V. The Modern Period, 1789–1914 > C. The Middle East and North Africa, 1792–1914 > 2. The Middle East and Egypt, 1796–1914 > e. Egypt
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
e. Egypt
RULERS OF EGYPT (1811-1953)
Egypt remained nominally a province of the Ottoman Empire until Britain declared it a protectorate in 1914, but from 1805 it followed an increasingly independent course of development as a separate country. Muhammad Ali and the succeeding rulers detached themselves steadily from Ottoman control, which was reduced to a mere formality after the British occupation in 1882. During the period Egypt underwent profound changes, the result of local initiatives and European penetration. Its population remained predominantly rural, but expanded from about 3.5 million to 12 million.  1
MUHAMMAD ALI PASHA. An officer of Albanian origin from the Macedonian port of Kavalla (b. c. 1770), Muhammad Ali (Mehmet Ali) arrived in Egypt in March 1801 as the second in command of a regiment of Albanian troops sent by the Ottoman government to fight the French. In 1803 he became commander of the unit, which he then employed to undermine the governors sent from Istanbul and the Mamluks who sought to regain their control. He won this contest for power and in July 1805 the Ottoman government recognized his authority by granting him a one-year appointment as governor, although its hope of replacing him after that with its own appointees was frustrated by the autonomous power base he built for himself and his family. He established a dynasty that lasted until 1953. Driven primarily by a ruthless desire to consolidate his hold on his adopted country, Muhammad Ali introduced many innovative reforms that laid the foundation for the modern Egyptian state.  2
1807, March–Sept
The British occupation of Alexandria was an abortive effort to restore Mamluk rule and thus forestall a second French invasion. Muhammad Ali made a provisional truce with the Mamluks, resuming his expeditions against them once the external danger was over.  3
1811, March 1
MASSACRE OF MAMLUK LEADERS in the Cairo citadel. Invited to an official ceremony by Muhammad Ali, 24 beys and 40 of their subordinates were treacherously killed. This act, and the destruction of the last body of Mamluks in Upper Egypt in the following months, put a final end to Mamluk power and established Muhammad Ali as the undisputed ruler of Egypt.  4
The Arabian campaigns. At the request of the Ottoman sultan, Muhammad Ali sent a large expedition against the Saudi-Wahhabi state, which was in control of the Hijaz as well as much of central and eastern Arabia. The Egyptian force captured Medina (1812) and Mecca (1813), restored the rule of the Hashimite family in the Hijaz, and after a truce advanced into central Arabia and destroyed the Saudi state (1818). The campaign was very costly in treasure and human life, but gave Muhammad Ali a hold on the Hijaz until 1840, along with control over the Red Sea and Arabian trade.  5
Establishment of state agricultural monopolies over grain, rice, sugar, and cash crops. The government purchased the products at a fixed price well below free market level and sold them at its own price while prohibiting private transactions. The system allowed Muhammad Ali to appropriate a larger share of the rural surplus.  6
CONFISCATION OF THE TAX FARMS (iltizams) by the state, which thereby reasserted its control over a great part of the cultivated land and the tax income from it at the expense of the powerful tax farmers. Muhammad Ali followed a similar policy with endowed (waqf) agricultural land, much of which he confiscated.  7
The first student mission was sent to Europe, as part of a government program for the training of Egyptians in technical and professional skills. The European-trained Egyptians (a total of some 900 by 1919) provided a cadre of teachers and administrators who promoted the development of modern institutions in the country.  8
The first textile factory was established in Cairo, with machines and skilled workers imported from Europe. It was part of Muhammad Ali's ambitious policy of import substitution and was followed by a string of plants for the manufacture of textiles and military equipment as well as the processing of agricultural produce. The factories employed some 30,000 workers. From the late 1830s many factories were abandoned because of the financial burdens of reequipping them, and Egypt actually grew more dependent than ever on foreign imports.  9
Improvement of the port of Alexandria. The construction of the Mahmudiyya Canal linking Alexandria with the Nile (beginning in 1818) greatly facilitated communications between the port and the interior. The port itself, which was in a bad state of neglect, was deepened and provided with facilities that made it by far the best port in the eastern Mediterranean. Alexandria grew from a small fishing town of about 15,000 people to the second largest city in Egypt (over 200,000).  10
DISCOVERY OF LONG-STAPLE COTTON in a Cairo garden. The new type of cotton (known as Jumel or Mako) was soon introduced by the authorities on an extensive scale, primarily in Lower Egypt, becoming a major cash crop that found ready markets in European industrial centers. By 1914 cotton occupied some 23 percent of the cropped area and accounted for about half of agricultural production and 90 percent of Egypt's exports. Its cultivation, however, required considerably more labor than did cereal crops and initially involved large-scale coercion of the Egyptian peasantry.  11
Conquests in the Sudan (See 1821). Egyptian military expeditions captured most of northern and central Sudan (the Sennar and Kordofan regions), with the aim of using them as sources of gold as well as slaves for a new army. The thousands of slaves brought to Egypt for military training could not adjust and died, and the gold deposits proved a disappointment. However, Egypt gained control of the trade with the Sudan. The capital of the Egyptian administration was Khartum, founded in 1823.  12
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.