Mapping the Cadastre, Producing the

Technologies and discourses of rule in French Mandate Syria and Lebanon

Authored by: Elizabeth Williams

The Routledge Handbook of the History of the Middle East Mandates

Print publication date:  June  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9781138800588
eBook ISBN: 9781315713120
Adobe ISBN: 9781317497066


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“Syria is a land of agriculture” proclaimed M. E. Achard, agricultural counselor for the French High Commission in Syria.1 The statement appeared in an essay anticipating the agriculture-related economic possibilities that Syria’s territory promised to yield its Mandate occupiers. The essay proceeded to describe the large amounts of revenue that could be generated by exploiting the region’s soil and the various transformations – land-related, financial, and technological – that would need to take place in order for these estimates to be fully realized.2 Achard’s initial projections were based on studies that had been conducted both before and after the military occupation of Syria in July 1920. These initial studies had been carried out by a group of French professors, lawyers, agronomists, merchants, and other technical experts sent in to study and determine Syria’s “value” for the French interests whose access to Syria’s resources Mandate rule would presumably facilitate.3 Agriculture emerged as the ultimate source of 94.5 to 95 per cent of locally produced goods for export.4 Furthermore, a review of the total budgets of the mandated area revealed that it derived 49.5 per cent of its revenue from agricultural sources, including the tithe on the harvest, taxes on livestock, taxes on forests, and the property tax on vacant land.5 Officials argued that such statistics promised rich rewards if mise en valeur efforts focused on the agricultural sector.6

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