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June 11: "Aleppo, City of Christians, Muslims and Jews"

Aleppo-Umayyad (Great) Mosque, 2011. Credit: Ross Burns/Manar al-Athar

Aleppo-Umayyad (Great) Mosque, 2011. Credit: Ross Burns/Manar al-Athar

In this forum on the history of Aleppo, a city that has been so much, and so tragically, in the news of late, Dr Philip Mansel shows how the religious strife of our times contrasts with Aleppo’s history. Aleppo— one of the many mixed cities of the Ottoman Empire—was a merchant city, at a crossroads of trade routes. Religious riots were a rarity. A typical Aleppo proverb was: ‘if you do business with a dog, kindly call him sir.’ It was also a centre of Catholic and Protestant missions and schools. However, the creation of new nation states after 1918 triggered the city’s decline. Christians and Jews began to leave and new frontiers began to impede its commerce. Since 2012, the civil war has wrought a level of destruction unknown in Aleppo since the invasion of Timur Leng in 1400. The city’s future looks bleak.

Philip Mansel is a historian of France and the Middle East whose most recent book is Aleppo, the Rise and Fall of Syria’s Great Merchant City (2016). 9:45am in the Fleetwood Room.