Egypt during the First World War

Friday, January 3, 2014: 2:30 PM
Washington Room 4 (Marriott Wardman Park)
Ziad Fahmy, Cornell University
The impact of the First World War on Egyptian society was wide-ranging, deeply affecting ‎Egyptians from all walks of life.  Hundreds of thousands of Allied troupes were based in Egypt ‎during the war, and many more took their shore leaves in Alexandria, Cairo and the Canal Cities, ‎with obvious economic, cultural and social consequences. Harsh British wartime policies created ‎multiple deep-seated grievances among Egyptians, eventually culminating in the explosion of the ‎‎1919 Revolution. Aside from a sudden increase in censorship and ‎political repression, the war ‎had a tremendous economic impact. Shortages of most essentials, from ‎grain and sugar to ‎clothing and paper, were commonplace. Unemployment and inflation were rampant ‎as prices ‎soared. The countryside was devastated as farm animals, and ‎especially beasts of burden, were ‎confiscated to help supply the British armies in the region, and ‎hundreds of thousands of ‎Egyptian peasants were recruited to work in labor corps in France, Gallipoli, ‎the Sinai and the ‎Levant.‎

‎        Yet, when historians discuss the repercussions of the First World War on the modern ‎Middle East, Egypt is often not even a part of the conversation. The WWI literature deals almost ‎exclusively with Anatolia, from Gallipoli and the Armenian Genocide to the Turkish war of ‎independence, and the Arab lands east of Egypt, from the “Arab revolt” to the post WWI ‎mandate period. There are no historical monographs devoted exclusively to investigating the ‎complex effects of WWI on Egyptian society, and academic articles are scarce. Accordingly, my ‎presentation will make the case for the importance of new work analyzing the impact of the war ‎on everyday Egyptians.  I will conclude by identifying a wealth of important primary sources ‎that are underused or have yet to be examined, and suggest multiple directions for future studies ‎on Egypt during the War. ‎

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