Personal Statement:

I am a social-economic historian of the 15th and 16th century Levant. My research looks at the role that credit played in shaping social mobility, communal organization and the distribution of social resources during this period. I investigate how the introduction of the Ottoman cash-waqf (the waqf al-nuqūd) a new social-economic institution, was used to redefine views on usury, treating credit as an emerging public good that was important for sustaining social welfare. Whereas scholarship on credit has focused on the Ottoman central lands, my study addresses the above issues from the Arab Levant periphery. Using legal manuals, court and notarial records, and chronicles, I contend that credit instruments were deployed to, among other things, create synthetic corporate associations, support waqf operations, and to facilitate rural-urban exchange. Some of these developments presaged the tanzimat credit reforms of the nineteenth century and reflect an early-modern state initiative in regulating credit, as was also taking shape in early modern European states. My research also intersects with work on ecclesiastic and secular discourses in late medieval and early modern Europe concerning views and laws on usury.

Dissertation Title:

Before Banks: Credit, society and law in sixteenth century Syria and Palestine