History and Heritage

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Research at the History Department is mainly concerned with the subtheme of History and Heritage. Actual studies include a paper entitled “Beirut between Heritage and Modernity”, which deals with the eternal conflict between the new and the old, regardless of the era or the field. This struggle is never restricted to the arts, literature or particular societies; on the contrary, it is a deep-rooted cause that is stirred and nurtured by many factors. Modernity is the movement that defies inertia, and with the passage of time, this modernity becomes old and calls for another renewal. Beirut, the concrete city with technical development, is in fact nothing but the husks of the city as the true spirit of the civil society has not been able to have its say in the structure of the social and spiritual life in our Beirut urban community. Beirut has lost a lot of its cultural landmarks because the present generations experience the rapid pace of change without adherence to any real measure of preserving Beirut’s heritage. Preserving heritage is preserving history as heritage is a significant source of taking pride in our ancestors’ civilisation despite the fact that the modern-day Beirut shed its old skin and derailed from the map of heritage cities after the demolition of a lot of heritage buildings and of the old social components to be replaced with the civilization of " fast food".

Another study entitled “The Islamic Religious Landmarks in Lebanon between the Responsibility of the State and the Duty of the Islamic Waqf – Beirut as a Model” deals with a number of issues related to the Islamic religious landmarks in Beirut, mainly its mosques and corners. Throughout history, mosques and Islamic corners in Beirut have been lost due to political, military, and religious reasons or as a result of neglect of heritage landmarks. What is left in Beirut now are mosques built in the Ottoman period as well as the Islamic Waqf. These are considered the legacies of Islamic Beirut thanks to some interesting Ottoman governors or Lebanese Muslim officials. The study concludes with a number of recommendations and suggestions relevant to the topic at hand, such as the allocation of an annual budget for the concerned ministries to spend on the Islamic and Christian landmarks as these represent a living example of coexistence in Lebanon, and the revival of the presidential decrees issued since the era of the French Mandate. These decrees considered that mosques and churches to be among the Lebanese landmarks subject to the responsibility of the state. New decrees can be issued emphasizing the heritage aspects, and the State’s legal and financial responsibility.

A further study entitled “The Reflection of the Establishment of Beirut Arab University on the Intellectual, Scientific and Cultural Production in the Lebanese and Arab Societies (1960-2016)” focuses on the fruitful cooperation between Egypt and Waqf El Bir wal Ihsan Society in Lebanon to inaugurate BAU in 1960, amidst the objection of various political, sectarian and unionist forces. It was only a few years before the ten faculties of the University asserted their scientific and academic excellence, allowing their graduates to stand out in various fields. In the 56 years from 1960 to 2016, Beirut Arab University succeeded in achieving significant results at the Lebanese, Arab and international levels.

Future research projects that are subsumed under this subtheme may deal with the following topics:

  • The history of Beirut, in particular in pictures and rare manuscripts.
  • The history of Beirut through its families.
  • Readings of 19th century manuscripts at the court.
  • Ottoman history in Lebanon and the Arab World.