Map: Syria in c. AD 1789

Syria 1648AD – 1789AD


As elsewhere in the empire, the standard of Ottoman administration in Syria has declined sharply  during the 18th century. Corruption and neglect on the part of the Ottoman authorities have allowed a large amount of local power to fall into the hands of semi-independent hereditary rulers. Their power is bolstered by the support of local Mamluq and Janissary garrisons, who benefit from the loosened hold of the central government to enrich themselves, and by local militias which the rulers have themselves raised.

In this malaise, the economy has been in decline. Bedouin nomads extend their control far into hitherto agricultural areas, shrinking the amount of land available for farming. This has affected trade, which has also declined somewhat. In some cities, however, a vigorous commercial life retains a hold. The European merchant presence remains strong, and French political influence is considerable in the Mount Lebanon region, especially amongst the Maronite Christian communities.

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