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Friday, December 03, 2004

Colonial Warfare pt 19


He was first


Egypt's riches have long been a source of colonial envy and desire, from the days of the Romans onward.

The French Invasion and Occupation, 1798-1801

After the death of Muhammad Bey, there was a decade-long struggle for dominance among the beys. Eventually Ibrahim Bey and Murad Bey succeeded in asserting their authority and shared power in Egypt. Their dominance in the country survived an unsuccessful attempt by the Ottomans to reestablish the empire's control (1786-91). The two continued in power until the French invasion in 1798.

In addition to the upheavals caused by the Ottoman-Mamluk clashes, waves of famine and plague hit Egypt between 1784 and 1792. Thus, Cairo was a devastated city and Egypt an impoverished country when the French arrived in 1798.

On July 1, 1798, a French invasion force under the command of Napoleon disembarked near Alexandria. The invasion force, which had sailed from Toulon on May 19, was accompanied by a commission of scholars and scientists whose function was to investigate every aspect of life in ancient and contemporary Egypt.

France wanted control of Egypt for two major reasons--its commercial and agricultural potential and its strategic importance to the Anglo-French rivalry. During the eighteenth century, the principal share of European trade with Egypt was handled by French merchants. The French also looked to Egypt as a source of grain and raw materials. In strategic terms, French control of Egypt could be used to threaten British commercial interests in the region and to block Britain's overland route to India.

The French forces took Alexandria without difficulty, defeated the Mamluk army at Shubra Khit and Imbabah, and entered Cairo on July 25. Murad Bey fled to Upper Egypt while Ibrahim Bey and the Ottoman viceroy went to Syria. Mamluk rule in Egypt collapsed.

Nevertheless, Napoleon's position in Egypt was precarious. The French controlled only the Delta and Cairo; Upper Egypt was the preserve of the Mamluks and the bedouins. In addition, Britain and the Ottoman government joined forces in an attempt to defeat Napoleon and drive him out of Egypt. On August 1, 1798, the British fleet under Lord Nelson annihilated the French ships as they lay at anchor at Abu Qir, thus isolating Napoleon's forces in Egypt. On September 11, Sultan Selim III declared war on France.

On October 21, the people of Cairo rioted against the French, whom they regarded as occupying strangers, not as liberators. The rebellion had a religious as well as a national character and centered around Al Azhar mosque. Its leaders were the ulama, religiously trained scholars, whom Napoleon had tried to woo to the French side. During this period, the populace began to regard the ulama not only as moral but also as political leaders.

To forestall an Ottoman invasion, Napoleon invaded Syria, but, unable to take Acre in Palestine, his forces retreated on May 20, 1799. On August 22, Napoleon, with a very small company, secretly left Egypt for France, leaving his troops behind and General Jean-Baptiste Kléber as his successor. Kléber found himself the unwilling commander in chief of a dispirited army with a bankrupt treasury. His main preoccupation was to secure the evacuation of his troops to France. When Britain rejected the evacuation plan, Kléber was forced to fight.

After Kléber's assassination by a Syrian, his command was taken over by General Abdullah Jacques Menou, a French convert to Islam. The occupation was finally terminated by an Anglo-Ottoman invasion force. The French forces in Cairo surrendered on June 18, 1801, and Menou himself surrendered at Alexandria on September 3. By the end of September, the last French forces had left the country.

As historian Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot has written, the three-year French occupation was too short to exert any lasting effects on Egypt, despite claims to the contrary. Its most important effect on Egypt internally was the rapid decline in the power of the Mamluks.

The major impact of the French invasion was the effect it had on Europe. Napoleon's invasion revealed the Middle East as an area of immense strategic importance to the European powers, thus inaugurating the Anglo-French rivalry for influence in the region and bringing the British into the Mediterranean. The French invasion of Egypt also had an important effect on France because of the publication of Description de l'Egypte, which detailed the findings of the scholars and scientists who had accompanied Napoleon to Egypt. This publication became the foundation of modern research into the history, society, and economics of Egypt.

Muhammad Ali, 1805-48

After the French left Egypt, an Ottoman army remained in the country. The Ottoman government was determined to prevent a revival of Mamluk power and autonomy and to bring Egypt under the control of the central government. The Ottomans appointed Khusraw Pasha as viceroy. Hostilities occasionally broke out between his forces and those of the Mamluks who had established themselves in Upper Egypt.

By 1803 it was apparent that a third party had emerged in the struggle for power in Egypt. This was the Albanian contingent of Ottoman forces that had come in 1801 to fight against the French. Muhammad Ali, who had arrived in Egypt as a junior commander in the Albanian forces, had by 1803 risen to commander. In just two short years, he would become the Ottoman viceroy in Egypt.

Muhammad Ali, who has been called the "father of modern Egypt," was able to attain control of Egypt because of his own leadership abilities and political shrewdness but also because the country seemed to be slipping into anarchy. The urban notables and the ulama believed that Muhammad Ali was the only leader capable of bringing order and security to the country. The Ottoman government, however, aware of the threat Muhammad Ali represented to the central authority, attempted to get rid of him by making him governor of the Hijaz. Eventually, the Ottomans capitulated to Egyptian pressure, and in June 1805, they appointed Muhammad Ali governor of Egypt.

Between 1805 and 1811, Muhammad Ali consolidated his position in Egypt by defeating the Mamluks and bringing Upper Egypt under his control. Finally, in March 1811, Muhammad Ali had sixty-four Mamluks, including twenty-four beys, assassinated in the citadel. From then on, Muhammad Ali was the sole ruler of Egypt. Muhammad Ali represented the successful continuation of policies begun by the Mamluk Ali Bey al Kabir. Like Ali Bey, Muhammad Ali had great ambitions. He, too, wanted to detach Egypt from the Ottoman Empire, and he realized that to do so Egypt had to be strong economically and militarily.

Muhammad Ali's development strategy was based on agriculture. He expanded the area under cultivation and planted crops specifically for export, such as long-staple cotton, rice, indigo, and sugarcane. The surplus income from agricultural production was used for public works, such as irrigation, canals, dams, and barrages, and to finance industrial development and the military. The development plans hinged on the state's gaining a monopoly over the country's agricultural resources. In practical terms, this meant the peasants were told what crops to plant, in what quantity, and over what area. The government bought directly from the peasants and sold directly to the buyer, cutting out the intermediaries or merchants.

Muhammad Ali was also committed to the industrial development of Egypt. The government set up modern factories for weaving cotton, jute, silk, and wool. Workers were drafted into factories to weave on government looms. Factories for sugar, indigo, glass, and tanning were set up with the assistance of foreign advisers and imported machinery. Industries employed about 4 percent of the population, or between 180,000 and 200,000 persons fifteen years of age and over. The textile industry was protected by embargoes imposed by the government to prohibit the import of the cheap British textiles that had flooded the Egyptian market. Commercial activities were geared toward the establishment of foreign trade monopolies and an attempt to acquire a favorable balance of trade.

The historian Marsot has argued that Britain became determined to check Muhammad Ali because a strong Egypt represented a threat to Britain's economic and strategic interests. Economically, British interests would be served as long as Egypt continued to produce raw cotton for the textile mills of Lancashire and to import finished goods from Britain. Thus, the British and also the French were particularly angered by the Egyptian monopolies even though Britain and France engaged in such trade practices as high tariffs and embargoes to protect their own economies. Strategically, Britain wanted to maintain access to the overland route through Egypt to India, a vital link in the line of imperial communications. Britain was worried not only about the establishment of a united, militarily strong state straddling the eastern Mediterranean but also about Muhammad Ali's close ties to France.

It was at this time that Lord Palmerston, the British minister of foreign affairs, established the British policy, which lasted until the outbreak of World War I, of preserving the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Britain preferred a weakened but intact Ottoman Empire that would grant it the strategic and commercial advantages it needed to maintain its influence in the region. Thus, Muhammad Ali's invasion of Syria in 1831 and his attempt to break away from the Ottoman Empire jeopardized British policy and its military and commercial interests in the Middle East and India. The Egyptian invasion of Syria was provoked ostensibly by the sultan's refusal to give Syria and Morea (Peloponnesus) to Muhammad Ali in return for his assistance in opposing the Greek war for independence in the late 1820s. This resulted in Turkey and Egypt being forced out of the eastern Mediterranean by the destruction of their combined naval strength at Navarino on the southern coast of Greece.

When Egyptian forces invaded and occupied Syria and came within sight of Istanbul, the great powers (Britain, France, Austria, Russia, and Prussia) allied themselves with the Ottoman government to drive the Egyptian forces out of Syria. A British fleet bombarded Beirut in September 1840, and an Anglo-Turkish force landed, causing uprisings against the Egyptian forces. Acre fell in November, and a British naval force anchored off Alexandria. The Egyptian army was forced to retreat to Egypt, and Muhammad Ali was obliged to accede to British demands. According to the Treaty of 1841, Muhammad Ali was stripped of all the conquered territory except Sudan but was granted the hereditary governorship of Egypt for life, with succession going to the eldest male in the family. Muhammad Ali was also compelled to agree to the Anglo-Ottoman Convention of 1838, which established "free trade" in Egypt. This meant that Muhammad Ali was forced to abandon his monopolies and establish new tariffs that were favorable to imports. Thus, Egypt was unable to control the flood of cheap manufactured imports that decimated local industries.

Muhammad Ali continued to rule Egypt after his defeat in Syria. He became increasingly senile toward the end of his rule and his eldest son, Ibrahim, petitioned the Ottoman government to be appointed governor because of his father's inability to rule. Ibrahim was gravely ill of tuberculosis, however, and ruled for only six months, from July to November 1848. Muhammad Ali died in August 1849.

Abbas Hilmi I, 1848-54 and Said, 1854-63

Ibrahim was succeeded by Abbas Hilmi I, a genuine traditionalist with no interest in continuing the development plans of his grandfather, Muhammad Ali. Abbas disliked Europeans, but he allowed a railroad line to be built between Alexandria and Cairo that facilitated British imperial communications with India. Regular steamship services already linked Britain to India via Alexandria, Suez, and Bombay. This partially overland route to India took thirty-one days, compared to three months for the journey around the Cape of Good Hope.

Abbas's successor was Said, the fourth son of Muhammad Ali. He revived the works in agriculture, irrigation, and education begun by his father. Under his rule, the first land law governing private landed property in Egypt was passed in 1858. Said abolished the agricultural monopolies of his father by granting landowners the right to dispose freely of their produce as well as the freedom to choose what crops to cultivate. He also introduced uniform military service and the first organized pension plan for public servants.

Said was a friend of the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps, to whom he granted a concession in 1854 to construct a canal from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean. The Suez Canal Company was organized to undertake the construction, and the concession to the company included two items that proved costly for Egypt. First, the company was granted a strip of land linking the Nile with the canal site. There a freshwater canal was constructed, and the strip of land was decreed tax free, allowing the company to enjoy the benefits of its cultivation. Second, the viceroy undertook to supply labor for the canal's construction, in what amounted to a system of forced labor (see Suez Canal , ch. 3).

posted by Steve @ 5:35:00 PM

5:35:00 PM

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