SOAS University of London

London Middle East Institute

Banking on the state: the Financial Foundations of Lebanon

IMG - Hicham Safieddine Book Cover
Dr Hicham Safieddine (Kings College London)

Date: 26 November 2019Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 26 November 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT)

Type of Event: Book Launch


In 1943, Lebanon gained its formal political independence from France; only after two more decades did the country finally establish a national central bank. Inaugurated on April 1, 1964, the Banque du Liban (BDL) was billed by Lebanese authorities as the nation's primary symbol of economic sovereignty and as the last step towards full independence. In the local press, it was described as a means of projecting state power and enhancing national pride. Yet the history of its founding—stretching from its Ottoman origins in mid-nineteenth century up until the mid-twentieth—tells a different, more complex story.

Banking on the State reveals how the financial foundations of Lebanon were shaped by the history of the standardization of economic practices and financial regimes within the decolonizing world. The system of central banking that emerged was the product of a complex interaction of war, economic policies, international financial regimes, post-colonial state-building, global currents of technocratic knowledge, and private business interests. It served rather than challenged the interests of an oligarchy of local bankers. As Hicham Safieddine shows, the set of arrangements that governed the central bank thus was dictated by dynamics of political power and financial profit more than market forces, national interest or economic sovereignty.


Hicham Safieddine (Lecturer in the History of the Modern Middle East, King's College London) holds a PhD in Middle East Studies from the University of Toronto, an MA in Political Science from York University, Canada, and an MA in Economics from The University of Rochester, New York. Hicham’s current research project explores the formative role of Arab financial regimes, including central banks, in the making of modern Arab societies and states with a focus on the Arab Mashriq. He is also researching the history of Arab economic thought in the post-WWII period and its relationship to contemporaneous notions of modernization and development.

Chair: Nimer Sultany (SOAS)

Discussant: Adam Hanieh (SOAS)

Organiser: SOAS Middle East Institute

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