The Study of Middle Eastern Industrial History: Notes on the Interrelationship between Factories and Small-Scale Manufacturing with Special References to Lebanese Silk and Egyptian Sugar, 1900-1930


The growth and transformation of Middle Eastern manufacturing industry has been little studied for the period before the advent of tariff autonomy, and thus protectionism, in the early 1930s The reasons for this are various but must have much to do with the many difficult problems involved. There is an obvious lack of data, particularly about the activities of the craft or small-scale sector which, even to this day, is regularly under-counted by government statisticians. There are also serious problems of definition which hage generally been ignored by the vast majority of economic historians who remain content to analyse manufacturing activity in terms of such simple dichotomies as modern/factory/capitalist versus traditional/workshop/pre-capitalist, a method which not only masks the fact that there are a whole range of activities which do not fall into such apparently neat categories but also — to introduce the major theme of this essay — makes it impossible to examine the complex interrelationship between plants of different size and degree of capitalisation. Finally, much of what passes for a ducussion of manufacturing activity has, in fact, got muddled with the much larger debate about the whole process of industrialisation, about whether particular areas of the Middle East could have developed their own industrial base before 1930, and about why they might have been prevented from doing so.


Last updated on 12/28/2012