European Control and Egypt’s Traditional Elites - A Case Study in Elite Economic Nationalism

Author: EzzelArab, AbdelAziz
This study examines the movement by groups of Egypt’s elites who controlled the country’s wealth and government before European penetration. This movement, which took place in 1879, had a distinctly different leadership and agenda from the more widely recognized movement of Ahmad ‘Urabi in 1881-82. This work invites a revision of the existing historiography of 19th century Egypt by focusing on this neglected episode. It places the 1879 movement in broad social historical perspective and analyses the meaning of economic nationalism through a discussion of the elite’s motivations and agenda. It contains the first identification and analysis of attempts to establish a national bank in Egypt in the 19th century and a complete translation of two documents relevant to these attempts. Western scholars of Egyptian history will be interested in this discovery, since the existing convention considers the first such attempt to have taken part in the early 20th century. It will appeal to scholars of Egyptian and Middle Eastern history, elite groups, and economics.


“The work as a whole is impressive in its reliance on a massive array of sources, including secondary European and Arabic sources, newspapers, journals, memoirs, legislative debates and numerous publications produced by the nationalists of that period. The distinctive merit of the present work is not only its virtually unprecedented full coverage of the economic facet of Egyptian nationalism in the early period, but also its ability to show rather persuasively that the nationalists were acutely aware of the central role of economy in the construction of a nationalist movement…. also presents a nuanced discussion of the divisions within the Egyptian elite over strategies that were needed to resist European encroachment. These are significant findings, presented in a thorough and persuasive fashion…. the first of its kind in terms of subject matter and arguments, as well as in the challenges it poses to conventional scholarship…. a seminal work that will be read with a great deal of interest by Middle East historians.” – Professor Wael B. Hallaq

“This study is an original contribution to the economic and social history of Egypt in the nineteenth century, which could also bear relevance to other third world societies…. The topic addressed in the present study challenges the conventional trend, which presumes that economic awareness, and endeavors were not part of the earlier movement against European imperialism…. By adopting this comprehensive approach to the topic, the writer was able to highlight the complexities of the examined issues…. Through examining expressions of economic nationalism in material that had not been previously studied in depth, this work conclusively showed how the concept of economic nationalism was malleable enough to lend itself to different platforms and different interest groups and how its connotation changed across time.” – Walid Kazziha, The American University of Cairo

Table of Contents

Table of contents (main headings):
Foreword by Robert Tignor
1. Egypt in the Global Economy, 1859-1880
2. The Rise of the Traditional Elites
3. The Political Movement of the Traditional Elites, 1879
4. National Banking Ideas: Visions of Economic Salvation
5. An Inquiry into the Common Grounds of Economic Nationalism
Epilogue: Early 20th Century Economic Nationalism
Appendix 1: Amin Shumayyil’s Letter to the Arabic Press
Appendix 2: Manshur “Inma’ al-Mal”
Bibliography; Index