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Levantine Joint-Stock Companies, Trans-Mediterranean Partnerships, and Nineteenth-Century Capitalist Development

  • Kristen Alff (a1)


The Levantine business community—the Sursuqs, Bustruses, Tuenis, Khuris, Debbases, Trads, Tabets, Naggiars, and Farahs—created large agricultural estates in the Levant and established company branches in Beirut, Alexandria, Haifa, London, Liverpool, Paris, and Marseille in the mid-nineteenth century. Against both culturalist and new institutional paradigms, I argue that the trajectories of the Levantine firms were much like those of their European counterparts; Dutch and English capitalism—what came to be recognized as modern forms of capitalism—developed out of long-distance trade and relied on forms of coerced and semi-coerced labor as well as other so-called “non-capitalist” or “precapitalist” elements. Beirut-based companies relied on tenant contracts, sharecropping, and other forms of labor control rooted in the Ottoman social formation. Drawing upon the unexplored private papers of these business families in Beirut and a diverse collection of documents from Istanbul, Beirut, Jerusalem, London, Liverpool, and Marseille in Arabic, German, Ottoman Turkish, and French, this paper examines the parallels and the links between the business practices of the Levantine joint-stock companies and their European partners. It contends that the development of nineteenth-century capitalism relied on several different institutions and relations of production formulated and articulated on both sides of the Mediterranean and in the competition between them. Only after World War I, because of settler-colonialism, the settlement of nomads, and large-scale European capital investment backed by imperial power, did Levantine capital accumulation begin to take a form that was subordinate to Europe.

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1 Aslanian, Sebouh David, From the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean: The Global Trade Networks of Armenian Merchants from New Julfa (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010). Philliou, Christine, Biography of an Empire: Governing Ottomans in an Age of Revolution (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011).

2 Birla, Ritu, Stages of Capital: Law, Culture, and Market Governance in Late Colonial India (Durham: Duke University Press, 2009). For Greek Networks, see Minoglou, I. P. and Louri, H., “Diaspora Enterpreneurial Networks in the Black Sea and Greece, 1870–1917,” Journal of European Economic History 26, 1 (1997): 69104 ; Harlaftis, Gelina, A History of Greek-Owned Shipping: The Making of an International Tramp Fleet, 1830 to the Present Day (New York: Routledge, 2005).

3 For examples of new literature on similarities between European and Greek economic institutions, see de Goey, Ferry and Veluwenkamp, Jan Willem, Entrepreneurs and Institutions in Europe and Asia, 1500–2000 (Amsterdam: Aksant, 2002). Also see the fascinating, nascent project on a slightly earlier period than that covered here, “Mediterranean Reconfigurations: Intercultural Trade, Commercial Litigation, and Legal Pluralism 15th–19th Centuries,” (accessed 8 July 2017).

4 Landes, for instance, repeats the quaint idea that private property can be traced back to biblical times. Quoting the Old Testament, he tells us that it was transmitted and transformed by Christian teaching”; The Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some Are So Rich and Some So Poor (New York: W. W. Norton, 1998).

5 Mokyr, Joel, A Culture of Growth: The Origins of the Modern Economy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017).

6 Kuran, Timur, The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011); Greif, Avner, Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy: Lessons from Medieval Trade (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006); Kuran, Timur, “The Absence of the Corporation in Islamic Law: Origins and Persistence,” American Journal of Comparative Law 53, 4 (2005): 785834 .

7 For many years, scholars of Ottoman history have pointed out that non-Western societies have not been given their deserved place in the history of global markets, consumption patterns, labor relations, and property rights. Yet, few of these works deal with the period of late nineteenth-century globalization, challenge precapitalist/capitalist distinctions in the history of capitalism, or explore the mutual sharing of techniques across the Mediterranean as I do here. Doumani, Beshara, Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700–1900 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); Cuno, Kenneth, The Pasha's Peasants: Land, Society and Economy in Lower Egypt, 1740–1858 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992); Gran, Peter, Islamic Roots of Capitalism in Egypt, 1760–1840 (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1998); İnalcik, Halil, “Capital Formation in the Ottoman Empire,” Journal of Economic History 29 (1969): 97140 .

8 Shafir, Gershon, Land, Labor and the Origins of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, 1882–1914 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 201–2; Owen, Roger, “Introduction,” in Owen, Roger, ed., Studies in the Economic and Social History of Palestine in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Oxford: Palgrave, Macmillan, 1982).

9 Marx, Karl, Pre-Capitalist Economic Formations, Cohen, Jack, trans., 2d ed. (New York: International Publishers, 1964).

10 Mies, Maria, Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale: Women in the International Division of Labour (London: Zed Books, 1986). See also, Moore, Jason, Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital (London: Verso, 2015), 5175 .

11 Landes, Wealth and Poverty; Mokyr, Culture of Growth. Focusing narrowly on the part of imperial expansion, Cain, P. J. and Hopkins, A. G., British Imperialism: 1688–2000, 3d ed. (New York: Routledge, 2013). For the New Institutionalist critique that ends up being a form of neo-culturalism, see Kuran, Long Divergence; and “Absence of the Corporation”; Greif, Institutions.

12 al-Ma'luf, ‘Isa Iskandar, Diwan Al-Qatuf Fi Tarikh Bani Al-Ma'luf, 3d ed. (Damascus: Dar Hawran, 2003), 391 n2; Tarikh Al-Usar Al-Sharqiyah (Beirut: Riyad al-Rayyis lil-Kutub wa al-Nashr, 2007); Fawaz, Leila, Merchants and Migrants in Nineteenth-Century Beirut (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983), 91; Traboulsi, Fawwaz, A History of Modern Lebanon (Ann Arbor: Pluto Press, 2007); Kamel, Leila Salameh, Un Quartier de Beyrouth Saint-Nicolas, Structures Familiales et Structures Fonciéres (Beirut: Université Saint-Joseph, 1998), 107–37.

13 Author's interview with Michael Bustrus, Dec. 2015, Beirut.

14 The National Archives of the UK (henceforth TNA) C15/787/S127, “Sursocks V. Lascaridi Letter of Complaint” (London: Waterlow & Sons, Printers, Carpenter's Hall, 1858), 4. Dimitri Debbas, for one, fled to the port city with several Christian refugee families from Mount Lebanon in 1860.

15 Owen, Roger, The Middle East in the World Economy, 1800–1914 (London: I. B. Tauris, 2002), 157.

16 Author's interview with Michael Bustrus, Dec. 2015, Beirut.

17 TNA C15/787/S127, “Sursocks V. Lascaridi.”

18 Niqula Sursuq, for instance, was the third dragoman to the Russian consulate in Beirut; Niqula Sursuq et Freres was under the protection of Moscow. Between 1875 and 1881, Musa Dimitri Sursuq was under Berlin's protection. See Trombetta, Lorenzo, “The Private Archive of the Sursuqs, a Beirut Family of Christian Notables: An Early Investigation,” Rivista Degli Studi Oriental 82, 1–4 (2009): 197228 .

19 “With the Kaiser in the East,” Daily News, 18 Nov. 1898.

20 By some accounts, the Christian population was higher in Beirut than anywhere else on the Levantine coast. Henri Guys put the number at about half of the population. Out of fifteen thousand, he said, seven thousand were Muslim, four thousand were “Greeks” (or Greek Orthodox Christians), 1,500 Maronites, 1,200 “Greek Catholics,” eight hundred Druze, four hundred Armenians and Syrian Catholics, two hundred Jews, and four hundred Europeans. In 1850, David Urquhart confirmed similar numbers. Kassib, Samir, Beirut (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), 229. The Levantine family companies' neighbors, Habib and Ibrahim Sabbagh, established the joint-stock company H. Sabbagh et fils, splitting shares amongst its family stakeholders from its office in Beirut's Hamra district.

21 Acting Consul Khuri, “Beirut-Damascus Steam Tramway,” in Reports from the Consuls of the United States (Washington, D.C.: Washington Government Printing Office, Jan.–Apr. 1893), 567.

22 Sursuq Family Archive (henceforth SFA) 17803, letter from Negib Moussalli to Alfred Sursuq (Sursuq Et Frerés) concerning land of Jedro, Kafratta, and Mejdel in Palestine's Jezreel Valley (Marj ‘Ibn Amr), 14 Dec. 1921.

23 TNA CO 733/60, “Concession and Regulations of the Syreo-Ottoman Agricultural Company Limited,” Beirut, 1914.

24 Kuran, “Absence of the Corporation.”

25 Jessica Marglin explores the plurality of legal systems in the Ottoman Empire, in Across Legal Lines: Jews and Muslims in Modern Morocco (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016).

26 SFA 23420–23422, “Account Records Explaining the Ownership of Shares in Villages of Jedro and Kerdani” (1925). See family tree in Trombetta, “Private Archive,” 228. For more information about the part the family played in operations of markets, see James, Harold, Family Capitalism: Wendels, Haniels, Falcks, and the Continental European Model (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2006). For Jewish networks in the Levant conducting business in the Mediterranean, see Beinin, Joel, The Dispersion of Egyptian Jewry: Culture, Politics, and the Formation of a Modern Disapora (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 1998), 252–62. Also see Stansky, Peter, Sassoon: The Worlds of Phillip and Sybil (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).

27 London Metropolitan Archive (henceforth LMA) MS 31/522/211, Palestine I: Foreign Agency Memorandum of the Royal Sun Insurance Company, London: Royal Sun Insurance Records, [c. 1860–1872], 18 [these are undated, hand-written notes from insurance surveyors].

28 LMA CLC/B/192/DC/019/MS31522/21, “Palestine I: Royal and Sun Insurance Alliance Group, Foreign Agency Memorandum,” London: Royal Sun Insurance Company [c. 1860–1872], 19 [see note 27]. For descriptions of warehouses, see p. 21. For steamer schedules and bills of lading, see Marseille Chamber of Commerce Archive MQ 54/21, “Israel: Observations About Jaffa's Port and Trade of Products,” 1879.

29 Toksöz, Meltem, Nomads, Migrants and Cotton in the Eastern Mediterranean the Making of the Adana-Mersin Region 1850–1908 (Leiden: Brill Publishers, 2010), 3.

30 In The Land of Gilead, with Excursions in the Lebanon (New York: D. Appleton, 1881), Laurence Oliphant reported that a certain member of the Sursuq family bought large stretches of land in Palestine in 1869 from the Ottoman imperial government. The land totaled 240,000 dunams and on it sat twenty villages with a total population of four thousand people. For these plots a “Mr. Sursock” paid 6,000 Ottoman Lire to the Ottoman State Treasury and 12,000 Lire to some unnamed politician, ostensibly in the form of a bribe (p. 277). This view is supported by observations of Mansur As'ad: see his Ta'rikh Al-Nasira: Min Aqdam Azamaniha Ila Ayyamina Al-Haditha (Cairo: Matba'a al-hilal, 1924), 97, 288. Furthermore, the painstaking work of Amin Abu-Bakr in the Jenin and Nablus court records has provided a further layer of empirical density in support of this view: “Mulkiyyat al-Sursuq fi Filistin 1869–1948,” (The properties of the Sursuq family in Palestine 1869–1948),” Majlat Jami‘at al-Najah li-l-abhath (Journal of the University of al-Najah [Nablus] for research [in the social sciences]) 18, 2 (2004): 395–444.

31 Due to the depression and a long period of drought and locusts, the peasants had been borrowing year after year at high rates of interest. Due to reduced yields, the 1870s also witnessed a period of inflation; stories circulated about peasant fathers selling their daughters for wheat. As‘ad, Ta'rikh Al-Nasira, 244; Abu-Bakr, “Properties,” 66.

32 See the explanation of these court records in Abu-Bakr, “Properties.” For an illustration of the accumulation of capital due to the consolidation of landholdings, see, SFA 18078, “Property Requisitions and Rents for ‘Akka Properties,’” 1894–1903. Exports from Levantine company land increased exponentially over the course of the late nineteenth century: Liverpool Records Office HQ 338.7, “The Liverpool Commercial List,” 1877; SFA 18113, “Letters Regarding Cotton Trade,” 1912; SFA 23464, “Letter Regarding Sales of Tapu Land to George Tueini,” n.d.; SFA 19247 Account Records, 1875–1887; SFA 18148, “Correspondences: Report on the Villages of Kerdani, Kafratta, Mejdel, Jedro,” 1896–1915; SFA 18034, “Account Records for Sursuq Et Frerés,” 1888–1894.

33 Kamel, Quartier, 135 n4. The six villages plus Barbara formed an area that was called “Qurnat al-Rum” in the vernacular of its local inhabitants; observers reported they were “colonized by Greek-Orthodox families from Turkey.”

34 Ibid., 108; SFA 12925, “Liquidation of Commercial Company Sursuq and Brothers,” 1902, 1–2.

35 “Shares of ownership in lands in the district of Acre, adjusted revenues in piasters, name of place, our total shares,” SFA 18078_022v, “Land Account Records for Sursuq Et Frères,” 1895–1902. There is no indication in these records of the original number (the family could have owned, for example, 7.5 qirats of the original 24).

36 SFA 18022_135r, “Letter to Mikhail Habiab (Haifa) from George Sursuq (Beirut),” 1908; SFA 18022_166r, “Contract for Lease with Mohammad ‘Afifi (Acre) and George Musa Sursuqm,” 1908. For an example of a lease agreement in the region of Mersin-Adana, see SFA 18022_155, “Letter to Dimitri Abdullah Fashaghi from George Musa Sursuq,” 1911.

37 Ibid.

38 SFA 18022_109r, “Letter to George Farazali (Manager) from George Sursuq,” 26 May 1908.

39 SFA 19232_164, “Letter to Selim Habib Jahel (Manager) from Mikhail Habaib (Renter),” 1911.

40 Fawaz, Merchants and Migrants, 91.

41 SFA 18148, “Correspondences between George Musa Sursuq and Negib Moussalli,” 1896–1915.

42 Labor shortage was also, unsurprisingly, the justification for American slavery in the nineteenth century. It was also one of the reasons for farmers to seek semi-free indentured labor after the mid-nineteenth century. Kolchin, Peter, Amercian Slavery: 1619–1877 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2003 [1993]), 5.

43 Rafeq, Abdul-Karim, “Ownership of Real Property by Foreigners in Syria, 1869–1873,” in Owen, Roger, ed., New Perspectives on Property and Land in the Middle East (Cambridge: Harvard Middle Eastern Monographs, 2000), 185.

44 Owen, Middle East, 115.

45 Harris, Ron, “The Bubble Act: Its Passage and Its Effects on Business Organization,” Journal of Economic History 54, 3 (1994): 610–27.

46 Ireland, Paddy, “Capitalism without the Capitalist: The Joint Stock Company Share and the Emergence of the Modern Doctrine of Separate Corporate Personality,” Journal of Legal History 17, 1 (1996): 4173 , 43.

47 Ibid., 47–73. Also see Banaji, Jairus, “Islam, the Mediterranean and the Rise of Capitalism,” Historical Materialism 15 (2007): 4774 , 54; Harris, Ron, Industrializing English Law: Entrepreneurship and Business Organization, 1720–1844 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000).

48 Clark, Robert C., Corporate Law (Boston: Little Brown, 1989); Grower, L.C.B., Principles of Modern Company Law, 4th ed. (London: Stevens and Son, 1979), 100.

49 Ireland, “Capitalism,” 42, original emphasis.

50 Oliphant, Laurence, “The Autobiography of a Joint-Stock Company (Limited),” in Traits and Travesties: Social and Political (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1882), 107.

51 Taylor, James, Creating Capitalism: Joint-Stock Enterprise in British Politics and Culture, 1800–1870 (London: Royal Historical Society 2006), 5373 .

52 Lindley, Nathaniel, A Treatise on the Law of Partnership, Including Its Application to Joint Stock Companies (London: Maxwell, 1878), 14.

53 Is Limited Liability in Public Companies Productive of More Harm than Good,” British Controversialist, and Literary Magazine 2, 18 (1865): 281–88.

54 Miller, A. H., “Subjectivity Ltd: The Discourse of Liability in the Joint Stock Companies Act of 1856 and Gaskell's Cranford ,” English Literary History 61, 1 (1994): 139–57; Taylor, Creating Capitalism, 53–92.

55 Cottrell, P. L., Industrial Finance 1830–1914: The Finance and Organization of English Manufacturing Industry, 2d ed. (Abingdon: Routledge, 2006), 112. “Fine spinning was still mainly in the hands of private firms, while joint stock companies were only just appearing as a permanent feature of the weaving branch of the industry in the mid-1880s.”

56 Ibid., 231.

57 Ireland, “Capitalism,” 53–62.

58 Ibid.

59 Although the history of the Levantine families from Beirut has yet to be told, scholars have documented the history of Greek networks across the Mediterranean. For instance, see chapters in Yiangou, Anastasdia and Kazamias, George and Holland, Robert, eds., The Greeks and the British in the Levant, 1800–1960s: Between Empires and Nations (New York: Routledge, 2016); Harlaftis, History of Greek-Owners Shipping. On Greek joint-stock companies from an economics perspective, see: Ioanna Sapfo Pepelasis and Elpianna Emmanouilidi, “Joint Stock Company Births: Historican Coincidence and Economic Causality (Greece, 1830–1909),” Working Paper Series Athens University of Economics and Business, Department of Economics, 13 (2013).

60 Harlaftis, History of Greek-Owners Shipping, 62.

61 Xenos, Stefanos Th., Depredations: Or, Overend, Gurney, & Co., and the Greek & Oriental Steam Navigation Company (London: Published by Author, 1869), 1.

62 Stephanos Th. Xenos purchased the latter two steamers in the name of the joint-stock company with his own shares with the endorsement of Lascaridi and Co. The Marco Bozzaris could carry 1000 tons in total. The Scotia could carry 1200 tons. Ibid., 14–16.

63 Admiral Miaoulis, Bobolina (steam barge), Botassis, Tzamados, Marco Bozzaris, Admiral Kanaris, Asia, Scotia, Modern Greece, Patras, Smyrna, Palikari, George Olympus, Zaimis, Londos, Petrobeys, Mavrocordatos, Leonidas, Colocotronis, Rigas Ferreos, Powerful Lord Byron. Gelina Harlaftis has a slightly different list from the Lloyd's Register of Shipping (1860): Kanaris, Asia, Coletis, Olympus, Bozzaris, Modern Greece, Petrobeys, Scotia, Smyrna, and Zaimis (History of Greek-Owners Shipping, 62).

64 Ibid., 42.

65 Xenos, Depredations, 17–18.

66 Quoted in ibid., 77.

67 Ibid., 76.

68 Ibid., 77.

69 Meason, Malcolm Ronald Laing, The Bubbles of Finance: Joint Stock Companies, Promoting of Companies, Modern Commerce, Money Lending, and Life Insuring (London: S. Low, Son, and Marston, 1865), 163.

70 The Progress of Joint-Stock Enterprise,” British Trade Journal and Export World 24, 281 (1 May 1886): 283–85. The authors of this journal criticize the proponents of the Limited Liability Company, claiming that the statistics they employ do not support the Company's success.

71 Xenos, Depredations, 77.

72 TNA C16/489, “The European Bank, Ltd V. Sursock, Amended Bill of Complaint,” Chancery High Court, 1868, 5.

73 SFA 14094, “Land Inheritance Records,” n.d.; and Central Zionist Archive (Jerusalem) J15/2284/2, Agreement for the sale of lands from Alexander Sursuq to the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), 15 Oct. 1907.

74 TNA C16/489, “The European Bank.”

75 TNA C 16/1004/D138, “Tewson, Debenham, Farmer, and Bridgewater V. Slaters and Selim Bustros [Bustrus],” 1875.

76 LMA “Egypt 4, Alexandria: Royal and Sun Insurance Alliance Group, Foreign Agency Memorandum, Egypt, Alexandria,” n.d.

77 LMA CLC/B/192/DC/019/MS31522/250, “Syria 4: Royal and Sun Insurance Alliance Group, Foreign Agency Memorandum,” n.d., 14.

78 von Südenhorst, Julius Zwiedinek, Syrien: Bedeutung Für Den Welthandel (Vienna: Beck'sche Universitats-Buchhandlung, 1873), 56.

79 SFA 22015, “Map of Mersin, Including the Greek Orthodox Churches at the Port,” n.d. (pre-World War I); SFA 22015_1, “Letter Concerning Trade and Trading Houses in Mersin,” n.d.

80 “With the Kaiser in the East,” Daily News, 18 Nov. 1898.

81 Ibid.

82 TNA C15/787/S127, “Sursocks V. Lascaridi,” 7–8.

83 For more information on the make-up of the Spartali Company and its beginnings see: LMA CLC/B/192/DC/019/MS11936/534/1157873, “Foreign Agency Memorandum Book, Messrs Spartali and Company,” 7 Aug. 1833; and “The Failure of Messrs Spartali,” Yorkshire Post, 19 Nov. 1884.

84 Ibid.

85 LMA CLC/B/192/DC/019/MS 11936/534/1157873, “Royal and Sun Insurance Company Records for Spartali and Lacaridi,” 1837.

86 There is a long historiography on the plurality and fluidity of identities in the Ottoman Empire and elsewhere. Michelle Campos makes the important argument that lines of division between communities in the late Ottoman Levant were not only religious, but also class-based. She also argues that in each locale, like in Beirut, the divisions between Muslims, Christians and Jews were “shaped by residential patterns, economic situations, and a wide variety of cultural factors in addition to the polices set in place by the Ottoman state.” Campos, Michelle, Ottoman Brothers: Muslims, Christains, and Jews in Early Twentieth-Century Palestine (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2011), 9.

87 “Report of the Royal Commission for Inquiring into the Laws of Naturalization,” (London: George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode, 1869).

88 TNA HO 334/6/2022, “Naturalization Papers of Selim Bustrus,” 1876.

89 TNA HO 1/69/2163, “Naturalization Papers for Constantine Peter Lascaridi,” 1855.

90 TNA C15/787/S127, “Sursocks V. Lascaridi.”

91 Fawaz, Merchants and Migrants, 91.

92 “In school for the Greek nationals, he was taught science, mathematics, how to read Arabic and French and learned Turkish.” Başbakanlık Osmanlı Arşivi (BOA) DH_SAID 85/48, “Genel Sicil Kaydı, Nakhlé Sursuq,” 1888–1906.

93 Xenos, Depredations, 46.

94 Davie, May, Beyrouth Et Ses Faubourgs: Une Integration Inachevée (Beirut, Lebanon: Presses de l'lfpo, 1996), 57.

95 While Niqula and his brothers were first born from Dimitri Sursock's first wife, Dimitri also had three sons—Khalil, Joseph, and Ibrahim—with his second wife, Rizkallah. TNA C15/787/S127, “Sursocks V. Lascaridi,” 6.

96 Ibid., 4.

97 Xenos, Depredations, 12.

98 Xenos admits that the Liverpool lines and the London steamers, like Messrs. Smith, Sundius, and Co., were likely making enormous profits, which illustrates how competitive the Greek-Orthodox steamers were in comparison (ibid., 1).

99 Beckert, Sven, Empire of Cotton: A Global History (New York: Random House, 2014), 210–11.

100 Ibid.

101 Meason, 163. This form of futures trade is analogous to the post-1970s financialization of capitalism—trading in derivatives, not the actual commodity or stock share.

102 See, for instance, TNA J55/4/66, “Bustrus V. White,” High Court of Justice, London: Queens Bench Division, 1876.

103 The companies received a discount limit from the Bank of England of 30,000£. Chapman, Stanley, Merchant Enterprise in Britain: From the Industrial Revolution to World War I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 158.

104 The Levantine families introduced other major European companies to the futures trade. See, for example, TNA J55/4/66, “Bustrus V. White.”

105 “The Atlantic Royal Steam Navigation Company Ltd.,” Economist, 6 Oct. 1858.

106 Chapman, Merchant Enterprise in Britain, 158.

107 LMA CLC/B/192/DC/019/MS31522/80, “Beirut: Report on Merchants in Royal and Sun Insurance Alliance Group, Foreign Agency Memorandum,” n.d.

108 Moore, Capitalism, 139.

109 Issawi, Charles, An Economic History of the Middle East and North Africa (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), 115.

110 Places like Egypt exported fourteen times more raw cotton from 1822 to 1860, and twelve times more than that from 1860 to 1920, making up more than one-fifth of the overall cotton imports to Britain. Beckert, Empire of Cotton, 205, 94. For a detailed breakdown, see figures provided by Roger Owen in Middle East, 136, 241.

111 BOA DH_SAID 85/48, “Genel Sicil Kaydı, Nakhlé Sursuq.” There was speculation among Ottoman officials that the Sursuqs were using their political posts to illegally fund public money to railroads.

112 Clark, William Alexander Graham, “Cotton Textile Trade in the Turkish Empire, Greece, and Italy,” U.S. Department of Commerce and Labor 10 (1908): 4041 , 41. Marseille Chamber of Commerce Archive MQ 55/105, “Commerce International: Relations Avec Les Pays Etrangers En Particular Parrots Avec Les Pays European” (Turkey, Office Commercial François du Levant, 1900–1923).

113 Owen, Middle East, 248. Copper prices stayed the same or increased between 1870 and 1914, even as other products' prices were declining in the years of the Great Depression. Also see Moore, Capitalism, 139.

114 For a detailed description of the rush of banks entering the Ottoman Empire between 1905 and 1907, see Çizakça, Murat, “Evolution of Domestic Borrowing in the Ottoman Empire,” in Fraser, Ian L., Cottrell, Phillip L., and Fraser, Monika Pohle, eds., East Meets West—Banking, Commerce and Investment in the Ottoman Empire (New York: Routledge, 2016).

115 TNA FO 195/2056, “Report on the Position and Prospects of the Haiffa-Damascus Railway,” 1899–. From 1894 to 1897 the volume of exports from Haifa went from 3,547 to 4,459 tons, with some customhouse officials quoting the number as high as 7,512 tons just for wheat in the latter years of the 1890s. Products also went through the Acre region, as much as 36,000 tons of exports for 1898 alone. Quarterly reports from the British government put the total tonnage of British imports from Haifa in 1905 at 328,128 and French imports at 286,529. According to the French Chamber of Commerce reports, from immediately after the Knickerbocker crisis to 1912, the Greater Syrian ports alone did 225.3 million francs in total trade (92 million francs in exports and 131.7 million in imports); the number was likely over 300 million given the irregularity of statistics from the region. For more information concerning imports and exports from Palestine's ports in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; see TNA FO 368/58/41, “Letter from O'connor to Bart: Quarterly Report on the Affairs and Administration of the Vilayet of Beirut,” 14 Apr. 1906; and Marseille Chamber of Commerce Archive 55/105, “Memorandum on the Economic Value of Greater Syria,” 23 June 1915.

116 Manneh, Bustrus Abu, “The Establishment and Dismantling of the Province of Syria, 1865–1888,” in Spagnolo, John, ed., Problems of the Modern Middle East in Historical Perspective: Essays in Honour of Albert Hourani (Oxford: Middle East Center, St. Antony's College, 1996), 726 .

117 Hanssen, Jens, Fin De Siécle Beirut the Making of an Ottoman Provincial Capital (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005), 36, 44.

118 Quoted in ibid., 45.

119 SFA 21354, “Letter from Alfred Sursuq to Ibrahim Khalil,” 1908. This private letter explains Alfred's cousin's new seat on Beirut's commercial court and how this will positively influence the family company.

120 SFA 18022_222, “Letter from Alfred Sursuq to Mikhail Habaib,” 1909. In this letter, Alfred explains to Mikhail, how to present his argument for land to the local court. Namely, if the family company paid for an official document prepared by a land surveyor, this is highly effective way to “get us permission before the shari‘a court.”

121 SFA 18046, “Sursuq Et Frères Account Records,” 1898–1899; SFA 18101_004, “Letter from Isabella Bustrus to Credit Lyonnais, London,” 1903—this letter concerns the shares/stocks of her husband, Negib Bustrus, in Haifa-Damascus Railway, port of Haifa, and port of Beirut.

122 BOA DH_SAID 85/48, “Genel Sicil Kaydı, Nakhlé Sursuq.”

123 Toksöz, Nomads, 179. Fawaz, Merchants and Migrants, 3, 91. Fawaz tells us, “much [Mersin] was built on Sursuq land.”

124 “Year Book 1909,” Texas Department of Agriculture Bulletin 13 (May–June) 1910: 40.

125 Ibid., 180.

126 “The United Egyptian Lands, Limited, Incorporated under the Companies Acts, 1862–1900,” Western Daily Press, Monday, 10 Dec. 1906, 4.

127 Ibid.

128 Ibid.

129 In the case of Bethlehem (Bayt Lahm), the shari‘a courts ruled that the individual who possessed power of attorney on behalf of the owner of the land was “authorized in an absolute manner, to sell [this land] to whomever he wants”; Israeli State Archive 3173/37-p, “Court Records Alexandria, Egypt,” 13 May 1906. Private lease agreements served a similar purpose for German companies in Mersin-Adana. SFA 18113_322, “Letter from Shehan to George Lutfallah Sursuq,” 11 Nov. 1912; SFA 18113_312, “Letter from Shehan to George Lutfallah Sursuq,” 29 Oct. 1912.

130 “Year Book 1909,” 40.

131 SFA 18148, “Letter Addressed to Mrs. Sursuq & Sons Concerning the Properties of Jedro, Kafratta, and Mejdel,” 27 Nov. 1908, 227.

132 Ibid., 226–28.

133 TNA FO 195/2056, “Report on the Position.”

134 SFA 18062, “Sursuq Et Frerés Account Records: Cotton, Sugar, Coffee,” n.d.–1901.

135 “The Money Market,” London Standard, 31 Oct. 1881.

136 Moore, Capitalism, 139.

137 SFA 18119, “Letter from George Musa Sursuq to Monsieur Hamel,” 22 Apr. 1900; “Letter from Alfred Musa Sursuq to Monsieur Hamel,” 30 Apr. 1900.

138 Liverpool Records Office 380 COT 6/4, “Minute Books of General Meetings of the Liverpool Cotton Association,” 29 July 1895–30 Sept. 1901).

139 Beckert, Empire of Cotton, 184, 214.

140 SFA 18148, “Letter from George Musa Sursuq to Monsieur Hamel,” 26 Jan. 1909; SFA 18119, “Letters from Sursuq Et Frerés to Monsieur Hamel, Explaining the Credits the Former Provided to the Jewish Colonization Association from a Large Paris Bank,” May 1900. Hamel was the director of the Paris branch of The Russian Bank for Foreign Trade, headquartered in St. Petersburg.

141 Liverpool Records Office 380 COT 2/5/6, “Letter from Blease & Sons, Accountants, to Cotton Board, Liverpool,” 15 Oct. 1913.

142 Ibid.

143 As Walter Johnson correctly avers for the American context, “However else, Industrial capitalism might have developed in the absence of slave-produced cotton and Southern capital markets, it did not develop that way.” River of Dark Dreams: Slavery and Empire in the Cotton Kingdom (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013), 254.

144 Shafir, Land, Labor.

145 For a detailed analysis of changing forms of property ownership and labor relations in the early twentieth-century Levant, see my forthcoming dissertation, The Business of Property: Levantine Joint-Stock Companies, Land, Law, and the Development of Capitalism around the Mediterranean, 1850–1925 (Stanford University, forthcoming June 2018).


Levantine Joint-Stock Companies, Trans-Mediterranean Partnerships, and Nineteenth-Century Capitalist Development

  • Kristen Alff (a1)


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