This course analyzes the political, social and cultural history of Egypt between the Ottoman and British Empires from the late eighteenth century through 1956. Between the Ottoman conquest of the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt in 1517 and the outbreak of World War I, Egypt was legally part of the Ottoman domains. In 1841 Egypt gained special status within the empire as a “privileged” or autonomous province and had wide control over its internal administration. As a result, for much of the 19th century, historians have viewed Egypt as “quasi-independent” and detached from the Ottoman imperial center in Istanbul. This interpretation was further supported by the British military occupation of Egypt between 1882 and 1914. During this period, Egypt was often referred to as the “veiled protectorate” and viewed as a British colony in all but name. Egypt’s international legal status came under scrutiny once again in the aftermath of World War I. In order to quell an anti-colonial uprising in Egypt against Britain’s “illegal protectorate,” the British High Commissioner in Cairo unilaterally declared Egypt independent in 1922. Yet, much like the period of occupation, Egypt’s economy, security and foreign affairs were determined by London. Britain did not leave Egypt until the last British troops were evacuated from the Canal Zone in 1956. This course examines modern Egyptian history vis-à-vis its relationship to the Ottoman and British Empires. It will consider the ways in which Egypt’s unusual political status between empires shaped politics, culture and society on the ground. What did autonomy mean for the development of state institutions? How did permanent military occupation shape culture and the state?
Aimee Genell is a Visiting Lecturer in the Department of History.