Palestinian Commercial Networks in Transformation, 1750­-1900

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Just as in the eighteenth century cotton trade pulled Palestine’s economy into the orbit of the world economy, so it also enabled Palestine, through its ruler shaykh Zahir al‐`Umar, to instigate a process of urbanization. However, the Ottoman households that governed Galilee and Palestine’s coastal areas did not help local merchants (tujjar) to develop inter‐regional or intra‐regional trade networks, as was the case in central Palestine. The disappearance of the main two obstacles to these networks—the dominant local leaders and the monopoly system—ushered in a new era in Palestine’s trading and
commercial history. Jaffa became Palestine’s main transit port and gradually attracted wealthy merchants from far and wide.
Besides their importing and exporting activities, these merchants invested heavily in citrus plantations, transforming the citrus fruit trade into Palestine’s largest economic sector. Palestine’s most powerful merchants played an important role as “the modern agents of change”, as they did elsewhere in the Middle East. This development found expression in many aspects
of their lifestyle: in the ornate architecture of their houses, in their patterns of consumption, and in their elevated living standards. These powerful merchants were also the first actors to import new technologies to Palestine, in order to develop their businesses. In short, this paper argued that the Palestinian entrepreneurial and mercantile classes, but not members of
the old elite and the traditional leadership, emerged as models for imitation by society at large. In many respects, this shift in influence constituted a revolutionary change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)805-818
Number of pages14
JournalSociology Study
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2012

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