The Mount Lebanon Uprising of 1821: Reconceptualising a Revolutionary Age

Peter Hill
Department of Humanities – Northumbria University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

In the spring of 1821, a peasant uprising burst onto the political scene of Mount Lebanon, a region of the Ottoman Empire on the eastern Mediterranean coast. The local Emir was forced into exile, while his rivals among the elite signed a pact with the collectivity of armed commoners; later that year, the Emir would return to suppress the rising. Was this assertion of ‘commoner’ power, contemporaneous with the outbreak of rebellion in Greece and following on the heels of the wave of revolutions across the Mediterranean and Atlantic, the echo of a Euro-American revolutionary tradition? This paper will argue that events in Mount Lebanon were not, in fact, the outcome of ideological inspiration from the Euro-Atlantic world, but the product of innovation within distinctive local political traditions. This innovation responded, however, to pressures analogous to those faced across the Mediterranean and Atlantic in the ‘age of revolutions’: the expansion and crisis of military-fiscal states, increased pressure on ‘commoner’ populations, and the replacement of old elites by new ones, as sovereignty was renegotiated. By focussing on the pressures of political economies rather than genealogies of ideas, the paper suggests, we can reconceptualise the moment around 1820 and the wider ‘age of revolutions’ across Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic.

Keywords:

Age revolutions, Ottoman empire, Global history, Middle East