Talk by Dr Stefan Winter: Kings of the Arabs: "The Mawali Bedouin and the Ottoman “Desert Emirate”, 17th-19th Century"

Author: CSSH
Time: 17:30
Location: SOS Z27

After the relatively late incorporation of the Middle Euphrates Valley and the Syrian desert interior into the Ottoman Empire in the mid-16th century, the entire region soon fell under the effective authority of leading Bedouin families co-opted by the Ottoman state to better police and tax the local nomad population. This lecture traces the careers of the Abu Rish and the al-‘Abbas lineages, and in particular their official appointment, beginning in the 17th century, to the çöl beyliđi or “desert emirate”, an institution the Ottomans inherited from the Mamluks but also redefined to favour the settlement of new tribes from Anatolia beginning in the early 18th century. If both families originally owed their standing to their designation as provincial sancak governors rather than as autonomous tribal leaders, it is their increasing perception as chiefs of the so-called “Mawali” Bedouin confederation, as “rulers” of the desert and finally as “kings” over the entire Arab population, that came to define their place in Ottoman letters, western travel reports and Arabic chronicles of the time. The lecture ends with a consideration of the emirate’s reabsorption into the Aleppo provincial government and finally its elimination in the 19th century, suggesting its history be understood as a key but transient phase in the extension of modern state authority into the Syrian desert hinterland.