for the pre-1860 era?
I divided the notables of Damascus (including aspiring notables) into three social
groupings — the 'ulamà' (including the ashràf), the àghàwàt, and the secular
dignitaries (composed of merchants and tax farmers) — that could be differentiated
from one another in terms of their status, the nature of their material resource
bases, and their geographical distribution in Damascus. This differentiation was
especially noticeable in the cases of the 'ulamà* and the àghàwàt, who controlled
different sources of wealth and who were geographically and socially separated
(the 'ulamà' were clearly more esteemed than the àghàwàt) from each other. The
secular dignitaries were less easily differentiated from the 'ulamà' in geographical
terms, but they were also a much more amorphous group whose independent
influence depended almost exclusively on wealth; unlike the 'ulamà' and the
aghawàty they enjoyed neither inherited prestige nor independent military might.
As Roded (1986, 180) points out, the biographical dictionaries, despite the personal
biases of their compilers, « included wealthy Muslims who were not members of
the religious or military elites», and «the acquisition of wealth undoubtedly provided
power, although this was a precarious base for prolonged prominence...»
My decision to lump the 'ulamà' and the ashràf together has been questioned
(Schatkowski Schilcher, 1985 and Roded, 1986), and, upon re-examination of the
available evidence, including some from Aleppo, I can now see certain advantages
in separating the two groups for analytical purposes. Simply put, although there
was considerable overlap between the ashràf and the 'ulamà', each group had its 220 / P. S. Khoury
own identifiable status and, it would seem, each had ties to different economic
activities in the city and its hinterland.
The categories of notables which I defined for the pre-1860 era appear to be
grounded in historical reality, but they did not behave like and were considerably
more fluid than classes. My principal interest in the contours of these three (now
four) groups of notables (or aspiring notables) was to demonstrate how certain events
helped to mold elements (or families) from among them into a fairly cohesive local
upper class after 1860, a class that came to dominate local politics in Damascus
from the late nineteenth century until the middle of the twentieth century. Aghàwàt
and sharifian families appeared to survive the convulsions of 1860 more successfully
than those belonging to the religious establishment, which suggests how much
ground the 'ulamâ' had lost by the end of the Ottoman Empire.
For the same period, Schatkowski Schilcher (1985) chose to categorize the notables
more precisely and, in the process, she much more fully depicted their structures,
patterns of behavior, and external ties. She divided the notables into «estates»:
the 'ulamà', ashràfy âghàwât, and four less well-defined groupings (merchants,
artisans, sufis, and a residual category incorporating in-migrants from the
surrounding countryside of Damascus). Her estates appear to be a combination
of «status groups» and «hierarchical strata» (Roded, 1986, 178). However, she
acknowledges that because the estates were internally fragmented and hierarchically
stratified they never achieved significant political cohesion. The fact that the
members of any one estate were severely factionalized makes it difficult therefore
to detect each estate's political importance. As units of analysis, estates do not
seem to contribute much that is new to our understanding of Syrian politics, owing
to their internal political divisions.
This leads conveniently to the question of how factionalism drove politics in
Damascus and other Syrian towns. In Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism, I
hardly scratched beneath the surface of factionalism before 1860. Schatkowski
Schilcher (1985), on the other hand, has produced a full and fascinating explanation
of the nature of factionalism for the pre-1860 period. She reconstructed and traced
over time two major competitive factions of notables in Damascus: one was based
in the city center (with ties to the northern and western hinterland), and was pro-
Ottoman and led by the 'Azm family; the other was pro-localist, incorporated larger
members of the lower strata than did the city-center faction, and was led by the
àghàtoât of the Maydan quarter whose links were to the wheat producing Hawran.
For Schatkowski Schilcher, the political economy holds the key to understanding
factionalism in Damascus. The 'Azm faction was supported by merchants engaged
in the long-distance trade in luxury goods while the àghàzvât faction was supported
by merchants and artisans involved in local handicraft production and in the grain
trade. The ability to adjust to changes and upheavals in the economy determined
in large measure the relative strengths of each faction at different times. That her
main estates Çulamâ', ashrâf and âghawat) never achieved their own independent
political identity or integrity because their hierarchical stratification rendered them
vulnerable to the struggles between the two main competing factions only
underscores the dominance of factionalism in Syrian politics. We clearly need such
systematic examinations of the bases of factionalism for other periods of Syrian
What about the nature of class and after 1860? I argued in Urban The urban notables paradigm revisited I 221
Notables and Arab Nationalism that, although the «crystallization of classes in Syria
under the impact of capitalist development was a very uneven process», (p. 4) there
is evidence to suggest that a particular class came to dominate local Syrian politics
whose principal material resource base was in large-scale private landownership
and in office-holding in local and regional administration. Agrarian commerciali
zation coupled with the development of modern means of communication and
transport helped to create the framework for the private appropriation of property
and its consolidation in the hands of an increasingly inter-related network of urban
families with ties to the imperial capital through the provincial bureaucracy. Land,
when combined with public office, produced for members of this new class
unrivalled power on the local scene.
One major problem with my analysis concerns the connection of the landowning-
bureaucratic class to the appropriation of private property. I was unable to
demonstrate empirically that private property rights became widespread among
urban notables after the Land Code of 1858 began to be implemented in the 1860s.
I did not have access to land registers for the period (indeed, I suggested that they
may have been destroyed), and thus relied on less compelling evidence from
inheritance records of the sharTa courts, the French Mandate period, and interviews
with the descendants of elite families whom I interviewed in the 1970s. Roded
(1986, 380-81) has suggested that «while... there appears to have been some
expansion in the acquisition of landed property by urban notables in the last decades
of Ottoman rule, the evidence available does not justify the conclusion that property
rights became the main source of power, thus creating a class in the full Marxian
sense». Rather, she asserts that the urban notables depended as much (if not more)
on less stable forms of wealth: the rights of usufruct (tasarruf) to state-owned lands
(which were being regularized in the late Ottoman period) and on «traditional
economic activities», in particular tax-farming and control oïawqâf. Although her
claim has yet to be empirically verified, her appreciation of the material base of
the notables appears more refined than my own and thus is worthy of further
I still contend that the landowning-bureaucratic class was in ascendance after
1860, particularly with respect to other classes who experienced a «steady erosion
of their positions, some completely dissolving in the face of intensifying European
economic pressures and the forces of Ottoman centralization». (Khoury, 1983,
5). But, the expansion of private property rights probably proceeded more gradually
and unevenly than I realized. Indeed, as Roded posits, the landowning-bureaucrats
may not have consolidated their material resource base in landownership until the
French Mandate. There is no doubt that the French were smitten with the notion
of private property rights, even if their preference was for the small peasant
proprietor and not the big landowner (Khoury, 1987). Hence, the formation of
a class of landowning-bureaucrats was in process by the late Ottoman period, though,
as a class, it cannot be as sharply defined as I indicated in Urban Notables and
Arab Nationalism.
This revision of my original line of argument raises another kind of question:
if, after 1860, the material resource base of the notables became increasingly
diversified (a mix of private property and rights of usufruct to state-owned land
added to tax farms and control oîawqàf) did it put at their disposal a wider range
of benefits and services with which to build their patronage networks than 222 / P. S. Khoury
landownership by itself provided? Here, it is important to recognize that even if
their material resource base was not as stable as I originally contended, they did
have an additional set of resources at their disposal with which to attract and police
their clientele: offices in the provincial bureaucracy. The evidence on office-holding
(Khoury, 1983 and Roded, 1984) is more conclusive than on landownership.
Administrative offices not only enabled the notables to acquire private property
on a large scale but also provided them with continued control of the revenues
from state lands, tax farms, and even awqâf.
This more nuanced picture of the landowning-bureaucratic class — a class still
in formation before 1914 — helps to explain why its political representatives were
so prone to factionalism. In Urban Notables and Arab Nationalismy I characterized
factionalism as being limited largely to conflicts within a consolidated class and
not as an expression of challenges from classes further down the social scale. On
second thought, however, the conflicts associated with factionalism may also have
been representative of the very process of class consolidation in which up-and-
coming families challenged already established families for a place alongside them
at the summit of power and influence in Damascus. Conditions were more fluid
than I acknowledged in this period of social and political readjustment.
Undoubtedly, other classes existed in various stages of formation or disintegration
in the late Ottoman period, and I suggested that inter-class tensions were, in part,
behind the 1860 upheaval in Damascus. But, for the last decades of the Empire,
I tended to treat the ascendant class of landowning-bureaucrats in Damascus in
a vacuum, asserting that it became something akin to a hegemonic local upper
class, when, in fact, it had not quite attained that position by 1914, because it
still was locked in a dependency relationship with the Ottoman government in
Istanbul. •
In devoting almost exclusive attention to the internal conflicts and divisions among
notables and to their new position as direct agents of the Ottoman state, I
inadequately examined the larger implications of the shift in the internal balance
of power created by changes in the political economy and by the reinvigoration
of Ottoman provincial authority. The question remains: how did the notables'
relations with the lower social orders change in this period and what did this mean
for the process of political mobilization in Damascus ? I should have tried to elucidate
the other kinds of channels that were developed to articulate popular interests and
demands once the notables began to abandon their traditional role as intermediaries
between state and society for their new role as agents of the Ottoman state.
Undoubtedly, by the early twentieth century the movement associated with Arabism
proved to be one of those channels, but were there other identifiable conduits that
preceded the birth of the Arabist movement? Damascene society between 1880
and 1908 may have become politically quiescent by comparison to earlier periods,
but it was clearly not supine.
Although revisionist interpretations of the social and political foundations of
Arabism have focused on the period 1908-1914, the study of Arabism's rise belongs
as much to the long nineteenth century as it does to the twentieth century. The urban notables paradigm revisited I 223
Following Dawn (1962/1973) and Hourani (1981), one of my major contentions
in Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism is that the notables were the most essential
element in the development of Arabism in geographic Syria, and especially in
Damascus. So far this contention has gone unchallenged, as has the argument that
before 1914 most adherents of Arabism were not interested in separation from
the Ottoman Empire but rather in greater administrative decentralization in the
Arab provinces.
On the other hand, research that was either unfamiliar to me as I was writing
Urban Notables and Arab Nationalism, or that appeared after its publication, suggests
that my perspective on the rise of Arabism needs to be broadened. New sources
have been brought to bear on the study of Arabism in Syria that call (Khalidi,
1986) for some revision of the current revisionist thesis first elaborated by Dawn.
For instance, until recently the relationship between notables and the rise of
Arabism before 1914 had scarcely been treated by historians from the vantage of
the imperial capital. Most scholarship has relied on a variety of Arabic sources
that indicate what the Arabs had to say about the Turks but tell us little about
what the Turks had to say about the Arabs. Recently, one historian (Hanioglu,
1986) working with Turkish sources, including the secret papers of the Committee
of Union and Progress (CUP) secretaries (dating from 1889), has uncovered evidence
that pronounced anti-Arab sentiments were present a decade before the Young
Turk revolution of 1908 and were directly connected to an emerging Turkish
nationalism that conflicted with the Empire's reigning ideology of Ottomanism.
Furthermore, Arabs who joined the CUP appear to have been deliberately kept
out of the inner decision making circles, in the same way that Arab provincial
elites who subscribed to Ottomanist ideas radiating from Istanbul rarely belonged
to the inner circles of the Ottoman elite, which was almost exclusively Turkish.
More importantly, Hanioglu has found some evidence that as early as the 1890s
Arabs were already being replaced by Turks in provincial administration. Khalidi
(1986, 7) suggests that «these revelations throw a fresh light on much contemporary
Arab material, making its anti-Turkish tone more understandable, and making it
more credible as a source».
Other historians, however, advise greater caution; they have raised legitimate
questions about «Turkification» (discussed by Zeine, 1960; Zeine, 1966; Dawn,
1962/1973; Khalidi, 1980 and Khoury, 1983) and have suggested that it may only
have been a «myth created to legitimize [Arab] opposition», (Yapp, 1984, 280)
and that what was really meant by «Turkification» was «centralization» and, in
the case of Syrian Christians, « Islamization » (Kayali, 1988). In any case, the new
evidence provided by Hanioglu needs more extensive verification. Clearly, I should
have hunted more thoroughly for evidence that significant numbers of Turks actually
replaced Arab office holders between 1980-1914; and so should have Zeine, Dawn
and Khalidi (1980).
Other kinds of evidence, in particular Khalidi's (1981) examination of Beirut's
burgeoning journalism in the period 1908-1914, suggest that Arabist sentiments
were as developed and widespread in Beirut as they were in Damascus, even though
revisionist historians (Dawn and Khoury) have concentrated their research on
Damascus. In Urban Notables, I made reference to Beirut's importance, but I did
not sufficiently explore the connections between political leaders in Damascus and
Beirut nor the influences Arabist sympathizers in Cairo had on the birth of Arabism