Capital Development: Mandate Era Amman and the Construction of the Hashemite State, 1921-1946
Guthorn, Harrison Brent
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This dissertation explores the modern history of Amman during the British Mandate and how the city’s development was closely tied to the evolution of the Hashemite state. This study explores the significant cultural and political hybridization of the local population in Amman because of the state’s centralization project. Few historians of the Middle East have examined in depth the formation of capital cities in nascent nation-states and even fewer have studied the city of Amman. The development of Amman must be understood in its regional context because it acts as a mirror for the development of the Jordanian state as a whole. This dissertation posits that Amman developed as a hybridized amalgam of Ottoman, Arab, and British characteristics. The Transjordanian state could not have existed if it had not borrowed countless Ottoman institutions and practices. The Anglo-Hashemite state used the Legislative Council of Transjordan to incorporate formerly autonomous elites into the machinery of the Jordanian state, transforming Amman into a Hashemite Versailles. By the end of the Mandate, Amman’s gilded cage both constrained and supported the elites within. The cage of Amman simultaneously limited elite influence and power, while protecting and reifying their muted authority as Transjordanian officials. Furthermore, Amman’s urban fabric was a reflection of its diverse heritage and cultural practices. The development of Amman as a “dual city,” divided between prosperous Westernized “West Amman” and the impoverished traditional “East Amman,” originated in the Mandate period. Finally, Amman’s central square, Feisal Square, became the figurative embodiment of the heart of Amman and the heart of the state.