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Nurturing the Nation

Nurturing the Nation: The Family Politics of Modernizing, Colonizing, and Liberating Egypt, 1805-1923

Lisa Pollard
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    Nurturing the Nation
    Book Description:

    Focusing on gender and the family, this erudite and innovative history reconsiders the origins of Egyptian nationalism and the revolution of 1919 by linking social changes in class and household structure to the politics of engagement with British colonial rule. Lisa Pollard deftly argues that the Egyptian state's modernizing projects in the nineteenth century reinforced ideals of monogamy and bourgeois domesticity among Egypt's elite classes and connected those ideals with political and economic success. At the same time, the British used domestic and personal practices such as polygamy, the harem, and the veiling of women to claim that the ruling classes had become corrupt and therefore to legitimize an open-ended tenure for themselves in Egypt. To rid themselves of British rule, bourgeois Egyptian nationalists constructed a familial-political culture that trained new generations of nationalists and used them to demonstrate to the British that it was time for the occupation to end. That culture was put to use in the 1919 Egyptian revolution, in which the reformed, bourgeois family was exhibited as the standard for "modern" Egypt.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93753-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Note on Translation and Transliteration
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    In May 1919, Egypt’s acting consul general, Sir Milne Cheetham (1869–1938), sent an intelligence report to the Foreign Office in an attempt to explain why Egypt had erupted in a series of violent uprisings. Having perused the Egyptian political press, Cheetham reported to British foreign secretary Lord Curzon (1859–1925) that he found the Egyptian peasants, workers, and bourgeois nationalists (theeffendiyya) to be largely uninterested in politics. The contagions of Bolshevism, Turkish nationalism, and general Egyptian unruliness—not desires for independence and self-rule—were at the heart of the uprisings.¹ His comments, designed as much to explain away...

  7. CHAPTER 1 My House and Yours: Egyptian State Servants and the New Geography of Nationalism
    (pp. 15-47)

    In the early decades of the nineteenth century, the nascent Egyptian state’s quest to modernize and strengthen its institutions and create new ones produced a kind of “travel literature” about the world outside Egypt’s borders. Through the creation of the student missions abroad and a corps of translators, the state institutionalized, sanctioned, and funded the practice of knowing the West. While state-produced knowledge was not designed to dominate Europe, it exposed and analyzed the arenas in which Europeans excelled.

    The nineteenth century was obviously not the first time that Egyptians had ventured outside their borders, nor was it the first...

  8. CHAPTER 2 Inside Egypt: The Harem, the Hovel, and the Western Construction of an Egyptian National Landscape
    (pp. 48-72)

    At precisely the same time that monogamous, bourgeois couples and modern, single-family dwellings became the products of Egyptian modernization and centralization, European travelers were emphasizing Egypt’s polygamy, extended families, timeless domestic practices, and bizarre sexual habits. While Egypt’s upper classes assumed marital and domestic relationships that, in fact, separated them culturally from previous generations of Egyptian elites, European travel literature linked nineteenth-century Egyptians to a set of social, cultural, and political traditions that had little to do with the realities of contemporary reform programs. The struggle to “control” Egypt over the course of the nineteenth century was not only waged...

  9. CHAPTER 3 Domesticating Egypt: The Gendered Politics of the British Occupation
    (pp. 73-99)

    Among the many foreigners present in Egypt at the time of the British occupation was English nobleman Wilfrid Scawen Blunt (1840–1922). Blunt was a curious figure among the expatriate community. On the one hand, he was a tourist searching for an escape from England’s climate and hoping to add to his stock of Arabian horses.¹ On the other hand, his interest in learning the Arabic language brought him into increased contact with Egyptians outside of tourist circles. Among them were al-Azharites Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani (1838–97) and Mohammad ‘Abduh (1849–1905). Through his interactions with these men, Blunt’s interests...

  10. CHAPTER 4 The Home, the Classroom, and the Cultivation of Egyptian Nationalism
    (pp. 100-131)

    From the latter decades of the nineteenth century onward, British administrators and Egyptian nationalists who worked within the colonial administration subjected elite Egyptian schoolchildren to a reform of their personal behavior that was designed to fit the needs of the Egyptian state—both as it transformed itself and as it struggled to liberate itself from the British. After 1882, as British government officials called for the creation of more productive, more modern Egyptians to serve the state, the classroom became the laboratory in which Egyptian youth learned and practiced new habits, behaviors, and relationships. Given Egypt’s history of reform prior...

  11. CHAPTER 5 Table Talk: The Home Economics of Nationhood
    (pp. 132-165)

    From the 1870s onward discussions of the home and the family and their relationship to politics were not limited to state-produced literature. In an active, popular, and privately funded press, a generation of educated Egyptians, both Ottoman-Egyptian and Arabophone, articulated sentiments about themselves and politics that echoed state-sponsored projects.Effendidebates over what it meant to be Egyptian were full of references to domestic and marital habits. Likewise, their critiques of Egyptian politics reflected the idea that Egypt’s advancement toward constitutional government could be measured by the behavior of its elite classes. After the British occupation of 1882 and the...

  12. CHAPTER 6 Reform on Display: The Family Politics of the 1919 Revolution
    (pp. 166-204)

    In the spring of 1919, after enduring the humiliation of Egypt’s transformation from an informally occupied territory to a formal protectorate state, the imposition of martial law, the dismissal of local forms of self-government, and the difficult years of World War I, the Egyptians delivered an answer to “the Egypt question.” In a series of sometimes bloody demonstrations, strikes, and boycotts, which lasted, intermittently, through early 1922, Egyptians of all classes endeavored to show Great Britain, as well as the postwar diplomatic community, that their period of colonial tutelage needed to come to an end.¹ Having withstood almost forty years...

  13. Conclusion: It’s a Girl! Gender and the Birth of Modern Egyptian Nationalism
    (pp. 205-212)

    Each year, the Egyptian press commemorates the anniversary of the demonstrations that mark the 1919 Revolution. Given the remarkable nature of their appearance in the demonstrations, it is usually women who are chosen as the symbols of the revolution and whose participation in the Egyptian nationalist movement attracts the most commentary. Usually the story goes something like this: Egyptian upper-class women, for centuries the victims of the harem, woke up to the evils of the patriarchal system that had enslaved them. At the same time, they became aware of the possibilities of the reform of the domestic realm and supported...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 213-256)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-276)
  16. Index
    (pp. 277-287)