History of Egypt under the British
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History of Egypt under the British refers to the era from 1882 when the British succeeded in defeating the Egyptian Army at Tel El Kebir in September and took control of the country to the 1952 Egyptian revolution which made Egypt a republic and when British advisers were expelled.
In 1882 opposition to European control led to growing tension amongst notable natives, the most dangerous opposition coming from the army. A large military demonstration in September 1881 forced the Khedive Tewfiq to dismiss his Prime Minister. In April 1882 France and Great Britain sent warships to Alexandria to bolster the Khedive amidst a turbulent climate, spreading fear of invasion throughout the country. Tawfiq moved to Alexandria for fear of his own safety as army officers led by Ahmed Urabi began to take control of the government. By June, Egypt was in the hands of nationalists opposed to European domination of the country. A British naval bombardment of Alexandria had little effect on the opposition which led to the landing of a British expeditionary force at both ends of the Suez Canal in August 1882. The British succeeded in defeating the Egyptian Army at Tel El Kebir in September and took control of the country putting Tawfiq back in control. The purpose of the invasion had been to restore political stability to Egypt under a government of the Khedive and international controls which were in place to streamline Egyptian financing since 1876. It is unlikely that the British expected a long-term occupation from the outset; however, Lord Cromer, Britain's Chief Representative in Egypt at the time, viewed Egypt's financial reforms as part of a long-term objective. Cromer took the view that political stability needed financial stability, and embarked on a programme of long term investment in Egypt's productive resources, above all in the cotton economy, the mainstay of the country's export earnings. In 1906 the Denshawai incident provoked a questioning of British rule in Egypt. British occupation ended nominally with the UK's 1922 declaration of Egyptian independence, but British mi'litary presence in Egypt lasted until 1936.
Social economic impact
During British occupation and later control, Egypt developed into a regional commercial and trading destination. Immigrants from less stable parts of the region including Greeks, Jews and Armenians, began to flow into Egypt. The number of foreigners in the country rose from 10,000 in the 1840s to around 90,000 in the 1880s, and more than 1.5 million by the 1930s.
Sultanate of Egypt
In 1914 as a result of the declaration of war with the Ottoman Empire, of which Egypt was nominally a part, Britain declared a Protectorate over Egypt and deposed the Khedive, replacing him with a family member who was made Sultan of Egypt by the British. A group known as the Wafd Delegation attended the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 to demand Egypt's independence. Included in the group was political leader, Saad Zaghlul, who would later become Prime Minister. When the group was arrested and deported to the island of Malta, a huge uprising occurred in Egypt.
From March to April 1919, there were mass demonstrations that became uprisings. This is known in Egypt as the 1919 Revolution. Almost daily demonstrations and unrest continued throughout Egypt for the remainder of the Spring. To the surprise of the British authorities, Egyptian women also demonstrated, led by Huda Sha‘rawi (1879–1947), who would become the leading feminist voice in Egypt in the first half of the twentieth century. The first women’s demonstration was held on Sunday, 16 March 1919, and was followed by yet another one on Thursday, 20 March 1919. Egyptian women would continue to play an important and increasingly public nationalist role throughout the spring and summer of 1919 and beyond. British suppression of the anticolonial riots led to the death of some 800 people. In November 1919, the Milner Commission was sent to Egypt by the British to attempt to resolve the situation. In 1920, Lord Milner submitted his report to Lord Curzon, the British Foreign Secretary, recommending that the protectorate should be replaced by a treaty of alliance. As a result, Curzon agreed to receive an Egyptian mission headed by Zaghlul and Adli Pasha to discuss the proposals. The mission arrived in London in June 1920 and the agreement was concluded in August 1920. In February 1921, the British Parliament approved the agreement and Egypt was asked to send another mission to London with full powers to conclude a definitive treaty. Adli Pasha led this mission, which arrived in June 1921. However, the Dominion delegates at the 1921 Imperial Conference had stressed the importance of maintaining control over the Suez Canal Zone and Curzon could not persuade his Cabinet colleagues to agree to any terms that Adli Pasha was prepared to accept. The mission returned to Egypt in disgust.
Kingdom of Egypt
In December 1921, the British authorities in Cairo imposed martial law and once again deported Zaghlul. Demonstrations again led to violence. In deference to the growing nationalism and at the suggestion of the High Commissioner, Lord Allenby, the UK unilaterally declared Egyptian independence on 28 February 1922, abolishing the protectorate and establishing an independent Kingdom of Egypt. Sarwat Pasha became prime minister. British influence, however, continued to dominate Egypt's political life and fostered fiscal, administrative, and governmental reforms. Britain retained control of the Canal Zone, Sudan and Egypt's external protection.
King Fuad died in 1936 and Farouk inherited the throne at the age of sixteen. Alarmed by Italy's recent invasion of Ethiopia, he signed the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, requiring Britain to withdraw all troops from Egypt, except at the Suez Canal (agreed to be evacuated by 1949).
During World War II, British troops used Egypt as a base for Allied operations throughout the region. British troops were withdrawn to the Suez Canal area in 1947, but nationalist, anti-British feelings continued to grow after the war.
- Osman, Tarek, Egypt on the Brink by Tarek Osman, Yale University Press, 2010, p.33
- Ziad Fahmy, Ordinary Egyptians: Creating the Modern Nation through Popular Culture (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011), 138–39.