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L'Alliance Israelite Universelle and the politics of modern Jewish education in Baghdad, 1864-1914

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Thesis type
(Thesis) M.A.
Date created
Baghdad was home to the largest and one of the most wealthy and influential Jewish communities in the late-era Ottoman Empire. The community was heavily involved in regional trade, politics and the social life of the city, and comprised a significant percentage of its population. This thesis examines the many changes that affected this community between 1860- 1914. The Tanzimat reform period, growing European interest and economic penetration in the region, and economic growth drastically changed the way Jews in Baghdad viewed themselves, their place in the Empire, and the way their communities were governed. In particular, the establishment of a French Alliance Israelite Universelle school in Baghdad in 1864 created new opportunities for young Jews, opening pathways to commercial and political success and offering modem educational methods and European culture and languages. The attitudes of the French Jews who opened the school, and the response of the community leadership to this new institution is the focus of this study. The examination of this interaction not only provides illustrations of the larger processes of change and reform that are detailed in the secondary literature on this period of Ottoman history, but also an opportunity to study the interaction of European and Middle Eastern individuals during a crucial point in the history of the world and this region. The Jewish community at Baghdad is the subject of valuable case studies of Ottoman Jewish life in the late 19'~ and early 2oth centuries, as well as the growth of modernity and the negotiation of reform within a matrix of political, social and economic change.
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