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Colonial Misunderstanding of an Efficient Peasant Institution: Land Settlement and Mushā Tenure in Mandate Palestine, 1921-47

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image of Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

The accepted wisdom is that the mushā in Palestine was an archaic system that blocked any chance of development, since no one had any inducement to improve his land. But this study of the mushā, as part of a set of institutions, contradicts that wisdom. The mushā in Palestine was an efficient, dynamic economic institution that facilitated investment. There was no need for land reform, which only proved destructive to the economy of the fallāhīn. It nullified the advantages inherent in the system and, unexpectedly, facilitated the transfer of lands from Arabs to Jews.

La vision généralement admise est que le mushā en Palestine était un système archaïque qui faisait obstacle à toute perspective de développement, puisque personne n'était incité à améliorer sa terre. Mais notre étude du mushā contredit cette vision. Le mushā en Palestine était une institution économique efficace et dynamique qui facilitait l'investissement. La réforme foncière qui abolit le mushā a été destructrice pour l'économie des fallāhīn. La réforme a annulé les avantages inhérents au système et, de façon inattendue, a facilité le transfert de terres des Arabes aux Juifs.


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