History Files


Middle East Kingdoms

Central Levant States




Shihabi Amirs of Lebanon
AD 1697 - 1842

The Golden Age of Lebanon (former Phoenicia) is considered by many to have come in the reign of the Amir Bashir II Shihabi. The Shihabis were originally Sunni Moslems, but they came to rule an area dominated by the Druzes, practitioners of a religious off-shoot of Islam and regarded by many Moslems as apostates from Islam. When the amirs themselves converted to Maronite Christianity, this created an alliance, which was sometimes uneasy, between the largest communities in Lebanon, the Maronites, and the Druzes. In 1697 they became semi-independent from the Ottoman empire.

1697 - 1707

Bashir I

1707 - 1732


1732 - 1754


1754 - 1770


1770 - 1788


First Maronite Amir.

1788 - 1840

Bashir II

Overthrown by Britain & Turkey.

1840 - 1842

Bashir III

1842 - 1918

Direct Ottoman rule follows until the end of the First World War, when the French take control, and the country of Lebanon is created.

Modern Lebanon
AD 1918 - Present Day

When the Ottoman empire collapsed in 1918, five Mediterranean coastal provinces in western Syria formed the new state of Lebanon, which was controlled under a French mandate. The modern state of Syria surrounded it to the north and east, while Palestine, and later Israel bordered it to the south.

Following independence in 1943, the country became a prosperous financial hub for the region, as well as one of the main tourist spots. However, tensions were rising, due mainly to the political situation left by the dismantling of the Ottoman empire, and factional stresses between the Christian, Moslem, and more recently-arrived Palestinian communities. The Lebanese Civil War erupted in 1975, and apart from a period of peace in 1976, lasted until 1990, destroying much of the old international feel of the country, and of the capital, Beirut (ancient Biruta), especially. A slow recovery took place afterwards, but alleged continual interference by Syria, amid a series of assassinations of anti-Syrian politicians, has confused the situation.


The Ottoman empire collapses following the First World War, and a French mandate is established.

1922 - 1924

The 'State of Syria' is established under the French mandate, replacing the Syrian Federation which had been formed in 1922. This new organisational body is created from a unification of the states of Aleppo and Damascus, both formed around ancient cities. The 'State of Alawites' remains outside this new formation despite having been part of the former federation, while Jabal Druze and Greater Lebanon had not been part of the federation at all.


Syrian resentment at French control finally erupts in the form of the Great Syrian Revolt (otherwise known as the Great Druze Revolt because it first breaks out in Jabal Druze). It quickly spreads across all of Syria and Lebanon with the aim of kicking out the French. Sultan al-Atrash quickly becomes the revolt's senior commander and figurehead, although he does not control all factions involved.

Damascus 1925
Damascus was attacked during the first year of the revolt in which notable victories were won against the poorly-equipped French forces

1925 - 1927

Despite the best efforts of Sultan al-Atrash, and much like the Syrian civil war of 2011, the Syrian revolt is not centrally organised with the result that its efforts are piecemeal. However, the revolt wins early battles at al-Kafr (on 21 July 1925, the revolt's first battle), al-Mazraa (on 2-3 August 1925), and Salkhad, al-Musayfirah, and Suwayda. Ultimately, despite a rather shaky, ill-equipped start, the French use hardline and often brutal tactics to crush the revolt. Sultan al-Atrash survives the conflict (by escaping with fellow rebels to Transjordan where he is eventually pardoned), and lives out his life in relative obscurity, dying at the age of ninety-one in 1982.


The newly-created state of Lebanon achieves independence from France, with the last French troops withdrawing three years later.

1948 - 1949

On the day following the proclamation of the creation of the state of Israel, the neighbouring Arab states of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria attack, prompting the start of the Arab-Israeli War. Saudi Arabia sends its own military contingent to support the Egyptians. The war lasts for a year before a ceasefire is agreed. The Green Line is established - temporary borders which can be generally agreed by all sides. Egypt gains the Gaza Strip while Jordan controls East Jerusalem and the West Bank region, but an estimated 700,000 Palestinians have been expelled or have fled their homeland, mostly to enter southern Lebanon or Jordan.

1975 - 1990

The Lebanese Civil War breaks out, pitching Christian, Moslem, and Palestinian groups against each other as they vie for control, with involvement from Syria and Israel further confusing an often violent situation with continually shifting loyalties. Lebanon's banking sector, which provides the region's financial hub, is driven out of the country by the war, finding a new home in Bahrain.


With the country more stable than at any time in a generation, and the reconstruction of Beirut nearing a degree of completion, Israel launches a military attack on 12 July which lasts a month and seriously damages the country. The (Second) Lebanon War (or July War) is caused primarily by Palestinian militants firing rockets at Israeli targets from inside Lebanon. The war is a military and political disaster for Israel.