History and state
Until the 11th century, most of the Lebanon Mountains, the Mediterranean coast and Syria were under the Fatimid dynasty from Cairo. This was then ousted by the crusaders. The Crusaders essentially restricted their rule to the Mediterranean coast. The hinterland was largely spared from them, even if cities like Aleppo, Damascus or Baalbeck had to pay taxes at times.
According to thereligionfaqs, the southern Lebanon Mountains and the immediately adjacent coastal region were in the special interest of the crusaders, because they were crossed by the trade caravans, thus connecting the Damascus region with the port city of Sur / Tyros. As a result, the presence of the Crusaders in southern Lebanon increased and lasted longer than in other areas. However, their cultural and religious influence on the local population seemed to be minor. The crusaders were more likely to adapt to the local conditions or to remain isolated in their castles and fortresses. In the 13th century, the rule of the Crusaders finally collapsed. The resulting power vacuum was created by the first Mameluke sultan Qutaz (1259-1260) exploited to conquer Syria and Palestine.
After the Ottomans came to power in 1516, Lebanon was under governors who resided in Damascus, Tripoli and Saida. They had an army and an administration. The old Muslim system of wards was expanded into the Millet system. A millet was a non-Muslim nation that had submitted to the sovereignty of the empire but managed its own affairs. Millets were organized according to religious affiliation and regardless of place of residence or region. The members of a Millet chose their leader themselves, but this had to be recognized by the Sultan. In tax and criminal matters, the Millets were subordinate to the Ottoman Empire, while they were allowed to decide autonomously on questions of marriage, inheritance, education and religion. The tax administration was leased in the Ottoman Empire: the tax leaseholder had in areas under the direct rule of the Turks were exposed to the obligation to pay a certain sum to the Turkish authorities. Taxes raised in addition formed his income. In areas of direct rule, the tax farmer also performed regulatory tasks. The Ottoman Empire ruled the coastal areas under direct rule, while the Lebanon Mountains, inhabited by Maronites, Druze and Shiites, were only exposed to the indirect exercise of power. In this way a rulership and social system arose in the Lebanon Mountains, which in some respects resembled European feudalism. However, the Lebanese “feudal system” was not based on land ownership but on the right to levy taxes. The tax tenants came from the most respected Druze, Maronite or Sunni families who distributed the collection of taxes to family members at the local level. Although the office of tax farmer was not hereditary, it still remained in the hands of an extended family. This is how theNotablenfamilien (Zuama), which were by their tax revenues in a position to expand their land and expand their local power. Economically and politically, they represented the leading stratum of a millet. The residents of the Ottoman Empire were divided into categories according to their religious affiliation: Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Lebanon in the 19th century
In the 19th century, the Middle East was rediscovered by the Europeans. They strived for supremacy in the region in order to set foot in the door to the Middle East. For this purpose, European states established contacts with religious communities in the area of today’s Lebanon. France maintained close contact with the Maronites, Russia supported the Greek Orthodox, Austria influenced the Melkites, while Great Britain won the Druze for its interests. The group support polarized them. Previous conflicts between individual clans of different religions were now interpreted in the context as disputes between religious communities . The support of the groups from outside intensified the conflicts, which the Ottomans came in handy. They also promoted the disputes among the religious groups in order to stifle any aspirations for independence such as those in the 17th century.
A good example of conflicts between individual religious groups is the so-called “peasant revolution” in 1858 and the civil war that followed between the Druze and Maronites. A struggle for resources and the social rights of the peasants has been transformed into a religious conflict. Both Druze and Maronites were oppressed peasants and oppressive tax collectors. The polarization described above gave the big landowners the necessary arguments to interpret the peasant uprisings of the Maronites in the Druze areas as an aggression against the Druze community. Now oppressed Druze peasants fought against oppressed Maronite peasants. This pattern of conflict and its implications can be traced back to the late years of watching civil war in modern Lebanon. The civil war in Lebanon gave the Druze and Maronite religious communities the opportunity to settle outstanding accounts from the 19th century.