British Egyptian Protectorate: Economy--Backward Society

Figure 1.--This image was from a collection of old glass photographs taken in the Middle East, mainly Egypt. The seller identified them as Bedouin. We suspect that they are Egyptian peasants. They seem to date from about the turn of the 20th century. The interesting aspect of these early Egyptian images is that show a society that was virtually unchanged for a millenium.

To assess the impact of British control, one must first assess why Egypt was so poor. Here the situation in Egypt seems similar to much of the Middle East and North Africa. Society was still essentially medieval. The economy was largely based on agriculture and cthe methods used were largely unchanged for a millenia. The education system, such as it existed, when th British seized control was centered on the mosques and almost entirely Islamic. The movements that propelled Europe forward (Reformation, Enlightenment, Industrial Revolution, ect.) hardly touched Egypt. Egyptian scholasrs continued to debate the same religious issues that had dominasted the Middle East for centuries. There were almost no Egyptians with any technical or scientific training. There was no modern industries and basic infrasructure such as railways was virtually non-existent. The legal system was weak, essentially Sharia law. The Government could act capriciously. There was no secular law able to support the needs of a capitalistic system. Most of the population lived in rural villages and was illiterate. Women had few legal right and slavery and was widespread in the south. There were slave markets in Cairo, but the problem was acute in the Sudan. There was virtually no government effort addressing health care and other basic civic services. All of this was not a situation the British created, but what the British found when they arrived in Egypt.


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Created: 7:19 AM 6/6/2011
Last updated: 7:19 AM 6/6/2011