Jewish Museum - London


Martin Norton Lecture - From Cosmopolis to Catastrophe: The Multicultural History of Aleppo

Date: Thursday 15 June 2017

Time: 6.30-7.30pm (book signing 7.30-7.45pm)

Price: Free with museum entry

Categories: talks sephardi voices

Join Dr Philip Mansel as he discusses the rise and fall of Syria's great merchant city, folowed by a book signing.

16th century Aleppo was a city with a character and rhythm of its own, challenging categories and generalisations. Lying between the desert and the sea, the mountains of Anatolia and the banks of the Euphrates, it was Arab and Turkish; Kurdish and Armenian; Christian, Muslim and Jewish.

An Arabic-speaking city with a Muslim majority, it was used as a military head-quarters by the Ottoman Empire, after its conquest by Selim I in 1516, in the empire’s wars with Iran. After 1516 Aleppo also became a centre of world trade in silk, spices and horses, as well as, after 1700, a centre of French culture and Catholic missions. ‘If you do business with a dog, kindly call him sir’ was an Aleppo proverb which expressed the city’s commercial philosophy.

The city declined after 1918 when it was subordinated to Damascus and cut off from its former markets by the creation of new national states. The first anti-Jewish riots were in 1947. Until 2012 Aleppo was distinguished from other mixed cities in the region by its relative tolerance.

For 400 years, whatever their origin, its inhabitants lived together relatively peacefully. The reasons for this harmony, and for the current cataclysm, are the subject of this lecture.

Dr Philip Mansel is a historian of France and the Middle East. His books include lives of Louis XVIII and the Prince de Ligne, a study of nineteenth-century Paris and three books on mixed cities of the Middle East: Constantinople City of the World’s Desire; Levant: Splendour and Castastrophe on the Mediterranean on Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut; and Aleppo: the Rise and Fall of Syria’s Great Merchant City. He is currently writing a life of Louis XIV. He is a founder of the Society for Court Studies ( and the Levantine Heritage Foundation

Doors: 5pm

Cafe open: 5-6.30pm
Lecture: 6.30-7.30pm
Book signing: 7.30-7.45pm

Box Office: 020 7284 7384 / [email protected]

Image: Aleppo before and after the war