Celebrated for its ancient water wheels, the town of Hama is located on Syria’s longest river, the Orontes. Ottoman Hama was a stopover on the major north-south road of Syria as well as the center of a local economic zone of its own. Intertwined social networks linked townspeople to the peasants and pastoral nomads of Hama’s hinterland. By the early twentieth century a few elite and notable families had come to dominate the political and economic life of Hama and its outlying villages, setting the stage for the city’s dramatic entry into Syrian national life during the French Mandate and post-colonial periods. Based principally on local judicial archives, this book is a social history of Hama during the last two centuries of Ottoman rule. It examines the social and economic structures that defined people’s lives and that conditioned their participation in the historical changes of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Dramatis personae include men and women, commoners and notables, merchants and artisans, and others who, taken together, represent a cross-section of a Middle Eastern society as they entered the world of global markets, European empires, and modern states.