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Silk Demand and the Change of Culture in Mount Lebanon

In everyday life on April 1, 2011 at 6:44 pm

I was having an interesting conversation recently about how the demand of a product which was abundant in an area affected the economy, but more importantly the culture of a region! Silk was a great influencer on late nineteenth century Mount Lebanon.  The peasantry of Mount Lebanon supplied the demand that the sericulture of Europe could not provide.  In turn silk made a major impact on gender roles, class and the politics of this area and time.

Mount Lebanon was a desirable supplier of silk due to their inexpensive steamboat routes and cheap tariffs.  The French had considerable influence on the government at the time and in turn enjoyed reduced tariff rates and exploited the cheap labor to build the silk factories. The appearance of this success for the French as well as the Lebanese who owned and managed many of the factories led to many cultural changes within Mount Lebanon. The silk factories employed young girls as their primary workforce.  Factory jobs were seen as desirable positions for men during this period.  However, these young girls encountered many stereotypes and social taboos that came with having a factory job.  They spent all day with strange men and brought shame to their family. Yet, the money the girls brought home was of more value at this time then the family honor.Socially a factory girl encountered the stigma of certain expected behaviors.  Certain sectors of society, churches, made allegation that the working girls were disrupting the social order and bring dishonor to their families. Some expressed that women in the workforce was ruining the gender roles; but that one could seek redemption through marriage. Marriage could be a girl’s way to regain a respectable role in society.

Silk was the driving force that brought about these changes to the economy and gender roles of the time.  The common peoples experienced drastic changes to their everyday lives to accommodate the new demanded good.  The luxuries that came from silk can be seen as great influences and advancements to their lives. With this new way of earning a living it gave them a chance to advance socially that they would not have had otherwise.  But, some argue at the expense of the social norm.

Have a great day!