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Kristen Alff
University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA 22903-4833)
The Business of Property: Levantine Joint-stock Companies, Land, Law, and Capitalist Development Around the Mediterranean, 1850-1925

Writing of a book on Levantine Joint-stock Companies and the origins of capitalist development in the Middle East (1850-1925).

The Business of Property is framed by two questions: First, how did land in the Levant become commodified? Second, how was this process of commodification – with its related impetuses and impacts – related to the development of capitalism around the Mediterranean basin? I argue that prominent Beiruti families who formed joint-stock companies in the mid-nineteenth century relied on forms of sharecropping rooted in the Ottoman social formation as the most efficient techniques for local capital accumulation in the Levant. Only during the First World War did the firms’ land tenure arrangements in parts of Greater Syria and Palestine begin to take on a commodified form, making them acceptable to European buyers. Indeed, the crisis of World War I concretized processes that were already underway in the Levant from the mid-nineteenth century and transformed the shape of capitalism globally.

Project fields:
Near and Middle Eastern History

Summer Stipends

Research Programs

$6,000 (approved)
$6,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
6/10/2020 – 8/9/2020