Colonial Bridgehead: Government and Society in Alexandria, 1807-1882

Colonial Bridgehead: Government and Society in Alexandria, 1807-1882

Colonial Bridgehead: Government and Society in Alexandria, 1807-1882

Colonial Bridgehead: Government and Society in Alexandria, 1807-1882

Synopsis

At the end of the eighteenth century, Alexandria was a small unimposing town; less than a century later, the city had become a busy hub of Mediterranean commerce & Egypt's master link to the international economy. This is the first study to examine the modern transformation of the city-the surges of internal & international migration; the spatial patterns of residence & employment; & the complex nature of intercommunal relations in the rapidly expanding port. Making use of both local government records & consular reports, the author argues that the history of Alexandria demonstrates a fundamental paradox of colonial urbanism: The city became more cosmopolitan & more closely integrated into the mainstream of Egypt's evolving economy & society. The product of these contradictory impulses was a community that was both bridgehead for colonial domination & crucible for an incipient nationalism.

Excerpt

This book seeks to describe and explain the development of Alexandria during a seventy-five year period, from the time of Muhammad Ali Pasha until the beginning of the British occupation of Egypt. In writing it, I have attempted to fashion a coherent, though not a comprehensive, narrative of Alexandria's history before 1882. I realized very early in my research that a comprehensive study of a cosmopolitan city such as Alexandria would take one much farther afield than I was able to go--to Istanbul and Athens, Vienna and Livorno, Marseille and Tunis, and beyond. As it was, I spent about a year and a half in research, mostly in Cairo, where the bulk of the government documents relevant to nineteenth-century Alexandria are located. This was a limitation, but perhaps a helpful one inasmuch as I wished to emphasize--in contradistinction to the image of the city in, for example, the works of Durrell--the Egyptian contribution to the dynamics of change in modern Alexandria and the place of the city in the urban ensemble of modern Egypt. To a large extent, then, the Egyptian contribution is pictured as the contribution of the Egyptian government. This is a failing; I have been keenly aware from the outset that I have not been able to give an interior history of indigenous society in Alexandria. This work may nonetheless supply a framework within which such an interior history can be written. I wish to acknowledge here the recent publication of Professor Robert Ilbert's large and intriguing work on nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Alexandria, which examines important aspects of the city's social development, but which appeared too late for me to use in preparing the present work.

I have incurred many debts in the preparation of this book, and it is a pleasure both to acknowledge them and to thank the persons and institutions who have given generously of their time and resources to . . .

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