Lebanon in History from the Earliest Times to the Present

By Philip K. Hitti | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXXII ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL UPHEAVALS

THE institutions and men cited in the last chapter were not the only agencies which made Lebanon of the nineteenth century so different from Lebanon of the eighteenth. They, however, created the spiritual climate necessary for other forces to operate. When a dynamic culture collides with a static one, it breaks up into varied strands, each penetrating in its own way and facilitating the admission of the other. In all cases economic penetration into an alien society moves faster and goes further than social penetration. It seems less intrusive and feels less painful because not so much emotion is involved in the penetration.

A Westerner visiting Lebanon early in the 1800s would have been impressed by the strangeness of the local scene. Men wore baggy trousers (sing. sirwāl) or kimono-like qinbāz, with tarbooshes, turbaned or loose; while women, whether Moslem or Christian, appeared in public with veils, and those of high rank with the silver horn-shaped ṭanṭūr.1 All squatted on cushions or low mattresses on the floor, ate from trays and drank from small jars with spouts, home-made like practically all other household articles. Rare indeed was he among them who could speak any other tongue than Arabic. Their world did not move faster than a horse could gallop. The same visitor in the late 1800s would have felt almost at home at least in Beirut.

The economy of the land in the early period, like that of all its neighbours, functioned through small, simple, independent institutions. Agriculture, the dominant pattern of living in the mountain, was largely of the subsistence -- not the commercial -- variety. Except in the Biqāʿ, the farmer normally produced a sufficiency for his family and no more. The craftsman operated on a village basis. A prominent piece of equipment in

Transformation in economy

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1
See above, pp. 389, 427. Henry J. Van-Lennep, Bible Lands: Their Modern Customs and Manners ( New York, 1875), pp. 528-30, 546.

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