[P4852] Social and Environmental Histories of the Middle East in the Nineteenth Century

Created by Ranin Kazemi
Tuesday, 11/21/17 1:00pm


This panel brings together two forms of bottom-up history in its discussion of the nineteenth-century Middle East. The papers collected here make use of the methodology of environmental and social history to shed light on the profound transformation of the region in this period. They also look at neglected topics, utilize overlooked original sources, and grapple with questions that have broad regional and global implications.

The first presentation interrogates the connections between water scarcity and population settlement in the Gulf littoral. Reading through Arabic and European sources, this paper chronicles the ways in which local settlers obtained water to sustain life in the area. The contention here is that access to drinking and usable water was key to settlement patterns and the development of societies in this part of the Middle East.

Drawing on Ottoman, Arabic, and Persian sources, the next presentation explicates how the introduction of steamships in southern Iraq in the midcentury transformed the experience and social worlds of trade and travel in the region. Engaging with the literature on the history of technology, empire, and minorities, the paper argues that steamships helped bring about uneven economic and social development, and solidified class divisions in southern Iraq.

Moving beyond the history of water and people, the third presentation focuses on a series of droughts and extreme weather events in Ottoman Kurdistan in 1840-96. The paper reads through state and local sources to explain how crop failure, war, and over-taxation worked together to pauperize large segments of the population in this region and how the Ottoman state responded to these and other environmental and social crises.

The following presentation analyzes a series of disasters in Qajar Iran in 1860-61 to tease out the multifaceted contexts of similar crises and disasters throughout the century. Reading through a wide range of contemporary documents, the paper scrutinizes the political economy of war, famine, and ecological stress, and argues that large numbers of people had become vulnerable to disasters more than ever before in the recent history of Iran.

Making use of state and local sources, the final presentation looks at the social and environmental factors that contributed to the making of the Sheikh Ubeidullah Rebellion in the Ottoman-Iranian borderland region in 1880-81. This paper contends that the economic and ecological context of sectarian tension and nationalism is important in understanding this episode in the history of violence and displacement in the region.





Sabri Ates

(Southern Methodist University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Noah Haiduc-Dale

(Centenary University, NJ)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Arash Khazeni

(Pomona College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;

Zozan Pehlivan

(McGill University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Camille Cole

(Yale University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Ranin Kazemi

(San Diego State University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;