Gaza during the Late Ottoman Period

This is a joint research project of Prof Johann Büssow (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Prof Yuval Ben-Bassat (University of Haifa) and Prof Khaled Safi (Al-Aqsa University, Gaza). To date there is no single monograph on the history of Gaza and the surrounding region in the late Ottoman period, despite the pivotal role it continued to play as the economic, administrative, cultural, social and political center for its hinterland and as a crossroads of trans-regional flows of goods, people and ideas. Clearly, Gaza’s importance diminished in most if not all of these areas over the course of the nineteenth century as it was gradually eclipsed by other coastal towns which benefitted from growing economic connections with Europe and the integration of the eastern Mediterranean into a Europe-centered economic system. Nevertheless, late Ottoman Gaza remained an important center for the region’s rural population, including the Bedouins in its vicinity, and was located at the crossroads of major land routes near the border between the Ottoman Empire and British-ruled Egypt.

We work on these questions since 2015. Our research is based on primary sources written in Arabic, Ottoman Turkish, Hebrew and various European languages, which are located today in archives in Turkey, Israel, Palestine and Europe. These archives will help serve to reconstruct the political, social, and economic history of the population in the Gaza region, which is a crucial step toward a better understanding of the complex social fabric in Palestine and the Levant, including such varied issues as relationships with the imperial center, rural-urban relationships, migration and demographics, and relationships between the state and the Bedouins.

With the help of the University of Tübingen’s eScience Center and recently the library at Ruhr University Bochum, we created the Gaza Historical Database (GHD), an online database that stores information on people and places in Gaza at the time and permits the running of various analyses that are created as interactive queries. (Click here to get to the GHD website.)

A study devoted to a recently discovered manuscript by the Gazan scholar Ahmad Busaysu (autograph, dated 1897) will shed additional light on the political and cultural landscape of the Gaza and its region.

Research cooperation between Yuval Ben-Bassat and Johann Büssow was funded by a grant of the German-Israeli Foundation for Research and Development (GIF grant 1226; funding period: 2016-2018).

A DFG grant proposal for a second, thematically related, project is currently under review.

Research cooperation between Johann Büssow and Khaled Safi has been supported by travel grants of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Image: Gaza, c. 1900. Matson Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-matpc-06869.