By Sarah M. A. Gualtieri
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Extra resources for Between Arab and White: Race and Ethnicity in the Early Syrian American Diaspora
For other workers, moving to Beirut to work in the silk industry allowed them to make enough money to then purchase a ticket for steamship travel overseas. In what follows, I examine internal migration trends in late-Ottoman Syria and assess their impact on the political and economic context out of which migration to the Americas sprang. ottoman subjects on the move Prior to the great wave of transatlantic migration in the late nineteenth century, migratory movements in Syria were connected either to Ottoman imperial policies to boost economic output through demographic means or to the dislocation of war.
The success of the Ottoman reform policy was mixed. The judicial and political reorganization of the Mountain, for example, facilitated the rapid expansion of the silk industry, but in ways that were ultimately precarious for peasant cultivators. The 1860s had seemed like good years for the people who planted the mulberry trees, fed the silkworms, harvested eggs, and cared for the cocoons. International silk prices were high, as was the demand for Syrian silk. During this phase of expansion peasants used the extensive ﬁnancial network associated with the silk industry and borrowed heavily to expand their areas of cultivation.
Other European governments demanded similar arrangements, and between 1838 and 1841 the Ottomans signed free-trade treaties with France and Russia. The Ottoman government then introduced a new commercial code based on French practice, which was designed to ensure that commercial transactions in the empire, and especially those involving foreign interests, would be conducted according to French law. 50 Finally, the Ottoman government’s stupendous debt gave British and French entrepreneurs a ﬁeld of opportunity that made earlier favorable trading agreements granted by the Ottomans (known as the Capitulations) look positively protectionist.