Revisiting the anti-mushāʿ reforms in the levant: origins, scale and outcomes

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Abstract

The historiography of the abolition of repartitioned mushāʿ—the practice of parcels substitution among cultivators in peasant communities—is mistakenly traced back to the Ottoman Land Code of 1858. Neither that Code, nor Ottoman land registration, attempted the abolition of this type of mushāʿ. It was instead the abolition ordinances of the British and French Mandatory governments during the 1920s which began a conflict over land titles. The common estimates of that time suggest about 50 per cent of the lands in the Levant were held under repartitioned mushāʿ, but this was an exaggeration for most localities. French officials in Syria and Lebanon were not unanimous in opposing mushāʿ and in practice resorted to a laissez-faire policy. The British, however, annulled the legal titles to large areas of repartitioned mushāʿ lands in Palestine and Transjordan, wrongly believing this would increase investment in and productivity of cultivated lands. Their view was backed by Zionist experts, possibly due to the realization that the abolition of mushāʿ would facilitate Jewish land purchases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)595-611
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
Volume47
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - 7 Aug 2020

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