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Interlopers of EmpireThe Lebanese Diaspora in Colonial French West Africa$
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Andrew Arsan

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199333387

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199333387.001.0001

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A Tale of Two Mountains

A Tale of Two Mountains

(p.23) 1 A Tale of Two Mountains
Interlopers of Empire

Andrew Arsan

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the economic ecology of the two regions from which Eastern Mediterranean migrants to French West Africa hailed – the Matn, in central Mount Lebanon, and Jabal ‘Amil, to the south. It argues that, contrary to long-established narratives which saw migration as the outcome of political oppression and social strife, it was largely economic in nature. While European demand for Lebanese silk brought prosperity to the Matn’s cultivators in the mid-nineteenth century, pulling the region into the world economy, it also accustomed them to a certain degree of prosperity; when the fortunes of sericulture began to wane, some took to migration to maintain their families’ status, establishing an enduring propensity for migration. Migration, then, was not the preserve of the poorest, but of those with the means to move. This was all the more the case in Jabal ‘Amil, where migration was the preserve of men of the middling sort from the region’s market towns.

Keywords:   migration, economic history, world economy, Mount Lebanon, Jabal ‘Amil, Eastern Mediterranean

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