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At the time of the first immigration wave to the West, Lebanon was not yet a sovereign nation; Because the Ottomans administered their subject peoples according to their religious affiliation, early immigrants from Greater Syria identified with their religious sect rather than any nationality.A sense of national identity did not begin to form among the Greater Syrians until the 1920s, when Lebanon became a separate French protectorate.After the Ottoman Empire gained general control of the area in 1516, Lebanon continued to maintain a feudal system of rule by local chieftains.After 1860, the year many Christians were massacred by the Druze in Lebanon and Damascus, the French, who had economic and strategic interests in Lebanon since the Crusades, created a protectorate.
At this time, France divided Mount Lebanon from Syria and, adding the coastal area, created an entity called "The State of Greater Lebanon." In 1926 the Republics of Lebanon and Syria were created, but it was not until 1941 that each gained full independence, and the last French troops did not depart until 1946.
Such difficulties with early immigration records are further exacerbated because of religious affiliation, both Muslim as well as myriad Christian denominations, which cut across national and ethnic lines in the region.
Early Lebanese settlers in America came mostly from Beirut, Mount Hermon, and surrounding regions of present-day Lebanon, a nation located at the extreme eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.
Lebanon's land mass is 4,015 square miles (10,400 square kilometers), and its population is estimated at between 3 and 3.5 million.
The capital, Beirut, was often referred to as the "Paris of the Middle East." Beirut was also considered the commercial center of the Middle East before the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s.