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History of Lebanon

Ottomans- French- Independence ( 1516 AD - 1943 AD)


(1516 - 1916) The Ottomans (Turks) and Lebanon

The Ottoman Empire who occupied the Middle East and Eastern Europe in the sixteenth century, ruled Lebanon through local leaders. Lebanon managed to get conditioned or total independence several times under Ottoman rule.

Independent Lebanon, Fakhr EdDine Reign

Prince Fakhr EdDine II was a druze Lebanese who built a modern Lebanese community. In an effort to attain complete independence for Lebanon, he concluded a secret agreement with Ferdinand I, duke of Tuscany in Italy against the Ottomans. The Ottomans found out about that and sent him to exile in Tuscany in 1613.

Fakhr EdDine returned to Lebanon in 1618 and built a regular army that reached 100,000 soldiers formed from the different religious sects of Lebanon. The Lebanese Army defeated the army of Mustafa Pasha, Ottoman-appointed governor of Damascus, in a historical battle at Anjar in 1623.

The Lebanese prince initiated several measures to modernize the country forming close ties with the dukes of Tuscany and of Florence. He brought architects, irrigation engineers and agricultural experts from Italy. He strengthened Lebanon’s strategic position by expanding its territory.

The Lebanese prince ruled a land that extended; North to Kelikia (Turky); South to Arish (Egypt); and East to Damascus (Syria) with Beirut being the Capital. That area was more than three times larger than Lebanon today.

In order to stop Lebanon’s progress toward complete independence, the Ottomans ordered the Governor of Damascus to attack the Lebanese ruler. Fakhr EdDine was defeated, and was executed in Constantinople in 1635.

Lebanese Immigration of the nineteenth Century

In general, Lebanese felt oppressed and were not able to make their living under the Ottoman rule. Many Lebanese, especially Christians, emigrated to Egypt and other parts of Africa as well as North and South America. Remittance that these Lebanese emigrants sent to their relatives in Lebanon has enhanced the Lebanese economy until this day.

1860 Events and 1861 Lebanese Administration

The Ottomans divided Lebanon into districts, segregating or adding regions as deemed convenient for them to weaken the country; they annexed part of it to Syrian districts in attempts to erase the Lebanese identity.

Furthermore, they attributed sectarian divisions and appointed rulers accordingly, to create religious conflicts. In 1860 feudal sectarian conflict raised between Druze and Christians led to thousands of victims.

European forces landed in Lebanon to quell the fighting. To solve the problem, the six powerful countries then forced the Ottomans to award Lebanon regional independence with Lebanese administration and armed forces.

Lebanon became an intellectual and commercial center in the second half of the 19th century. Foreign missionaries established schools throughout the country. The American University of Beirut was founded in 1866, followed by the French St. Joseph’s University in 1875.

The Arabic literature had renaissance era marked by numerous publications where Lebanese authors outshined. It was the Lebanese first prolific press in the East that managed to preserve the Arabic literature from distinction under Ottoman oppression.

(1916-1920) World War I

After the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the Turkish (Ottoman) forces in Syria occupied Lebanon and appointed a Turk ruler over the country. The Lebanese refused the occupation.

The Turks responded by commandeering Lebanon’s food supplies causing famine and plagues. Lebanon lost more than one third of its population then.

The Turks cut down Lebanon’s trees to fuel their trains and military consuming more than half of Lebanon’s forests. In 1916 the Turkish authorities executed Lebanese leaders in Beirut for alleged anti-Turkish activities.

That date of May 6th is commemorated annually in Lebanon as Martyrs’ Day.

Lebanon was relieved in September 1918 when the British general Edmund Allenby and Faysal I, son of Sharif Husain of Mecca reached the region. In 1920, the League of Nations gave France a mandate over Lebanon.

(1920-1943) Mandate Period and Independence

On September 1st, 1920, France proclaimed the establishment of Greater Lebanon with its present borders. In 1926, the Lebanese constitution was modeled after that of the French

The constitution provided a parliament, a president and a cabinet. The president is elected by the parliament, which is popularly elected. After the allies won World War II, Lebanese national leaders asked France to end the mandate.

France proclaimed the independence of Lebanon in 1941 but continued to exercise authority. In 1943, Lebanon formed its first democratic government of independence and amended the constitution ending the mandate.

The French authorities responded by arresting and imprisoning the Lebanese president, prime minister and others. Lebanese Christian and Muslim leaders united their forces, advantaging from the international and regional influence, to pressure the French government that yielded by releasing the prisoners on November 22, 1943 and recognizing Lebanon's complete independence.

The French helped rebuilding the Lebanese infrastructure, economy and social systems. They developed a network of roads linking major cities and enlarged the harbor of Beirut.

The governmental and judicial systems were fundamentally developed while the educational, agricultural and public-health systems improved.


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