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Generational Country Study: Egypt

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Map of Egypt

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Generational Crisis Wars

-- Egypt: Rise of Muhammad Ali -- 1786-1811
-- Egypt: Urabi Revolt -- 1870-1882
-- Egypt: Egyptian Revolution -- 1944-1953

Brief Generational History - updated 5-June-2008

1786-1811: Rise of Muhammad Ali (Crisis Era)

From 1786 to 1791, the Ottoman Empire attempted to reassert their presence in Egypt, which at the time was under the control of Ibrahim Bey and Murad Bey. Following years of famine and plague, Egypt was devastated by the time Napoleon successfully invaded the country in 1798. However, rebellion spread throughout the country, and an Anglo-Ottoman invasion forced the French out in 1801. By 1805, Muhammad Ali was appointed governor by the Ottomans, where he consolidated his power in a series of wars until 1811, which climaxed with a mass assassination of rebel leaders.

1812-1830: Wars of Expansion (Recovery Era)

In the following years, Ali attempted to expand his influence throughout the region in a series of wars, with the likely intent of strengthening his power to prevent another invasion. The Ottoman Sultan, Mahmud II, had called for the return of Mecca to the Empire, launching the Ottoman-Saudi Wars, which ended in victory for the Ottomans in 1818. In 1820, Ali turned his attention to Eastern Libya and North Sudan, extending Egyptian rule. A massive (but short-lived) peasant rebellion broke out in 1824, and later the movement for Greek Independence, both of which were brutally put down by Ali in a no-nonsense Recovery era fashion.

1831-1849: Wars Against the Sultan (Awakening Era)

Ali had been preparing for war with the Ottoman Sultan for years in order to establish Egyptian independence, and in 1831, invaded Syria. Brilliant campaigns conducted by his son Ibrahim lead to Ottoman concessions, and by 1833, Ali ruled over a sizable empire. The revolts came quickly from all directions, and although suppressed, they inspired Sultan Mahmud II to exact revenge upon Ali, but his forces were quickly routed once again. However, hubris had been increasing since the beginning of the decade, and when Ibrahimís forces approached Istanbul (the capital of the Ottoman Empire), European powers intervened. Egyptian forces were pushed back to their homeland and Ali was stripped of most of his territory, forcing a series of reforms that lasted throughout the 1840s. His son Ibrahim rose to power later in the decade, but he died in a matter of months and was replaced.

1850-1870: Modernization and Decay (Unraveling Era)

Prosperity throughout the 1860s under Ismail the Magnificient lead to a new set of reforms, as Ismail tried to establish a fully functioning, more independent Egypt. The reforms were not cheap, and high taxes, coupled with an end to prosperity, quickly lead to bankruptcy and miserable conditions throughout the country.

1871-1882: Urabi Revolt (Crisis Era)

Conditions were so bad Ė due in large part to the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 - that by 1875, Egypt was 100 million Pounds in debt. Ismail the Magnificient sold his shares on the canal to the British, making them the largest shareholder. However, the financial crisis was merely delayed, and in 1878, following British-made reforms and inquiries to fix the disaster, Ismail declared Egypt to be a part of Europe. However, in a bizarre sequence of events, he attempted to restore his original power, which lead to his removal as Khedive. Dual control by the French and British was established through the use of Ismailís son, Tawfiq, but a military revolt led by Ahmed Urabi was determined to overthrow the Khedive. Obtaining a fatwa, or a religious decree, Urabi captured Cairo and surrounding provinces. The French withdrew from the conflict, and the British were left to devastate Alexandria. The decisive battle between the powerful rebels and the British was fought at Tall al Kabir in 1882, where Urabiís forces were routed, the Khedive was reestablished, and the British were in control of the nation, which lasted until the Egyptian Revolution some 70 years later.

1883-1901?: Beginnings of British Rule (Recovery Era)

Fears of a renewed revolt were never played out, although British troops remained in the region. A period of harsh, autocratic rule ensued under Lord Cromer. However, the debt was paid off, and prosperity returned.

?1902-1923: Growth of Nationalism (Awakening Era)

After the turn of the century, growing nationalism among the younger generation in Egypt caused the two successive consuls to attempt to introduce reform to appease the increasingly angry population. However, the Nationalists refused to compromise. The outbreak of World War I tore the country apart, with the Ottoman Empire and the British on opposite sides. Egypt was severed from the Ottoman Empire by the British, who made the nation into a protectorate. However, opposition to the British only hardened, mass protests turned violent, creating the 1919 Revolution, in which tens of thousands of protesters battled their British rulers in the streets, leaving hundreds dead. In a significant move, between 150 and 300 Egyptian women took to the streets to protest British rule and restrictions against women, an event that marked the beginning of the introduction of women into the public sphere. Following these mass strikes, Egypt was declared to have nominal independence in 1923.

1923-1943: The Wafd and World War Two (Unraveling Era)

The Egyptian political system was still dominated by the British, although a King and political parties were established. The Liberal party, the Wafd, swept into power, and demanded more sovereignty. Reforms were enacted, but it did not sway the commitment to full independence among the masses. Wafd concessions to the British produced anti-government sentiment, and in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded as a religious and political movement whose goal was to purify the country. Wafd power declined, but World War Two provided an opportunity to restore their influence. However, deals with the British only showed the extent of British power while scandals and corruption were exposed among the Egyptian government.

1944-1953: Egyptian Revolution (Crisis Era)

The Wafdist government collapsed in 1944, and the masses became increasingly militant, supporting organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Young Egypt. After hopes for independence were once again dashed, riots broke out. Then, in 1948, Egypt witnessed the establishment of Israel, which was viewed as another crime in the long list of British imperialist tendencies. The poorly equipped and unprepared Arab masses (including Egypt) descended upon Israel. The Muslim Brotherhood was ordered to dissolve, but instead assassinated the Prime Minister, which caused thousands to be placed in concentration camps in retaliation. The war was a disastrous failure for Egypt, but it brought about the rise of Gamal Abdul Nasser, who then organized the Free Officers movement inside the army. In early 1952, battles broke out between Egyptian and British soldiers. The Free Officers movement attempted a coup against King Farouk, who could not effectively govern any longer and was forced to flee the country. A series of crises ended with Nasser asserting supreme authority. Egypt was declared a republic in 1953.

1954-1972: Arab Socialism (Recovery Era)

With a renewed confidence, Nasser made a famed deal with Czechoslovakia in which Egypt was sold instruments of war. Egypt then nationalized the Suez canal company, prompting an alliance of Israel, Britain, and France to invade. The alliance was able to achieve victory, but at an enormous political cost. The three nations were forced to withdraw from their gains due to international pressure, resulting in a political victory for Egypt. Several alliances with various members of the Arab world were attempted in order to establish a movement known as Arab Socialism. However, these attempts ended in failure. In 1967, Nasser initiated several steps that led to war with Israel. In six days, the war was over, Egypt was humiliated, and Israel was in full occupation of the Sinai region of Egypt. Nasser resigned, but a swell of support among the populace convinced him to change his mind. However, by the late 1960s, demonstrations against the government increased.

1973-1991?: Internal Strife and Reform (Awakening Era)

Nasser died in 1969 and was replaced by Anwar Sadat. An initially successful invasion was launched against Israel in 1973, but it was repulsed in an Israeli counterattack. However, the war was a political victory as it showed the Arabs could match Israel. Sadatís popularity grew, and he was able enact several reforms. Israel withdrew from Sinai, and the Suez Canal was reopened. Political and economic freedom was encouraged, and it was initially successful in bringing about wealth to investors, but fears of foreign influence began to dominate the scene. In 1977, riots erupted throughout the country Ė the biggest since 1919 Ė and the military was called out on to the streets as protesters called for economic equality. Clashes killed 800 people and wounded thousands. Relations with Israel began to change, and in the following year, the Camp David Accords produced an historic Egyptian-Israeli treaty. Sadatís popularity declined as he conducted measures against opposition such as the Muslim Brotherhood. He was assassinated by Islamic extremists in 1981 and was replaced by Hosni Mubarak.

?1992-Present: Economic Liberalization (Unraveling Era)

Mubarak has initiated several forms of economic liberalization since the beginning of his rule.

Note: Many of the mid-cycle turning dates require more research, and are currently little more than educated guesses that usually correspond with major events while staying within in typical turning boundaries. A ? mark indicates that, without further research, there is no empirical evidence to support that date. The early 20th century Egyptian Awakening is clearly shown in the 1910s, but there are only hints of a growth of nationalism in the 1900s decade, which doesn't necessarily fall into a typical Awakening period. The late 20th century Awakening/Unraveling border is very unclear.

In addition, the pre-Urabi revolt mid-cycle period has little proof in the form of societal transformation, due to the nearly exclusive political focus. The mid-cycle period is an interpretation of political events.

-- Matt Ignal

Article Cross-References

-- How inflammatory was President Bush's speech to Israel's Knesset?: The speech may have touched some nerves among the Palestinians, and changed American policy. (16-May-2008)
-- Sudan's Darfur war expands as Khartoum comes under attack by rebels: What were they thinking? everyone's asking. But it DOES make sense. (14-May-2008)
-- Food rationing comes to the United States: After years of price rises, mainstream media is finally recognizing there's a problem. (24-Apr-08)
-- Food rationing comes to the United States: After years of price rises, mainstream media is finally recognizing there's a problem. (24-Apr-08)
-- Suicide bombing in Israel blamed on the Gaza border opening: Although Egypt finally closed the border on Sunday, (5-Feb-08)
-- Egypt's failure to close the Gaza border further destabilizes the region.: Changing events brings Israelis, Palestinians and Egyptians into further confrontation and conflict. (26-Jan-08)
-- Egypt's failure to close the Gaza border further destabilizes the region.: Changing events brings Israelis, Palestinians and Egyptians into further confrontation and conflict. (26-Jan-08)
-- In dramatic scene, 60,000 Gazans pour into Egypt through holes blasted through border wall: Euphoric Gazans go shopping, bring back food, fuel and fertilizer. (24-Jan-08)
-- Israeli blockade of Gaza triggers protests against Egypt: Angry Gazans stormed the Rafah crossing into Egypt on Tuesday, (22-Jan-08)
-- Who's responsible for the Egypt tourist resort bombings?: Monday's was the third seaside resort bombing in two years, (26-Apr-06)
-- Gaza strip descending into further chaos and lawlessness following Israeli withdrawal: Black market prices for weapons have been falling sharply in Gaza, (14-Sep-05)
-- With Israelis almost gone, Gaza is becoming increasingly violent and unstable: Especially ominous is the planned intervention by Egypt as border guards. (8-Sep-05)
-- Massive bomb blasts in Egypt vacation resort: This follows new blasts in London and Chechnya. (23-Jul-05)

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Copyright © 2002-2016 by John J. Xenakis.