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Foreign consuls from European states compiled countless communiques about the state of the Ottoman Empire during the turbulent early nineteenth century, a period fraught with internal and external crises triggered by war, revolt, sectarian tension, the breakdown of once effective governing institutions, and European rivalries associated with the Eastern Question. Consular records offer firsthand information and a treasure trove of detail on economic, commercial, social, political, and military conditions in the Ottoman world. By relating specific incidents, episodes, and situations, eyewitness commentaries by consuls provide insight into urban and rural affairs and shed light on the human dimension of everyday life in Ottoman society during a time of chronic disorder and unrest. These advantages largely explain why scholars have tapped consular writings as a valuable resource for studying such topics as the Smyrna rebellion of 1797 and Ottoman reprisals against Greek Orthodox Christian subjects in Smyrna and Thessaloniki after the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821. The unpublished document presented here, composed in 1826 by British consul John Barker in Aleppo, describes a failed Greek naval assault on Beirut and the harsh response by regional authorities against local Christians in this multiconfessional Levantine port. Barker's account merits attention and commentary by historians of the Greek revolt and Ottoman society and exemplifies the usefulness of consular reports, widely dispersed in the archives of Britain, France, Russia, and Turkey, for examining specific aspects of the Ottoman Levant.


Originally published in Chronos, no. 15 (2007): 89-106

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