The Damascus Events

The Damascus Events

The 1860 Massacre and the Destruction of the Old Ottoman World


‘A superb account of the 1860 Damascus massacres—much neglected nowadays but central to the creation of the modern Middle East’ - Simon Sebag Montefiore

‘A stunning portrait of the Ottoman Empire and of Damascus during a time of crisis. Absolutely riveting’ - Peter Frankopan

‘An accessible, enlightening and ultimately surprising account of an episode of which most western readers will be unaware’ - Christopher de Bellaigue

This remarkable book recreates one of the watershed moments in the history of the Middle East: the ferocious outbreaks of disorder across the Levant in 1860 which resulted in the massacre of thousands of Christians in Damascus.

Eugene Rogan brilliantly recreates the lost world of the Middle East under Ottoman rule. The once mighty empire was under pressure from global economic change and European imperial expansion. Reforms in the mid-nineteenth century raised tensions across the empire, nowhere more so than in Damascus. A multifarious city linked by caravan trade to Baghdad, the Mediterranean and Mecca, the chaos of languages, customs and beliefs made Damascus a warily tolerant place. Until the reforms began to advantage the minority Christian community at the expense of the Muslim majority.

But in 1860 people who had generally lived side by side for generations became bitter enemies as news of civil war in Mount Lebanon arrived in the city. Under the threat of a French expeditionary force, the Ottomans dealt with the disaster effectively and ruthlessly - but the old, generally quite tolerant Damascene world lay in ruins. It would take a quarter of a century to restore stability and prosperity to the Syrian capital.

This is both an essential book for understanding the emergence of the modern Middle East from the destruction of the old Ottoman world, and a uniquely gripping story.


  • Compelling and authoritative, powerful in narrative, and filled with new revelations, this book offers a superb account of the 1860 Damascus massacres—much neglected nowadays but central to the creation of the modern Middle East
    Simon Sebag Montefiore

About the author

Eugene Rogan

Eugene Rogan is author of the bestselling The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920. He is professor of modern Middle Eastern history at the University of Oxford and Director of the Middle East Centre, St Antony's College, Oxford.
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