British Invasion of Egypt Research Paper

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British Invaded Egypt

The Egypt Uprising -- the anti-British Involvement

Reasons for the war 6

Egyptian Bankruptcy

The Nationalist Reaction to British Influence

The British Invasion

The British invasion of Egypt occurred in 1882 and it is also known as the Anglo-Egyptian War. The war was between the British forces and the forces from Egypt and Sudan who were led by Ahmed 'Urabi'. The war was fought on the pretext to stop a nationalist uprising in Egypt that against the khedive Tewfik Pasha. The war helped establish and expand the British Empire in Africa (E-International Relations, 2009).

The then ruler of Egypt and Sudan, Tewfik Pasha was considered a failed ruler and was accused of making wrong investments on behalf of the country. This led an Egyptian army officer, Ahmed 'Urabi also known as Arabi Pasha, to orchestrate a mutiny against the ruler. The reason of the mutiny was apparently to protest against the disparity in pay between the Egyptians and Europeans (Jones 2014). But the British and the French, among whom Britain enjoyed good relations with Tewfik Pasha, sent a joint note that supported the rule of and asserted the supremacy of Tewfik Pasha. This event occurred in the month of January of 1882. The note was later rejected by the council now under the control of Urabi Pasha (McGregor 2006).

Soon after, Urabi Pasha created a new government and himself became the minister of war of Egypt. The new Egyptian government took a tough stand against European dominance and influence in the country while also sacking large numbers of Turco-Circassian officers from the army. However, the new government in Egypt was not favored by European powers, who had significant financial and economic interests in Egypt and the Suez canal (Spiers 2004). There was apprehension among the Europeans and especially the British that the new board in Egypt would undermine their financial interests in the country.

Consistent with their apprehensions, the new rule in Egypt opposed the European interests and of the many large landowners in the country. The other groups that also felt vulnerable by the new rule were the elites of the Turkish and Circassian origin, the high ranking Islamic 'ulama', Syrian Christians and the wealthiest families of the country. As happens in many rebellions and uprising, the uprising by Urabi Pasha enjoyed the tacit and direct support of most of the common citizens of among the Egyptian population that include the lower ulema, the local leaders and the officer corps.

In this context with rising concerns about the forfeit of their interest in the region, the British conducted an invasion of Egypt. The violence and the riots on the streets of Alexandria on the afternoon of June 11, 1882, was the triggering point of the invasion when the rebel forces of Egypt killed more than 50 Europeans. The invasion began with the bombardment of the city of Alexandria. The invasion essentially started as an intervention and gradually as the rebels against the European forces spread across the country, so did the scope of intervention of the British involvement (Spiers 2004). The invasion of Egypt was completed on September 13 with the capture of Urabi Pasha.

The Egypt Uprising -- the anti-British Involvement

During the first half of the nineteenth century, a process of modernization of his governmental apparatus and functioning was initiated by Khedive Mohammed Ali, ruler of Egypt who ruled the country from 1811 to 1849. The modernization effort also extended to the army of the country and with a modern army Egypt was able to exert and extend its efforts and influence to the neighboring countries of Sudan, Syria and the Persian Gulf region. The intention was to create a dent in the Ottoman Empire that until then had a substantial influence over the region.

However, well-being of the general population of the country hardly changed. The majority of the people remained a class of agricultural laborers and farmers. They did not enjoy the fruits of modernization. Their lives flowed according to the flow of the Nile-just as their ancestor's lives had been influenced by the changing tides of the Nile (Jones 2014). In comparison to most of the countries of Europe, Egypt remained a relatively backward country despite the modernization efforts and the extensive state-building exercises by the ruler. However, the efforts did reap some rewards such the extensive trade of Egyptian cotton in exchange for British goods after the 1850s. This was aided by the open trade policies and free economic
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measures adopted in 1846 by the British government (Bbc.co.uk 2011).

The incident of the accession of Khedive Ismail to the throne of Egypt is considered a turning point in the modern history of Egypt in 1863. He intended to centralize the power in order to create a strong state that was based on the model of the states and countries of Europe. This effort did bring in some social change in the country. It was during his rule that the epic construction of the Suez canal was completed and opened up for transit of ships. To show off the modernization efforts of the country, Egypt even participated in the Paris World Exhibition in 1867 (Spiers 2004).

The infrastructural expansion of the country began under his rule as railroads, telegraphs, harbors, schools and land irrigation projects were built at a rapid pace. Exports also increased dramatically during the rule of Ismail. But the big projects needed money and the ruler tried to get that by increasing taxes from the common people of the country. This was also the reason why the ruler and the country became dependent on foreign funds, aid and debt (Landes 1958).

At this point in history that Egypt became more integrated with European countries like Britain and France. The Suez Canal also began to gain importance as the main thread for the economic development of the surrounding regions. The British became increasingly economically entangled with Egypt and the Suez Canal. During this period, Alexandria became one of the major port cities of Egypt; historians estimate that more than 10000 Europeans had into the city by the year 1880. Thus the Europeans, especially Brtain and France, had deep rooted economic interests in Egypt by way of commerce and trade as well as by funding of projects in Egypt (Bbc.co.uk 2011).

It was also during this time that there was growing resentment within Egypt about the rising debt and the near bankruptcy of the country. The increasing influence of the European powers was also a source of bitterness of Ismail's governance. This was the seed that grew into the nationalist rebellion that was led by the army captain Urabi Passha, which ultimately overthrew the government in Egypt. Fearing that their interests in Egypt would be hampered and the continuing resentment of the new government under Urabi Pasha against the Europeans kept the British on the edge. The sacking of a large number of Turco-Circassian officers forced the British to send their war ships to the Egyptian coast near Alexandria (Landes 1958).

Reasons for the war

Though there are conflicting beliefs and a point of historical debate about the reason behind the British sending their troops to the coast of Alexandria, it is an established fact that the British were concerned about the internal condition of Egypt. There are also reports that state that the British were concerned about the attitude of the new formed government under Urabi Pasha and their treatment of the Europeans (Brendon 2008). The possibility of the diminishing of the significant role of the British in the economy of Egypt was one of the prime reasons for the British to send troops to the coast of Alexendria. Their intention, according to many historians, was to intervene in the short-term, to stabilize the political condition of Egypt.Historians like Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher argue that the British wanted to douse the uprising under the leadership of Urabi Pasha and to protect the British interests in the Suez Canal so that the shipping route of the British through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean was maintained.

However, historians like A.G. Hopkins rejected that theory stating from historical documents and second hand sources that the uprising in Egypt during 1880s did not have any presumed significant threat to the British interest in the Suez Canal and from the Urabi movement. He claimed that commentators of the time had claimed that the uprising was not chaotic but rather disciplined and structured maintained law and order (McGregor 2006). The real reason behind the British Parliament sending troops to the coast of Alexandria was to protect the financial and economic interest of the British people who had purchased and held bonds in the British investments made in Egypt in the preceding years. The measure manifested as a popular domestic effort at that time.

The construction of Suez Canal by the then Egyptian rulers had forced the country to accept great debts especially from the British. Moreover, British investment was also…

Sources Used in Documents:

References

Bbc.co.uk,. 2011. 'BBC - History - British History In Depth: The Suez Crisis'. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/suez_01.shtml.

Brendon, Piers. 2008. The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire, 1781-1997. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Cleary, Vern. 2015. 'Thesuez Canal And The British Conquest Of Egypt'. Webs.Bcp.Org. http://webs.bcp.org/sites/vcleary/ModernWorldHistoryTextbook/Imperialism/section_6/suezcanal.html.

E-International Relations,. 2009. 'The British Invasion Of Egypt, 1882'. http://www.e-ir.info/2009/03/23/the-british-invasion-of-egypt-1882/.

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