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Colonialism and Revolution in the Middle East

Colonialism and Revolution in the Middle East: Social and Cultural Origins of Egypt's Urabi Movement

Juan R. I. Cole
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Colonialism and Revolution in the Middle East
    Book Description:

    In this book Juan R. I. Cole challenges traditional elite-centered conceptions of the conflict that led to the British occupation of Egypt in September 1882. For a year before the British intervened, Egypt's viceregal government and the country's influential European community had been locked in a struggle with the nationalist supporters of General Ahmad al-`Urabi. Although most Western observers still see the `Urabi movement as a "revolt" of junior military officers with only limited support among the Egyptian people, Cole maintains that it was a broadly based social revolution hardly underway when it was cut off by the British. While arguing this fresh point of view, he also proposes a theory of revolutions against informal or neocolonial empires, drawing parallels between Egypt in 1882, the Boxer Rebellion in China, and the Islamic Revolution in modern Iran.

    In a thorough examination of the changing Egyptian political culture from 1858 through the `Urabi episode, Cole shows how various social strata--urban guilds, the intelligentsia, and village notables--became "revolutionary." Addressing issues raised by such scholars as Barrington Moore and Theda Skocpol, his book combines four complementary approaches: social structure and its socioeconomic context, organization, ideology, and the ways in which unexpected conjunctures of events help drive a revolution.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2090-0
    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 Tables and Map
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-22)

    In the Middle East in particular, colonies often existed before colonialism. The political and economic dominance of one country by another during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, in the absence of any conventional colonial state, has come to be called “informal empire.” This rather messy and improvised arrangement has much in common, it seems to me, with twentieth century neocolonialism, where the former colonial or dominant power continues to wield exaggerated influence even after decolonization and the establishment of an indigenous regime. Informal empire is typified by a dual elite, a regional landed or capitalist class, and a foreign stratum...

  6. One Material and Cultural Foundations of the Old Regime
    (pp. 23-52)

    In seeking to understand the dissident and subaltern political currents that emerged in the late 1870s and during the Egyptian revolution of 1881–82, we must begin by considering what they were dissenting from. What were the sources of power and the ideologies of the elite strata constituting the Old Regime of viceregal rule from 1805 to 1881? I will discuss not only the social and economic position of the various elites, but also their views of the nature of governmental authority, the ordering of the economy, and the construction of ethnic identity. This cultural archeology will require a digging...

  7. Two Economic Change and Social Interests
    (pp. 53-83)

    The three great forces that hammered Egypt in the third quarter of the nineteenth century—capitalism, population growth, and the state—co llaborated in greatly increasing the gross national product and in radically changing the way it was distributed and controlled. The saga of the cotton boom in particular, followed by a bust and the world’s first modern debt crisis, has preoccupied historians of Egypt, the British Empire, and nineteenth-century economic developments for some time, but few social historians have investigated how all these things affected the middle and working strata. Here, I want to examine the impact of economic...

  8. Three Body and Bureaucracy
    (pp. 84-109)

    During the 1840s and 1850s, the great bureaucratic and military machine built by Muhammad ‛Ali, partiallyon the basis of income from cash crops, had gradually wound down. Late in Sa‛id’s reign, not only was the army and civil bureaucracy reduced to a shadow of itself, but even the police force suffered large reductions in force. The expansion in trade during the 1860s and 1870s, however, allowed the state greatlyto recoup, and to augment the size of its bureaucracy because of the vast increase in its tax revenues over what could be collected from the small cash-crop sector mixed with subsistence...

  9. Four The Long Revolution in Egypt
    (pp. 110-132)

    In the early 1850s, Egypt possessed only an elementary communications and transportation infrastructure, and the state had ceased promoting literacy. It is hard to imagine in such a situation how the people could have waged a truly national revolt or revolution, as opposed to tribal or urban factions engaging in scattered and uncoordinated clashes with the small army and police force. When asking what changed between 1852 and the revolution of 1881–82, we must take account of what social scientists refer to as “social mobilization”—the movement of the population into cities, the building of connective links such as...

  10. Five Political Clubs and the Ideology of Dissent
    (pp. 133-163)

    We have already seen how a new and growing stratum of intelligentsia was formed in the 1860s and 1870s, and how increased literacy and the greater impact of print media bolstered their social importance. Those intellectuals involved in political clubs and organizations who also attempted through their writings and speeches to reformulate the bases of Egyptian society and culture fell into two broad groups. These included the cosmopolitan minority thinkers, mainly from a Syrian Christian or Jewish background, and the younger Muslim liberals and radicals. The Syrian Christians tended to be involved in import-export commerce, whereas the Muslims most often...

  11. Six Guild Organization and Popular Ideology
    (pp. 164-189)

    Two decisive political crises that evoked widespread popular participation helped shape politics in nineteenth-century Egypt: the struggle for control among Ottoman officers and Mamluk remnants in the wake of the Ottoman reconquest of Egypt from the French in 1801–05, and the ‛Urabi revolt of 1881–82, wherein a coalition of Egyptians in the military, Egyptian notables, and some guilds attempted to impose constitutionalism and parliamentary democracy on the Ottoman viceroy and the Ottoman and Circassian aristocracy. The first crisis ushered in the era of Viceroy Muhammad ‛Ali, the second provoked British occupation. The participation in both of ordinary people,...

  12. Seven Of Crowds and Empires: Euro-Egyptian Conflict
    (pp. 190-212)

    Having discussed the role of the guilds during the 1870s, let us now turn to some of the more informal vehicles for collective action in urban areas. The 12 percent of Egyptians who lived in large towns and cities structured their society in many ways. Informally, theygathered as a crowd on certain occasions. More formally, they grouped themselves by city quarter and by occupation. As we have seen, guilds dominated urban life, organizing skilled artisans, service workers, and those involved in transportation. The ways in which guild life interacted with the government bureaucracy and national politics have already been discussed....

  13. Eight Repression and Censorship
    (pp. 213-233)

    The modern autocratic state’s ability to repress dissent and control forms of public discourse constitutes an important deterrent to successful political mobilization. Despotic regimes with little or no legitimacy can survive for decades, providing the public fears their control over armed force or their ability to call on a patron state to provide that force. This way of stating the issue, however, incorrectly suggests that Mao Zedong was right when he said that power grows out of the barrel of a gun, and ignores the manner in which security forces can be sabotaged by desertions and draft-dodging, so that a...

  14. Nine Social and Cultural Origins of the Revolution
    (pp. 234-272)

    Revolutions, as a form of turbulence, entail an untidy conjuncture of several types of collective action, carried on in an often uncoordinated manner by different social groups. Western historians of the revolution of 1881–82 have tended to focus on officers and high officials, relegating to relative insignificance other social actors. The tradition of writing about the Revolution in republican Egypt, on the other hand, has tended to reduce the confli ct to one between the “agrar ian bourgeoisie” (village notables) and the “feudal nobility” (the Ottoman-Egyptian elite). The junior officersin the army, in this view, can be subsumed under...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 273-290)

    This book has focused mainly on structure, organization, and ideology so far, in analyzing the manner in which segments of a troika of social strata formed a vague alliance against Egypt’s dual elite of Ottoman-Egyptians and Europeans. Structure, in my view, counts for a great deal in dynamic systems; yet what makes them so unpredictable is the interaction of small individual events with large complex patterns, an interaction that alters the patterns themselves in unexpected ways. Although both are useful, I find greater value in Theda Skocpol’s work in her stress on conjuncture (which she tends to hide in her...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 291-320)
  17. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 321-334)
  18. Index
    (pp. 335-341)