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Experts et expertise dans les mandats de la société des nations : figures, champs, outils

 | 
Philippe Bourmaud
, 
Norig Neveu
, 
Chantal Verdeil

Le système mandataire : un concours d'experts aux qualifications hétérogènes

The figure of the native expert: Léon Mourad in the service of the High Commission for Syria and Lebanon

La figure de l’expert indigène : Léon Mourad au service du Haut‑Commissariat pour la Syrie et le Liban

Geoffrey D. Schad

Résumé

Le mandat français en Syrie et au Liban reposait sur des experts « indigènes » qui mettaient en œuvre sa politique. En raison de l’ambiguïté inhérente au système mandataire, censé préparer les États du Levant à l’indépendance tout en y perpétuant l’influence française, les relations entre le Haut‑Commissariat et les agents techniques libano‑syriens ne pouvaient être que difficiles et ambiguës. C’était particulièrement vrai pour les experts issus des minorités protégées par la France : ils étaient pris entre les intérêts de leur employeur et la demande sociale d’indépendance. Cette contribution explore cette ambiguïté en scrutant la carrière de Léon Mourad, expert « indigène », né à Alep et formé à l’université Saint Joseph de Beyrouth. À partir de 1927, il fut employé à plusieurs postes dans le domaine économique, d’abord pour le Haut‑Commissariat, puis pour le gouvernement syrien après 1927. Il dirigea le bureau de l’économie nationale à Alep avant de devenir directeur pour les traités commerciaux au Haut‑Commissariat. À l’indépendance, il servit comme délégué syrien au Conseil des intérêts communs et comme secrétaire général du ministre syrien de l’économie. Il fut décoré à plusieurs reprises comme technocrate modèle par la France, la Syrie et le Liban. Il était pourtant aussi engagé dans le mouvement nationaliste syrien. Il appartenait à la délégation des industriels alépins qui militèrent pour une protection douanière durant la grève des tisserands en 1932. Il participa ensuite aux débats en faveur de la souveraineté économique de la Syrie et de la construction d’une économie moderne. Sa carrière montre que les experts techniques « indigènes » de l’administration mandataire n’étaient pas des technocrates politiquement neutres, pas plus que les experts issus des minorités ne furent de simples collaborateurs au service des intérêts français. Tirant parti de leur expertise et de leur position particulière dans l’administration mandataire, certains d’entre eux furent capables de servir deux maîtres tout en se ménageant une place dans la Syrie indépendante.

Texte intégral

  • 1 The literature on the development of the Ottoman millet system and the cultivation of local minori (...)

1The role of locally recruited functionaries in the administration of the French mandate for Syria and Lebanon is, to my knowledge, a subject that has yet to receive systematic scholarly examination. This omission represents a serious lacuna in our understanding of how the mandate worked and the legacy it left to its successor states. In the first instance, as in all colonial situations, the Mandatory Power in the Levant could furnish only a limited number of its own personnel and had to rely on Syrians and Lebanese to shoulder much of the burden of governing. In the second instance, relations between French and Levantine officials were necessarily complex and suffused with ambiguity because of the mandate’s putatively transitory character, its requirement to construct the institutional framework of embryonic states to eventually take over from France, and the French cultivation of clients among compact ethno‑religious minorities.1 Finally, those who had served the mandatory regime formed the cadre of the bureaucracies in independent Lebanon and Syria, in the latter case serving to preserve the continuity of state institutions during the political upheavals following 1949. A better understanding of how these native personnel functioned under the mandate would thus give not only a deeper comprehension of the mandate itself but also insight into the development of the postcolonial state.

2This essay proposes to indicate some of the directions further research in these areas might take through an examination of the career of one such native expert, Léon Mourad (Liyūn Murād), an Aleppine who served in the mandatory civil service in several capacities in the Syrian state’s economics services and in the High Commission’s customs administration. Although detailed information on Mourad’s career is difficult to locate, and he is perhaps not typical or representative, based on the available evidence I would suggest that his experience highlights the ambiguities of the position of local employees of the mandatory regime. Consideration of these ambiguities should give rise to lines of inquiry that may be used in investigating more deeply than was possible for this essay the relevant archival materials, principally the mandatory records housed at the Centre des archives diplomatiques de Nantes (CADN).

  • 2 Khoury, 1987.
  • 3 Méouchy & Sluglett, with Khoury & Schad, 2004. Among the noteworthy monographs are: Provence, 2005 (...)
  • 4 Much of this attention is because of the rise to power of minoritarian army officers in Syria in 1 (...)

3At least within English‑language scholarship, consideration of the relations between France and the Levant has focused for the most part on the interactions between the dominant notable elite and the French administration in the realm of formal politics, as for example Philip Khoury’s magisterial Syria and the French Mandate.2 After Khoury’s book appeared the CADN archives were opened to researchers, and a new generation of scholars diversified somewhat the range of themes and social groups examined, as marked by the 2001 conference at Aix‑en‑Provence and by a number of monographs.3 But while we now have a richer understanding of the political, social, and cultural aspects of the mandate and of some of its mechanics (for example, with respect to land tenure), we still have a limited vision of how the mandate worked and how its agents saw themselves and their role. In part this is due to the restrictions CADN places on access to personnel records, in part to a probable lack of interest by researchers. About the only occupational group to receive attention in this regard is military officers, who represent a special case and, given the small size of the troupes spéciales before independence, a limited one.4

  • 5 Zeifa, 2004.

4Among Francophone scholars, there is a greater attention to the development of professionals, but again the focus is infrequently on government functionaries. Élisabeth Longuenesse in particular has charted the emergence throughout the Middle East of accountants, attorneys at law, teachers, and engineers and their social mobilization, but to my knowledge the only work that specifically focuses on native experts during the mandate is that of Hayma Zeifa on Syrian engineers.5 Zeifa’s valuable work, however, has certain limitations in opening up to us how the mandate was experienced by its native agents. Making use of archival and published information as well as interviews, Zeifa profiled over fifty engineers active during the mandate, paying particular attention to the role played in the development of engineering as a profession by the École d’ingénieurs de Beyrouth. As rich as her analysis is, Zeifa’s sample seems small, limited as it is to one profession, and some of her findings with respect to relations between French and Syrian engineers may have been affected by her reliance on interviews made decades later. Despite these reservations, Zeifa’s work suggests the possibility of extending her method to cover other professionals and functionaries to in effect create a prosopography of Syrian and Lebanese officials in the interwar period.

5Such an enterprise would require resources of time that this writer does not currently enjoy. Making a virtue out of a necessity, for this essay I have opted for biography over prosopography, fully conscious of the limitations this choice imposes. Mourad may well prove to be an exceptional or atypical figure, but even the experience of a unique individual may illuminate the conditions under which he was active.

French and natives in the mandatory civil service

  • 6 Computed by the author from the French foreign ministry’s annual Rapport à la Société des Nations (...)
  • 7 Khoury, 1987, ch. 3.
  • 8 Ibid., p. 329.
  • 9 Potter, 1973.
  • 10 Longrigg, 1958, p. 260.

6It is useful at this juncture to consider the structure of the mandatory civil service, both of the governments of the several États du Levant and of the High Commission and its dependent organs, in terms of the numbers of French and local functionaries and their respective degrees of authority and autonomy. Here we face an immediate obstacle. Although the French foreign ministry scrupulously reported to the League of Nations the number of French employees of the various mandate organs, similar figures for Syrian and Lebanese officials were not, at least not in an annual or comprehensive manner. But they had to have been numerous: the total number of French civilian employees of the High Commission, the Services communs shared jointly by the several states and administered by the High Commission, and attached to the subordinate state governments (Lebanon, Syria, Jabal al‑Durūz, and Latakia) rarely exceeded 400, reaching a maximum of 458 in 1933, leaving many functions to be filled by locals.6 Local officials were critical to the mandatory administration not least because so few French officials spoke Arabic. In consequence, Francophone Syrians (very often Uniate Catholics, who were also politically favored) were indispensable functionaries.7 Although diachronic data are lacking, in the late 1920s the bureaucracy of the State of Syria totaled some 8,000 native employees, giving an indication of the ratio of French to natives.8 Whether the size of the French establishment was excessive, as many Syrian critics claimed, is open to dispute. To give a perhaps misleading comparison, in 1947 the Indian Civil Service (after a period of deliberate Indianization) counted some 510 Indians and 429 Europeans (mostly Britons),9 which tends to support the argument that “the total machinery of mandatory control was excessive.”10 However that may be, what is more important for our purposes is the question of the relationship between French and native officials.

  • 11 Syrian Directorate‑General of Information, 1955, p. 151.
  • 12 Khoury, 1987, pp. 329‑330.

7Pending more in‑depth archival research, we have mainly impressionistic information concerning native officials of the mandate, their recruitment, training, pay, promotion, and degree of authority. From what we do know, we can largely discount the later allegation by the independent Syrian government that “[p]ublic appointments were reserved to those who had been tested and found subservient and reliable.”11 To be sure, the French vetted their hires, although apparently more for competence and honesty than for political reliability, and Syrian politicians were not above cronyism in making appointments to the bureaucracy of the Syrian state,12 but on the whole it seems the post‑independence criticism was part of a wholesale condemnation of the French mandate. On the whole, the more measured evaluation of Brigadier Longrigg, who was by no means uncritical of French policy, seems more apt:

  • 13 Longrigg, 1958, pp. 261‑262.

In the ranks of Syro‑Lebanese officialdom the [mandate] period witnessed a pronounced improvement in standards of competence, honesty, and capacity. Though commonly disparaged (not least by French residents), the body of local civil servants compared, by 1939, not unfavourably with that of other comparable countries, and contained at all levels scores or hundreds of honest, vigorous, and intelligent officials. These had, over twenty years, shed almost all the worst survivors of the Turkish period, and had, with a more enlightened (but still insufficient) comprehension of the nature of public service, incorporated representatives of the better‑educated and promising younger men.13

8More serious, and supported by the comments of disinterested observers, is the statement that

  • 14 Syrian Directorate‑General of Information, 1955, p. 151.

Almost every local employee had a French official invested with real authority to supervise his work, and this led to a great increase in the number of civil servants and a wasteful duplication of services.14

9Indeed, this was the crucial feature of the mandatory civil service. Despite the mandate’s putative goal of preparing Syria for independence, in practice it was a colonial regime of indirect rule with substantial French control of all aspects of official life, both political and administrative. Within the High Commission itself the preponderant French role was, perhaps, unsurprising, but even in the Syrian government French officials, even if relatively few in number, had a hierarchy parallel to the Syrian bureaucracy that exerted decisive control down to the district and village level. French control was even more pronounced in the Alawite and Druze “states,” in part to insulate these regions from Syrian‑Arab nationalism and in part to develop these compact minorities into French clients.

  • 15 And, pending the reopening to researchers of the Syrian archives at the Center for Historical Docu (...)
  • 16 Maktab al‑dirasāt al‑sūriyya wa‑l‑ʿarabiyya, 1951, p. 758.

10Although we know that such conditions prevailed within the Syrian state bureaucracy, in which Mourad served between 1927 and 1934, our best documentation now15 concerns the High Commission. We take as our representative example the customs administration, in which Mourad served as head of tariffs and trade agreements from 1934 to 1938 and as director of the customs station at Alexandretta in 1938‑1939.16

11Under the mandate the states of the Levant were combined into a customs union, and so the customs administration fell under the authority of Services communs of the High Commission. The setting of customs tariffs was ultimately decided by French personnel, the Inspector General of Customs being the top authority, but while the tariff was generally seen as a revenue‑generating instrument there were pressures from local manufacturers to provide protection and encouragement to industry. As we shall see, Mourad worked as an ally of local interests in this respect.

  • 17 This description of the organization of the customs administration is based on the annual Rapport (...)

12Beneath the Inspection General of Customs, headquartered at the High Commission in Beirut, the customs administration comprised two territorial Directorates, that for Lebanon at Beirut and that for Syria in, remarkably, Aleppo rather than Damascus. Presumably this reflects the northern city’s economic dominance and its proximity to the trade routes. Subordinate to the Directorates were a number of “bureaux” and “postes” in commercial centers, ports, and border crossings. Each of the Directorates was headed by a “Native Director,” appointed by the High Commissioner from a list of three nominees submitted by the local government and approved by the Inspector General. The two Native Directors (reduced in 1934 to one by the elimination of the Aleppo Directorate) were guidés et contrôlés by French Delegate Inspectors, and throughout the administration native employees were subject to French supervision. In 1928 there were 66 French customs officials to 570 “natives,” and this ratio continued despite a reorganization and reduction in staff in 1934.17

  • 18 Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1930), p. 45: « L (...)
  • 19 Haut‑commissariat de la République française en Syrie et au Liban, 1929, p. 201.

13French attitudes toward native customs officials display some ambiguity, and one must also keep in mind the difference between propaganda generated for the League of Nations and the realities of the administration in practice. No doubt stung by nationalist criticisms of the heavy‑handed and expensive French official presence, in 1930 the report to the League of Nations protested, perhaps vainly and too much, that “the majority [of all French officials] are not […] authoritative functionaries but are part of the subaltern personnel.”18 In a similar vein, a semi‑official publication in 1928 emphasized that the Native Directors were the hierarchical chiefs of all local employees.19 However, it must be emphasized that the “natives” played no official part in the formation of tariff policy, but were only responsible for enforcing the regulations. Even within that restricted field, French “control” was rather more extensive than official statements suggested. As Norman Burns remarked in 1933:

  • 20 Burns, 1933, p. 21.

Partly parallel with and partly under the French hierarchy is a native hierarchy which performs the routine work of customs administration. Theoretically, the native officials administer the customs, subject to review by French control. […] The function of the Native Director is to receive orders from the Delegate Inspector of his Direction, and to supervise all native officials within his Direction. Although the native officials are under the supervision of the Native Director, they are at the same time under the control of the French chiefs of control […] Consequently, the real authority of the Native Director is rather limited. […] The essential feature to remember is that [the native officials’] work is subject to control by the French chiefs of posts […].20

14In the customs administration (and, presumably, throughout the bureaucracy) as in the more strictly political field, the illusion of an autonomous native authority preparing for independence under French tutelage masked decisive French control over the actual levers of power. French officials were aware of the tensions arising from this situation: in describing to the League of Nations in 1927 the process of nominating the Native Directors, the foreign ministry observed:

  • 21 « Ces nominations donnent parfois lieu à des difficultés provenant de l’esprit de clientèle de la (...)

These nominations occasionally gave rise to difficulties deriving from the local political attitude of clientage.21

15What these “difficulties” were was not specified, but no doubt mining the CADN would reveal what they were. We can say in general that given the patron‑client character of Syrian politics at the time, and the tendency of whoever was in office to reward his supporters with government jobs (Shaykh Tāj al‑Dīn al‑Ḥasanī, premier 1928‑1932 and again 1934‑1936, was notorious in this regard), that the post of Native Director was an eminently political appointment, not merely a technocratic one.

16On the whole it would seem that the French attitude toward their native agents was one of cautious paternalism marked by a desire to transform these functionaries into model bureaucrats on a French model. Contrasting the changed state of affairs compared to the alleged corruption and peculation of the Ottoman administration, in 1928 the report to the League of Nations remarked:

  • 22 Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1928), p. 106.

Une grande partie du personnel indigène ainsi contrôlé s’est plié à nos conceptions administratives occidentales, tempérées cependant par les nécessités et convenances locales, on peut compter qu’instruits de leurs obligations et mieux formés moralement que par le passé […].22

  • 23 These missions are briefly discussed in the Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de l (...)

17Just how the native officials were “bent” to Western administrative conceptions is obscure, but it is clear that the French wished that the native customs officials—who formed the vast majority of the personnel and who moreover were those directly responsible for levying customs duties—be both competent and honest. It is unclear just how these agents were recruited and trained, but an effort was made to improve the performance of existing functionaries. Beginning in 1929 small numbers of Syrian customs officials were sent to France for training at the École des vérificateurs in Paris. These study missions were quite small (four agents in 1929, “a certain number” in 1930, four again in 1931, and two in 1932), lasted only three or four months, and were terminated for budgetary reasons in 1933.23 To what extent we can consider the Syrian and Lebanese customs officials “professionals” or “experts” remains an open question pending deeper archival research.

Mourad’s career and writings

  • 24 Maktab al‑dirasāt al‑sūriyya wa‑l‑ʿarabiyya, 1951, pp. 758‑759. See also Who’s Who in the Arab Wor (...)
  • 25 Murād, 1941‑1943.

18What, then, of my nominal protagonist, Léon Mourad? Who was he, how did he fit in to the scheme outlined above, and what can his career reveal to us about the role of the native expert during the mandate? Mourad is an elusive figure; what little we know about him comes from sporadic appearances in the archival record, a handful of his own writings, and his entry in Man huwa fī sūriyya for 1951, which he probably wrote himself.24 We would have a better sense of his attitudes were his one major work, Iqtiādiyātunā bayna al‑ams wa‑l‑ghad (Our economy between yesterday and tomorrow), published in the early 1940s,25 more readily available. This booklet (56 pages), whose title and date of publication are extremely suggestive, was catalogued by the Library of Congress in 1998, but its copy (a microfiche made in New Delhi) has disappeared. The only copy I have consulted, and that for other purposes, is held at the library of the Institut français du Proche‑Orient in Damascus (formerly IFEAD), which is currently (and indefinitely) inaccessible. As tantalizing as his appearances in the historical record, he seems to me a major figure, at least as an individual who bridged the worlds of mandatory officialdom and the Syro‑Lebanese business elite and whose official career extended from the late 1920s through the convulsions of the 1940s and into the early era of independence.

  • 26 The following biographical sketch is derived from Mourad’s Man huwa fī sūriyya and Who’s Who in th (...)

19Born in 1899, Mourad was an Aleppine and a Maronite.26 To what extent his city of origin and sectarian affiliation were significant to his later career is unclear, but he was certainly officially active in his native city and his status as a Maronite would not have hindered his career advancement, given the French preference for Christians in general and Maronites in particular. Mourad received his primary education in Aleppo, then attended secondary school at the College of the Jesuit Fathers in Beirut. This “college” was probably a preparatory school attached to the université Saint‑Joseph, as his Who’s Who entry states that he received his licence from that university. In any event he was certainly francophone, another advantage to an official career. But although the French preference for Catholics who spoke French very probably assisted his career, we should not confuse francophony with francophilia, and what little we know of Mourad’s political attitudes would indicate that he was a moderate nationalist, willing to work for the mandatory administration as preparation for actual independence. And although we know little about his background and education, it seems highly probable that he came from a commercial background and studied economics, or at least had some practical training in business.

  • 27 Malaa al‑iqtiād al‑waanī.
  • 28 Annuaire de personnel français en service en Syrie et au Liban, 1930, p. 12.
  • 29 « Enquête sur la situation de l’Industrie de fabrication des tissus de coton en Syrie au mois de m (...)
  • 30 Principally in CADN‑Mandat cartons 717 and 1545.
  • 31 Longrigg, 1958, p. 266: “The work of the numerous French financial and economic staffs, at Beirut (...)

20Mourad’s official career appears to have begun in 1927 with his appointment as head of the Services économiques at Aleppo. It is ambiguous whether this office was part of the Services communs of the mandate or an agency of the Syrian state. In Mourad’s Man huwa entry he calls this the “national economic administration,”27 while Who’s Who calls it the “National Economy Office.” These styles might be retrospective glosses on Mourad’s part. We have other evidence that the Services Économiques were part of the High Commission’s Administration Centrale, headed by M. Reclus as délégué adjoint en mission,28 while a 1933 report Mourad and his Damascus colleague, Georges Diab, submitted to the Secretary General of the Conference of Common Interests via the High Commission’s Counselor for Economic Affairs describes the Services économiques as belonging to the Syrian Republic.29 Given the tight French control over subordinate state governments, perhaps the distinction does not make much of a difference. In any event, this very confusion indicates the permeability between the “French” High Commission and the “native” states, and the degree to which native functionaries were subordinate to French control. We know from Mourad’s later appearances in the archival record30 that he worked closely with Reclus and other French officials. In this regard, Mourad stands as one of those “able” local officials who were “not uncommon.”31 Although the goals of Reclus and Mourad may have differed, it would appear from the evidence that Reclus had confidence in Mourad’s competence and, on the other hand, Mourad saw his government duties as ultimately serving the Syrian national interest and, no doubt, local Aleppine interests.

  • 32 See Watenpaugh, 2006, for a discussion of the dynamics of Aleppine politics and society.
  • 33 See al‑Zaʿīm, 1996.

21Mourad’s ties to the Aleppine commercial and industrial bourgeoisie may account in part for his elevation to such a senior post at such a young age (28), along with his competence, wasta with the local authorities, and French favor. Aleppo in the 1920s and 1930s was dominated by a small club of local officials and business figures,32 and Mourad’s effectiveness in his position was dependent on his acting as an interlocutor between that club and the French. But perhaps his relative youth is not to be marveled at. Aleppo at the time seems to have been a place for young men on the make: Muḥammad Saʿīd al‑Zaʿīm, an important Aleppine businessman born in Hama in 1905, was at 24 the secretary of the Economic and Industrial Congress held in Damascus in 1929, and at age 30 became the secretary of the Aleppo Chamber of Commerce.33 As a native son of Aleppo enjoying the confidence of both his French superiors and the burghers of his city, Mourad was uniquely positioned to translate the desires of the Aleppine business community into terms understandable by and acceptable to the mandate’s decision‑makers.

  • 34 The strike was exhaustively covered by French officials, including the Sûreté générale [civilian p (...)
  • 35 CADN‑Mandat, Carton 1545, Head of the Sûreté générale at Aleppo (Doucet) to Délégué‑adjoint, Alepp (...)
  • 36 CADN‑Mandat, Carton 1545, telegram no entrée 2816, Délégué, Aleppo, 13 August 1932, to High Commis (...)
  • 37 CADN‑Mandat, carton 1545, telegram, no entrée 2838, Délégué, Aleppo, 16 August 1932, to High Commi (...)

22Mourad’s great opportunity to act as an indispensable interlocutor between the business community and the High Commission came in the summer of 1932. Sparked by Japanese dumping of textile goods on the already depressed local market, Aleppo’s weavers went on a massive strike that not only threatened public order in the city but was rapidly exploited by both local business leaders (that is, the patrons of the putting‑out networks and workshops that employed the weavers) and nationalist politicians as a tool to criticize mandatory economic policy.34 Early in the strike Mourad accompanied the head of the Aleppo sûreté to a meeting with both weavers and employers to attempt to resolve the crisis.35 As the strike deepened, Mourad communicated to his superiors the local demand for tariff protection against Japanese imports in the form of specific as opposed to ad valorem duties.36 Most remarkably, Mourad accompanied a delegation of Aleppine weaving patrons led by the industrialist (and nationalist) Sāmī Ṣāʾim al‑Dahr that traveled to Beirut to lobby the High Commission for tariff protection of local industry.37 Such participation by a government official in what was a private‑sector action appears unusual to our eyes, but indicates the permeability of the barrier between the government and the private sector and the peculiar position enjoyed by Mourad.

  • 38 CADN‑Mandat, carton 717, « Enquête sur la situation de l’Industrie de fabrication des tissus de co (...)
  • 39 For a more general understanding of customs policy, see Burns, 1933; Burns & Edwards, 1936; and th (...)

23Following the cessation of the strike in autumn 1932, Mourad was entrusted, along with his opposite number in Damascus Georges Diab, with investigating the state of the textile industry in Syria and to recommend policy changes. It is perhaps this report more than anything else that corroborates the designation of Mourad as an “expert.” In 48 pages, Mourad and Diab carefully reported on the costs of production for different textile goods in Damascus, Aleppo, Homs, and Hama; compared costs among the cities and between Syrian and competing foreign goods; discussed the structure of the industry; presented the views of commercial and industrial figures; proposed particular changes in customs duties on both yarns and cloth; and made an argument on behalf of a more general policy of industrial protection. While it clearly conveyed the desires of the industrial circles Mourad was familiar with, the report was not one of special pleading but was rather grounded in the nominally impartial bureaucratic language of statistical expertise.38 Mourad and Diab must have been convincing, because over the course of the early 1930s Syro‑Lebanese customs policy shifted more and more to one that protected local industry rather than being a mere revenue‑generating instrument, although reconciling the competing interests of the Syrian interior cities, the merchants of Beirut, and France’s obligations under the open door was difficult.39

  • 40 E.g., « Étude sur le régime douanier qu’il convient d’appliquer aux cotonnades à l’importation » 2 (...)
  • 41 Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1934), p. 67.
  • 42 Longrigg, 1958, p. 267.
  • 43 The Aleppo Chamber of Commerce Bulletin devoted considerable space to the Alexandretta issue and, (...)

24On the strength of this and other reports on tariff policy, especially respecting textiles,40 and possibly connected with the consolidation of the customs service and the closing of the Customs Directorate at Aleppo,41 in 1934 Mourad transferred to the customs administration at Beirut. Here, he claimed in his Man huwa fī sūriyya entry, he was in charge of tariffs and trade agreements, and represented Syria and Lebanon in trade negotiations with France, Egypt, and Palestine. Just how much credence we should give to Mourad’s claims is uncertain. Although he was a known advocate of using the tariff to encourage national industry, and despite the evident confidence he enjoyed in French official circles, it seems unlikely, given what we know about the customs administration, that Mourad had quite the authority and influence he implied in 1951. While, as Longrigg observes, the Conference of Common Interests (to which Mourad acted as Syrian delegate on several occasions) did provide the customs service with local input, and although Mourad had vigorously argued on behalf of Aleppine and Syrian interests while at the Services économiques in Aleppo, it was “striking that the States [Syria and Lebanon] were allowed so little voice in the management of one of their greatest sources of revenue [customs duties], which they were by no means unqualified to administer.”42 Mourad held his post in Beirut, whatever its actual title and responsibilities (his Who’s Who entry lists it as Director of Customs Tariffs and Commercial Treaties), until 1938, when he transferred again to take over the customs administration at Alexandretta. One does not know whether to view this transfer as a promotion or a fall from favor, as it corresponded with the French cession of the Alexandretta sanjaq to Turkey. Mourad’s posting to Alexandretta may well have been a reflection of his competence, as closing down the mandatory administration there would have been a task requiring considerable skill as well as tact. As an Aleppine, Mourad would have been quite knowledgeable about Alexandretta, as it was Aleppo’s principal seaport. That role had continued even as the sanjaq was under a separate administration during the mandate. By the time Mourad arrived at his post, the sanjaq was already under a nominally independent regime and was being absorbed into Turkey. Concern over the fate of Alexandretta was, among other things, an economic issue for the Aleppo business community, which after its loss devoted great efforts to the development of Latakia as a replacement.43

  • 44 Murād, 1949a, b & 1951.

25The war years saw Mourad, now in his forties, achieve greater authority as the fitful path to real independence was trodden. He served both the Vichy and Free French administrations with responsibility for food rationing, a critical function given the restrictions on shipping and the scarcities of the war economy. It was during this period that he wrote his Iqtiādiyātunā bayna al‑ams wa‑l‑ghad, which meditates on the meaning of “national” [waanī] economy, the impact of the war years, the need for industrial protection, and the prospects for the future. The attainment of independence allowed Mourad the opportunity to act more assertively than under the mandate on behalf of Syrian economic interests: he was Syrian delegate to the Arab League economic committee in 1945, a member of the Syrian delegation to the Council of Common Interests in 1946‑1947, when dividing those mandatory assets between Lebanon and Syria was at issue, and completed his service as Secretary‑General of the Syrian Ministry of National Economy in 1947. He resigned the following year to take up the directorship of a spinning company in Beirut. Why his official career ended when it did is unknown. In private enterprise, Mourad continued his close association with Aleppine business circles, contributing several articles to the Aleppo Chamber of Commerce’s annual bulletin on aspects of the textile trade, in which he displayed the same attention to statistical detail as he had decades earlier in his official reports.44

Conclusions

26What should we make of this career? To what extent should we consider Mourad a native expert? It seems evident that Mourad had a specialized expertise in matters connected to the textile industries, but whether this was technical knowledge or merely a good understanding of markets is an open question. He seems also to have had considerable administrative ability and negotiating skill. Of perhaps greater interest than these narrow questions is his role as an interlocutor between the Syrian (especially Aleppine) business community and mandatory officialdom. Members of that community, such as Wahbī al‑Harīrī and Muḥammad Saʿīd al‑Zaʿīm, entered government service as cabinet ministers after independence, but it would appear that Mourad was unique in having a foot in both worlds during the mandate itself. And it must be stressed that these two industrialists held political posts, while Mourad’s career played out in the unglamourous realm of the bureaucracy. One wonders to what extent Mourad’s long advocacy of tariff protection for Syrian industry was a reflection of his professional assessment of the needs of the economy, his economic nationalism, or the interests of his associates in the Syrian bourgeoisie. One also wonders just how much leeway Mourad’s French superiors gave him compared to other native officials. His blatant lobbying on behalf of the Aleppine weaving industry in 1932 poses more questions than it answers with respect to just what the French saw the function of the Services économiques to be, how much authority was to be granted to the native experts, and what the relation between economic (and customs) policy to social and political peace (the Aleppo strike threatened great unrest) should be.

27The research I have been able to conduct for this essay unfortunately does not go deep enough for me to make any firm conclusions regarding Mourad as an individual, his typicality as a native expert, or the general contours of the relationship between French and native officials during the mandate. But I do think this example suggests that we need to extend the notion of “expert” to include administrators and bureaucrats as well as technical experts such as engineers, and to extend the method pioneered by Hayma Zeifa’s study of engineers to develop a broader and deeper prosopography of Syro‑Lebanese officialdom during the mandate in its varied aspects.

28It should be added that Mourad’s career poses questions about how experts and expertise were understood by the mandatory state and by the subjects of the mandate. In the Syrian case, it seems clear that “native” participants took more seriously than the French the notion that the mandate was intended to develop the institutions of self‑government and lead to early independence. Curiously, while the French on the whole appear to have wished the mandate to continue more or less indefinitely, their need to govern Syria as a modern state required them to rely upon and develop a class of native functionaries who would inevitably supplant them. And, while politics certainly affected the formation of this bureaucratic class, through loyalty tests, patronage politics, nepotism, and cronyism, Mourad’s success demonstrates that competence and expert knowledge were important criteria as well.

Bibliographie

Sources

Annuaire de personnel français en service en Syrie et au Liban, 1930, Imprimerie catholique, Beyrouth.

Bulletin économique de la Chambre de Commerce d’Alep/al Majmû‘a al iqtisâdiyya al sanawiyya li ghurfat tijârat Halab.

Burns Norman, 1933, The Tariff of Syria: 1919‑1932, American University Press, Beirut, 317 p.

Burns Norman & Edwards Allen D., 1936, “Foreign Trade” in Himadeh Sa‘id B. (ed.), Economic Organization of Syria, American Press, Beirut, pp. 229‑259.

Haut‑commissariat de la République française en Syrie et au Liban, 1929, La Syrie et le Liban sous l’occupation et le Mandat français 1919‑1927, Berger‑Levrault, Nancy, 336 p.

Himadeh Sa‘id B. (ed.), 1936, Economic Organization of Syria, American Press, Beirut, 466 p.

Ministère français des Affaires étrangères, various dates, Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban, Imprimerie Nationale, Paris.

MURĀD Liyūn, ca 1941‑1943, Iqtiādiyātunā bayna al‑ams wa‑l‑ghad, Mabaʿat al‑Shubāt, n.p. (Beirut?).

MURĀD Liyūn, 1949a, « Le coton en Syrie » in Bulletin économique de la chambre de commerce d’Alep, no 31, p. 107‑120.

MURĀD Liyūn, 1949b, “Azmat ṣinā‘at al‑khuyûṭ wa‑l‑nasīj” in al‑Majmūʿa al‑iqtiādiyya al‑sanawiyya li‑ghurfat tijārat alab, pp. 356‑366.

MURĀD Liyūn, 1951, “Tanẓīm tijārat al‑quṭn fī sūriyya” in al‑Majmūʿa al‑iqtiādiyya al‑sanawiyya li‑ghurfat tijārat alab.

Archives

CADN‑Mandat : ministère français des Affaires étrangères, direction des Archives et de la Documentation, centre des Archives diplomatiques, Nantes. Fonds mandat Syrie‑Liban (« fonds Beyrouth »), 1er versement.

References

AL‑ZA‘ÎM ‘Umiyya, 1996, Muammad Saʿīd al‑Zaʿīm: rajul al‑iqtiād wa‑l‑adab, 1905‑1965, Maṭabi‘ Alif Bā’ al‑Adīb, Damascus, 382 p.

Khoury Philip S., 1987, Syria and the French Mandate: The Politics of Arab Nationalism, 1920‑1945, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 698 p.

Longrigg Stephen Hemsley, 1958, Syria and Lebanon under French Mandate, Oxford University Press & Royal Institute of International Affairs, Oxford, 404 p.

Longuenesse Élisabeth, 2007, Professions et société au Proche‑Orient : déclin des élites, crises des classes moyennes, Presses universitaires de Rennes, Rennes, 254 p.

Maktab Al‑dirasĀt Al‑SŪriyya Wa‑l‑ʿarabiyya, 1951, Man huwa fī sūriyya, Maṭbaʿat al‑ʿulūm wa‑l‑ādāb Hāshimī Ikhwān, Damascus.

Méouchy Nadine & Sluglett Peter with Khoury Gérard and Schad Geoffrey (eds.), 2004, The British and French Mandates in Comparative Perspectives. Les Mandats français et anglais dans une perspective comparative, Brill, Leiden & Boston, 743 p.

Neep Daniel, 2012, Occupying Syria under the French Mandate: Insurgency, Space and State Formation, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 229 p.

Potter David C., 1973, “Manpower Shortage and the End of Colonialism: The Case of the Indian Civil Service” in Modern Asian Studies, vol. 7, pp. 68‑69.

Provence Michael, 2005, The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Arab Nationalism, University of Texas Press, Austin, 209 p.

Schad Geoffrey D., 2002, “Toward an Analysis of Class Formation in Syria: Aleppo’s Textile Industrialists and Workers during the Mandate” in Méouchy Nadine (dir.), Syrie et Liban, 1918‑1946. Les ambiguïtés et les dynamiques de la relation mandataire, Institut français d’études arabes de Damas, Damas, pp. 291‑305.

Shields Sarah D., 2011, Fezzes in the River. Identity Politics and European Diplomacy in the Middle East on the Eve of World War II, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 306 p.

Syrian Directorate‑General of Information, 1955, Syria, Volume I, Geography and History, Directorate‑General of Information, Damascus.

Thompson Elizabeth, 1999, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon, Columbia University Press, New York, 402 p.

Watenpaugh Keith D., 1996, “‘Creating Phantoms’: Zaki al‑Arsuzi, the Alexandretta Crisis, and the Formation of Modern Arab Nationalism in Syria” in International Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 28, pp. 363‑389.

Watenpaugh Keith D., 2006, Being Modern in the Middle East: Revolution, Nationalism, Colonialism and the Arab Middle Class, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 325 p.

White Benjamin T., 2011, The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East: The Politics of Community in French Mandate Syria, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh, 239 p.

Who’s Who in the Arab World, 1967‑1968, second edition, Publitec, Beirut, 1147 p.

Zeifa Hayma, 2004, « Les Élites techniques locales durant le Mandat français en Syrie » in Méouchy Nadine & Sluglett Peter, The British and French Mandates in Comparative Perspectives. Les Mandats français et anglais dans une perspective comparative, Brill, Leiden & Boston, p. 497‑536.

Notes

1 The literature on the development of the Ottoman millet system and the cultivation of local minority clients is vast. The most useful recent work is White, 2011.

2 Khoury, 1987.

3 Méouchy & Sluglett, with Khoury & Schad, 2004. Among the noteworthy monographs are: Provence, 2005; Thompson, 1999; Watenpaugh, 2006.

4 Much of this attention is because of the rise to power of minoritarian army officers in Syria in 1963. The most recent work on the role of the military in mandate Syria is Neep, 2012.

5 Zeifa, 2004.

6 Computed by the author from the French foreign ministry’s annual Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban.

7 Khoury, 1987, ch. 3.

8 Ibid., p. 329.

9 Potter, 1973.

10 Longrigg, 1958, p. 260.

11 Syrian Directorate‑General of Information, 1955, p. 151.

12 Khoury, 1987, pp. 329‑330.

13 Longrigg, 1958, pp. 261‑262.

14 Syrian Directorate‑General of Information, 1955, p. 151.

15 And, pending the reopening to researchers of the Syrian archives at the Center for Historical Documents (Markaz al‑Wathāʾiq al‑Tārīkhiyya) in Damascus, for the foreseeable future.

16 Maktab al‑dirasāt al‑sūriyya wa‑l‑ʿarabiyya, 1951, p. 758.

17 This description of the organization of the customs administration is based on the annual Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban for various years and on the account in Burns, 1933, ch. 2. The staff reduction is mentioned in Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1934), p. 49.

18 Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1930), p. 45: « La plupart des Agents des trois catégories [personnel of the High Commission, the Services Communs, and attached to state governments] ne sont pas, comme il a été observé dans le précédent rapport, des fonctionnaires d’autorité mais font partie du personnel subalterne. »

19 Haut‑commissariat de la République française en Syrie et au Liban, 1929, p. 201.

20 Burns, 1933, p. 21.

21 « Ces nominations donnent parfois lieu à des difficultés provenant de l’esprit de clientèle de la politique locale », Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1927), p. 98.

22 Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1928), p. 106.

23 These missions are briefly discussed in the Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban for 1929 (p. 47), 1930 (p. 67), 1931 (p. 61), 1932 (p. 61), and 1933 (p. 61).

24 Maktab al‑dirasāt al‑sūriyya wa‑l‑ʿarabiyya, 1951, pp. 758‑759. See also Who’s Who in the Arab World, 1967‑1968, pp. 826‑827, which essentially duplicates the same information but also indicates Mourad was still alive in 1966.

25 Murād, 1941‑1943.

26 The following biographical sketch is derived from Mourad’s Man huwa fī sūriyya and Who’s Who in the Arab World entries.

27 Malaa al‑iqtiād al‑waanī.

28 Annuaire de personnel français en service en Syrie et au Liban, 1930, p. 12.

29 « Enquête sur la situation de l’Industrie de fabrication des tissus de coton en Syrie au mois de mai 1933 », 15 juin 1933, enclosed in Affaires économiques no 222/AE, Bordereau d’envoi 18 juillet 1933, in CADN‑Mandat, carton 717 [« Cabinet politique (CIC) »].

30 Principally in CADN‑Mandat cartons 717 and 1545.

31 Longrigg, 1958, p. 266: “The work of the numerous French financial and economic staffs, at Beirut or elsewhere, was necessarily carried out in closest collaboration with local colleagues, and the respective contributions of each are hardly assessable; in both Syria and Lebanon able finance officials were not uncommon […]”

32 See Watenpaugh, 2006, for a discussion of the dynamics of Aleppine politics and society.

33 See al‑Zaʿīm, 1996.

34 The strike was exhaustively covered by French officials, including the Sûreté générale [civilian police] and Service des renseignements [military intelligence]. The massive documentation is contained in CADN‑Mandat, carton 1545.

35 CADN‑Mandat, Carton 1545, Head of the Sûreté générale at Aleppo (Doucet) to Délégué‑adjoint, Aleppo (Lavastre), August 1932.

36 CADN‑Mandat, Carton 1545, telegram no entrée 2816, Délégué, Aleppo, 13 August 1932, to High Commission, Beirut, n no 57/AP.

37 CADN‑Mandat, carton 1545, telegram, no entrée 2838, Délégué, Aleppo, 16 August 1932, to High Commission, Beirut, 17 August 1932, no 58/AP; telegram, no entrée 2843, tel. no 2680/85, Délégué‑Adjoint, Aleppo, 17 August 1932, to High Commission, Beirut.

38 CADN‑Mandat, carton 717, « Enquête sur la situation de l’Industrie de fabrication des tissus de coton en Syrie au mois de mai 1933 ».

39 For a more general understanding of customs policy, see Burns, 1933; Burns & Edwards, 1936; and the CADN‑Mandat « Douanes » files, particularly carton 717.

40 E.g., « Étude sur le régime douanier qu’il convient d’appliquer aux cotonnades à l’importation » 25 avril 1933, in CADN‑Mandat carton 717.

41 Rapport à la Société des Nations sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (Année 1934), p. 67.

42 Longrigg, 1958, p. 267.

43 The Aleppo Chamber of Commerce Bulletin devoted considerable space to the Alexandretta issue and, in the 1950s, to the Latakia port project. On the political aspects of the Alexandretta/Hatay issue, see Khoury, 1987, chapter 19; Watenpaugh, 1996; Shields, 2011.

44 Murād, 1949a, b & 1951.

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