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    The Cabinet Papers

    Britain's Middle Eastern presence expanded during and after The First World War, incorporating Transjordan and Mesopotamia. The League of Nations granted Britain a mandate over Palestine and Iraq, whilst Egypt became a protectorate in 1914. Despite the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty, Egyptian resistance came from the nationalist Wafdist group, culminating in Colonel Nasser's nationalisation of the strategically vital Suez Canal in 1956. Britain similarly faced resistance in 1950s Cyprus, where it supressed a guerilla uprising fighting for union with Greece. In Palestine, Britain held contradictory obligations to both Arab and Jewish populations. Increasing violence, including the 1946 bombing of Britain's administrative base at the Royal David Hotel by Irgun, led Britain to withdraw in 1947, leaving partition to the United Nations, UN.

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    You are here: Cabinet Papers home > Browse by theme > Empire, commonwealth and de-colonisation > The Near and Middle East > Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal

    Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal

    Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal British rule

    The Suez Canal was constructed in 1869 allowing faster sea transport to India, which increased Britain's long-standing strategic interest in the Eastern Mediterranean. Britain established a protectorate over Cyprus in 1878, and to suppress a nationalist revolt that threatened its interests, occupied Egypt in 1882. Britain then established a permanent military presence in Egypt. Protectorates were held over most of the Gulf states by 1900.

    The establishment of an Egyptian protectorate was a blow to Egyptian nationalists (Wafdists). Britain calmed the nationalists by making indefinite promises of self-rule. British policy makers such as Milner believed that it would be unwise to defy the Wafdists, who had gained popular support by resisting formal British rule.

    In 1922 the British compromised by ending the protectorate and granting Egypt nominal independence. Britain retained control of finance and foreign affairs and maintained a garrison to secure the Suez Canal. The Wafdist government was unsatisfied by this limited version of autonomous government and asserted itself against the British, sometimes violently. The Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 removed many remaining restrictions on Egyptian autonomy, although Britain retained the Suez Garrison.

    Britain withdraws

    In 1952 Colonel Nasser came to power in a coup led by General Naguib. In 1954 the withdrawal of British and French troops from the Suez base was agreed. Withdrawal took place in 1956, and weeks afterwards Nasser nationalised the Canal. The British and French sent troops to re-occupy the canal but the US used economic pressure to force a withdrawal, ending British involvement.


    The Near and Middle East

    Britain, Egypt and the Suez Canal

    Palestine, Iraq and Cyprus

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    Source : www.nationalarchives.gov.uk

    Britain in Egypt

    Egypt held particular interest for Victorians as a strategic gateway to the Orient.

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    Britain in Egypt

    Egypt held particular interest for Victorians as a strategic gateway to the Orient. The first Arabic-speaking country to experience overlapping colonial encroachments by European powers, Egypt became an autonomous state within the Ottoman Empire under the rule of Muhammad Ali Pasha (1805-1848) and his male successors. From 1852, Britain kept an increased presence in northern Egypt to maintain the overland trade route to India and to oversee the construction of the Cairo–Alexandria railway, the first British railway built on foreign soil. Shortly thereafter, French investors financed the construction of the Suez Canal to connect the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Isma’il Pasha sold Egypt’s shares of the Suez Canal Company to Britain in 1875 in the wake of a financial crisis. Dissatisfaction with European and Ottoman rule led to a nationalist revolt in 1879. The British military occupied Egypt in 1882 to protect financial interests in the country, culminating in a violent war. Britain won, restored the Khedival authority in Cairo, and established a ‘veiled protectorate’ over Ottoman-Egypt until the First World War. The British occupation saw an increase in archaeological fieldwork, tourism, and irrigation projects to boost Egypt’s cotton production and exportation. Egypt declared independence in 1922, although Britain did not withdraw all its troops until after the 1956 Suez Crisis.

    This political cartoon features John Bull as a British soldier physically protecting Egypt, who is depicted as the sexualised female object of Orientalist fantasy, passively leaning into Bull’s arms. The Turkish Sultan pleads with Britain ‘to consider whether the time has not now arrived for her return to the arms of her loving uncle.’ Victorians regularly played with gendered tropes to portray Britain as a masculine and heroic saviour, Egypt as feminine and frail, and the Ottoman Empire as weak and in decline. The scene unfolding in front of the Sphinx reflects the appropriation of Egypt’s ancient past during the British occupation of the country.

    The Anglo-Egyptian War lasted from May to August 1882. provided sketches every week to keep British audiences updated. This image followed the final conflict at Tell el Kebir which killed 2,000 Egyptians and resulted in the surrender of Colonel Ahmed ‘Urabi’s army. As in iconographic propaganda by the pharaohs showing defeat of their foreign enemies, British forces were represented as victorious on the battlefield to justify their interference.

    British imperial interests ensured that Egypt received a great deal of anthropological attention. The colonial agenda determined Egyptian inferiority according to universal hierarchies of race. Orientalists used the ‘comparative method’ to study the ancient and modern inhabitants of the country, treating Egyptian peasants as passive objects of observation and classification, much like artefacts. This image is from a special series published at the height of the Anglo-Egyptian war entitled ‘Egypt as it is,’ which often objectified locals by placing them next to ancient ruins. It shows Egyptian Bedouin, who often escorted tourists up the pyramids, ‘anxiously looking out, beyond Cairo, for the approach of the British Army.’

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    History of Egypt under the British

    History of Egypt under the British

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    The British Conquest of Egypt occurred in 1882.

    1894 map of British Egypt

    "British Egypt" redirects here. For the British civil occupation of Egypt before World War I, see Khedivate of Egypt. For the British protectorate, see Sultanate of Egypt. For the technically independent state under de facto British rule, see Kingdom of Egypt (1922–1953).

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    History of Egypt

    Prehistoric Egypt pre–3150 BC

    Ancient Egypt

    Early Dynastic Period 3150–2686 BC

    Old Kingdom 2686–2181 BC

    1st Intermediate Period 2181–2055 BC

    Middle Kingdom 2055–1650 BC

    2nd Intermediate Period 1650–1550 BC

    New Kingdom 1550–1069 BC

    3rd Intermediate Period 1069–664 BC

    Late Period 664–332 BC

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    Argead dynasty 332–310 BC

    Ptolemaic dynasties 310–30 BC

    Roman and Byzantine Egypt 30 BC–641 AD

    Sasanian Egypt 619–629

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    Fatimid dynasty 969–1171

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    Early modern Egypt

    Ottoman Egypt 1517–1867

    French occupation 1798–1801

    Muhammad Ali dynasty 1805–1953

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    Sultanate of Egypt 1914–1922

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    The history of Egypt under the British lasts from 1882, when it was occupied by British forces during the Anglo-Egyptian War, until 1956 after the Suez Crisis, when the last British forces withdrew in accordance with the Anglo-Egyptian agreement of 1954. The first period of British rule (1882–1914) is often called the "veiled protectorate". During this time the Khedivate of Egypt remained an autonomous province of the Ottoman Empire, and the British occupation had no legal basis but constituted a protectorate over the country. Egypt was thus not part of the British Empire. This state of affairs lasted until 1914 when the Ottoman Empire joined the First World War on the side of the Central Powers and Britain declared a protectorate over Egypt. The ruling khedive was deposed and his successor, Hussein Kamel, compelled to declare himself Sultan of Egypt independent of the Ottomans in December 1914.[1]

    The formal protectorate over Egypt did not long outlast the war. It was brought to an end when the British government issued the Unilateral Declaration of Egyptian Independence on 28 February 1922. Shortly afterwards, Sultan Fuad I declared himself King of Egypt, but the British occupation continued, in accordance with several reserve clauses in the declaration of independence. The situation was normalised in the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936, which granted Britain the right to station troops in Egypt for the defence of the Suez Canal, its link with India. Britain also continued to control the training of the Egyptian Army. During the Second World War (1939–45), Egypt came under attack from Italian Libya on account of the British presence there, although Egypt itself remained neutral until late in the war. After the war Egypt sought to modify the treaty, but it was abrogated in its entirety by an anti-British government in October 1951. After the 1952 coup d'état, the British agreed to withdraw their troops, and by June 1956 had done so. Britain went to war against Egypt over the Suez Canal in late 1956, but with insufficient international support was forced to back down.[2]


    1 Veiled Protectorate (1882–1913)

    2 Formal occupation (1914–1922)

    3 Continued occupation (1922–1956)

    4 Languages 5 Foreign community 6 References 7 Further reading 7.1 Primary sources

    Veiled Protectorate (1882–1913)[edit]

    Further information: History of Egypt under the Muhammad Ali dynasty, Khedivate of Egypt, and Foreign policy of William Ewart Gladstone

    Throughout the 19th century, the ruling dynasty of Egypt had borrowed spent vast sums of money on its own luxury and on the infrastructural development of Egypt. The dynasty's economic development was almost wholly oriented toward military dual-use goals. Consequently, despite vast sums of European capital, actual economic production and resulting revenues were insufficient to repay the loans. Eventually, the country teetered toward economic dissolution and implosion. In turn, a European commission led by Britain and France took control of the treasury of Egypt, forgave debt in return for taking control of the Suez Canal, and reoriented economic development toward capital gain.

    However, by 1882 Islamic and Arabic Nationalist opposition to European influence led to growing tension amongst notable natives, especially in Egypt which then as now was the most powerful, populous, and influential of Arab countries. The most dangerous opposition during this period came from the Egyptian army, which saw the reorientation of economic development away from their control as a threat to their privileges.

    Source : en.wikipedia.org

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