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The Study Of Middle Eastern Industrlal History: Notes On The Interrelationship Between Factories And Small-Scale Manufacturing With Special References To Lebamese Silk And Ecyptian Syugar, 1900–1930

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 January 2009

Roger Owen
St. Antony's CollegeOxford


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.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1984

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1 There are only a few works which concern themselves directly with the organisation and structure of Middle Eastern industry before the 1930s, among them, El-Gritli, A.A.I. (al-Jiritli), “The Structure of Modern Industry in Egypt,” L'Egypte Contemporaine, 241242 (11.–12. 1947), pp. 363582Google Scholar and Ta'rikh al-sina'a fi Misr (Cairo, 1956?)Google Scholar and the chapters on “Industry” in Sa'id Himadeh's, B. various edited collections. Economic Organization of Syria (Beirut, 1936);Google ScholarEconomic Organization of Palestine (Beirut. 1938);Google Scholar and Al-nizam al-iqtisadi fi'l-'lraq (Beirut, 1938). For the rest, the most useful sources are the descriptions of particular industries such as those by Eman, Ducousso, and Mazuel cited below.Google Scholar

2 See the various observations about the under-counting of Egyptian factory workers in the 1907 Egyptian Census, for example by Vallet, J., Contribution à l'étude de la condition des ouvriers de Ia grande industrie du Cairo (Valence, 1911), p. 96.Google Scholar More recent surveys reveal that a huge under-counting of small-scale plants continues — for example, Cairo, Zagazig, and Michigan State Universities, “The rural non-farm employment project-Egypt: Small scale enterprise in Egypt: Fayoum and Kalyubiya Governorates,” Phase I, Survey Results. Minieo (March 1982), pp. 14–15.Google Scholar

3 I include in this group Keyder, C., The Definition of a Peripheral Economy: Turkey 1923–1929 (Cambridge and Paris, 1981);CrossRefGoogle ScholarDavis, E., Challenging Colonialism: Bank Misr and Egyptian Industrialization 1920–1941 (Princeton, 1983);CrossRefGoogle Scholar and Owen, R., The Middle East in the World Economy 1800–1914 (London, 1981).Google Scholar

4 Egyptian cigarettes were an unusual example of the advantages of cheap inputs in that, after 1890, all the tobacco used in them was imported.Google Scholar

5 For example, Keyder, Definition, pp. 50–64;Google ScholarDavis, Challenging Colonialism, p. 193.Google Scholar

6 For example, Chevallier, D., “Un exemple de résistance technique de l'artisinat syrien au xixe et xxe siècles: Les tissus ikatés d'AIep et de Damas,” Syria, XXXIX, 34 (1962), pp. 300334.Google Scholar Also, Keyder, Definition, pp. 47–48;Google Scholar and Kurmus, O., “Some Aspects of Handicraft and Industrial Production in Ottoman Anatolia,” Asian and African Studies, XV, 1 (03 1981), pp. 8894.Google Scholar

7 Keyder, Definition, pp. 64–66.Google Scholar

8 Ducousso, G., L'industrie de la soie en Syre et au Lihan (Beirut and Paris, 1913),Google Scholar and Mazuel, J., Le sucre en Egvpte: Etude de géographie hisiorique et économique (Cairo, 1937).Google Scholar For silk, see also Saba, P., “The Development and Decline of the Lebanese Silk Industry,” B. Litt. (Oxford, 1977)Google Scholar and Labaki, B., “La filature de la soie dans le Sandjak du Mont Liban,” Arabica, XXIX, 1 (02. 1982), pp. 8090.CrossRefGoogle Scholar For sugar, see Arminjon, P., La situation écononhique et financière de l'Egypte (Paris, 1911), pp. 236279;Google ScholarArtaud, C., “L'industrie sucrière et Ia culture de la canne à sucre en Egypte,” L'Egv pie Contemporaine, I, 2 (03 1910), pp. 207225;Google ScholarTieman, W., The Sugar Cane in Egypt (Altrincham, 1912), pp. 114.Google Scholar

9 The most obvious place to begin to look for documents concerning the history of the Egyptian sugar industry would be the archives of the Daira Saniya in Cairo. In the case of silk there were some records in the Lebanese Silk Office just south of Beirut on the old Saida road, but nothing about the operation of individual factories.Google Scholar

10 Ducousso, L'indusrrie, Part 3 and list of factories in Annexe I.Google Scholar

11 An estimated 40 percent of the cultivated area of Mount Lebanon was covered with mulberries at this time. See, Bey, Ismail Haqqi, ed., Lubnan: Mabahith 'ilmiya wa ijtima'iya, new edition (Beirut, 1970), pp. 457459.Google Scholar

12 Owen, Middle East, pp. 251–252.Google Scholar

13 Ducousso, L'industrie, pp. 145–148.Google Scholar

14 Ibid., p. 150.

15 Ibid., p. 183.

16 Ibid., p. 182–183.

17 Ibid., p. 150.

18 Fevret, M., “La sericulture au Liban –2,” Revue de Géographie de Lion, XXIV, 4 (1949), pp. 348350;Google ScholarHakim, G., “Industry,” in Himadeh, , Economic Organization of Syria, p. 123.Google Scholar

19 Estimates of the degree of modernization vary. For example, Saba, “Development and Decline,” pp. 62–66;Google ScholarEddé, Emil, quoted in Comité Executif du ler Congres Libanais de la Sericulture, Rapports du ler Congrès Libanais de la Sericuliure (Beirut, 1930), pp. 89;Google ScholarNaccache, A., “Moriculture, grainage, sericulture et filature au Liban,” Extrait des Acles de la Conference Technique Sericole Iniernationale (Ales, France, 1955), p. 39;Google ScholarHakim, “Industry,” p. 134.Google Scholar It is Hakim who implies that the factories generally used steam power (ibid., p. 138).

20 Saba, “Development and Decline,” pp. 62–63;Google ScholarHakim, “Industry,” p. 136.Google Scholar

21 Ducousso, L'indusirie, pp. 72–73;Google ScholarSaba, “Development and Decline,” pp. 68–69.Google Scholar

22 Ibid., pp. 63–65; Institut Internationale d'Agriculture, Monograph No. 8, La Sericulture dans le monde (Rome, 1944).Google Scholar

23 Hakim, “Industry,” pp. 145–147.Google Scholar

24 Ibid., pp. 146, 150–153.

25 Ibid., pp. 138–140.

26 Ibid., Table VIII, p. 140.

27 Ibid., p. 141; Comité Executif du ler Congrès Libanais de la Sericulture, Annual Report, 1936/1937, pp. 2–3.Google Scholar The use of more factory-produced silk thread by Syrian weavers was one of the major aims of important members of this Committee. For example, Hobeika, P., La soie libanaise (Beirut, 1930), p. 10.Google Scholar

28 Hakim, “Industry,” pp. 150–153.Google Scholar

29 Ibid., p. 151.

30 The major source of information about the history of the Egyptian sugar industry is Mazuel, Le sucre, chapter one.Google Scholar

31 For example, the published annual reports of the Daira Saniya administration. See also Chélu, A., Le Nil, Le Soudan. L'Egypte (Paris, 1891), pp. 217218;Google ScholarPensa, C., Les Cultures d'Egypte, pp. 52–55;Google ScholarWilliams, De Broe and Co., Sugar in Egypt and Elsewhere (London, 1903), pp. 5863, 106–114.Google Scholar

32 Arminjon, Situation économique, pp. 247–248.Google Scholar

33 Ibid., pp. 249, 255; Mazuel, Le sucre, pp. 157–159.Google Scholar

34 Figures from Sir Willcocks, W. and Craig, J. I., Egyptian Irrigation, 3rd edition (London and New York, 1913), I, p. 113Google Scholar and Egypt's Annuaire Statistique. 1914, p. 362.Google Scholar See also Hansen's, B. calculations in “Income and Consumption in Egypt, 1886/1887 to 1937,” IJMES, 10 (1979), pp. 3841.Google Scholar

35 For example, ibid., pp. 39–40.

36 Ibid., pp. 40–41. See also Arminjon, Situation économique, pp. 247–248, 252.Google Scholar

37 “Note sur l'industrie sucrière,” Government of Egypt, Rapport de la Commission du Commerce et de l'Industrie, 2nd edition (Cairo, 1921), p. 148.Google Scholar

38 Figures from Mazuel, Le sucre, Table XII. See also, Schatz, J., “Aperçu général sur les principaux cultures égyptiennes,” L'Egypte Contemporaine, 138 (12. 1932), pp. 694697.Google Scholar

39 El-Gritli, “Structure,” p. 512.Google Scholar

40 Ibid., p.512, Mazuel, Le sucre, pp. 129–130.Google Scholar

41 Ibid., Table XII.

42 Ibid., p. 162.

43 Ibid., p. 159.

44 Ibid., pp. 158–159.

45 For example, see Eman's, A. excellent L'Indusirie du coton en Egypte: Etude d'écononm politique (Cairo, 1943).Google Scholar

46 Kurmus, “Some Aspects,” pp. 90–94.Google Scholar

47 Ibid., pp. 92–93; Wright, A., ed., Twentieth Century Impressions of Egypt (London, 1909), p. 468. The Company still exists, with offices in London.Google Scholar

48 Kurmus, “Some Aspects,” p. 93.Google Scholar

49 Keyder, Definition, p. 56.Google Scholar

50 Wright, “The Cigarette Industry,” Twentieth Centurv Impressions, pp. 483–496;Google ScholarVallet, Contribution, pp. 95–111;Google ScholarIssawi, C., ed., The Economic History of the Middle East (Chicago, 1966), pp. 6064.Google Scholar

51 Interview conducted by Mr. Alexander Kitroeff of St. Antony's College, Oxford.Google Scholar

52 Figures from Annuaire Statistique. 1914, pp. 303, 307.Google Scholar

53 See Hansen's comments, “Income and Consumption, ” pp. 37–38.Google Scholar For the government's calculations of the increase in tobacco consumption per head see Annuaire Stalisrique, 1914, p. 402. The tombac imported for use in narghiles is listed separately in the trade statistics.Google Scholar

53 Vallet, Contribution, pp. 103–104.Google Scholar

54 Ibid., pp. 102–103. Calculations concerning the rival productivity of worker and machine are difficult. The Bonsack roller used by the Wills Company in Britain could produce 300 cigarettes a minute in the 1890s. The Standard machine, introduced after World War I, could manage 600 a minute. See Alford, B. W. E.. W. D. and H. O. Wills and the Development of the U. K. Tobacco Industry 1786–1965 (London, 1973), p. 225, 370–371.Google Scholar There is a wide discrepancy between the estimates of the amounts produced by cigarette rollers in Egypt. For example, compare Vallet, Contrihution. p. 99Google Scholar with the anonymous author of “The Cigarette Industry” in Wright, Twentieth Ceniury lmpressions, p. 486.Google Scholar

56 Ibid., pp. 487. 491.

57 El-Gritli, “Structure,” p. 510.Google Scholar

58 Interview conducted by Mr. Alexander Kitroeff of St. Antony's College, Oxford.Google Scholar