Beginning in the early 1980s, a number of works were published on the Arab provinces. These works criticized nationalistic approaches that treated the Ottomans similarly to Western colonial powers and blamed them for much of the violence that took place in the 19th and 20th century. The main accomplishment of these writings was the reintegration of the Ottoman past into the history of the modern Middle East. Nationalist historiography of Middle Eastern countries places the end of the Ottoman period with the arrival of Napoleon in Egypt in 1798. According to this historiography, the local elites played a dominant role in the modern period, as founders of the modern Middle East nations such as Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Tunus, and Algeria, operating solely within a local “proto-nationalist” environment with no indication of influence from other events taking place within the Ottoman Empire as a whole.
Studies on the Europeans who lived in the Ottoman Empire have been mostly conducted through the Ottoman and European state archives. Few works on the social history are based on private papers, such as Beshara Doumani’s work, Rediscovering Palestine: Merchants and Peasants in Jabal Nablus, 1700-1900 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995). As scholars of the Ottoman social history focus on the ethnic and religious minorities, foreigners, merchants, peasants, and women, such archives have become more precious than ever in order to reconstruct the story of understudied subjects. Ade’s book takes its power from this background, as she skillfully uses the private archives of Poche and Marcopoli families, which were discovered in the 1990s. Comprised of two separate folios, the trade firms of both families kept chronologically archived accounting books, daily payments, warehouse books, and deadline records of payments from 1853 until 1921. Apart from family papers, there are memoirs, the archives of European vice-consulates, accounting and trade books, and documents from state archives in Aleppo, Istanbul, Paris and Nantes.