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Belgium and the Ottoman Empire: ‘Transnationals’ and Diplomacy - H. Alloul

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Belgium and the Ottoman Empire: ‘Transnationals’ and Diplomacy in an Age of Global Capital - Houssine Alloul

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Today Belgium is a postcolonial and post-industrial state with only a minor stake in global trade and financial markets. But some 150 years ago the newly independent kingdom was an international economic heavyweight, exporting steel, weapons, machines and capital to nearly all corners of the world. One place that attracted the attention of this nation of heavy industry was the rapidly changing Ottoman Empire. There, Belgian interests morphed from those of petty traders and merchant-bankers to the large-scale infrastructural projects overseen by venture capitalists in the major cities of the empire. On the eve of the First World War an intricate complex of investments worth millions of francs and spanning railways, mines, public utilities, and the imperial sovereign debt connected both polities.

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