A History of Modern Egypt and Anglo-Egyptian Relations, 1800-1953

A History of Modern Egypt and Anglo-Egyptian Relations, 1800-1953

A History of Modern Egypt and Anglo-Egyptian Relations, 1800-1953

A History of Modern Egypt and Anglo-Egyptian Relations, 1800-1953

Excerpt

BY the end of the eighteenth century the three hundred years of oppressive and inefficient government from which Egypt had suffered since the Ottoman conquest had reduced that country to the lowest depths of economic and cultural decay. The once prosperous overland transit trade between Europe and the East had almost vanished. The irrigation canals had become silted up and the drainage had been neglected, with the result that large areas of land, once cultivated, were reverting to desert and swamp. The evils of governmental rapacity were unredeemed by any compensating advantages of security or stability. The incursions of Bedouin from the desert were a constant menace both in the towns and in the cultivated areas. The once great city of Alexandria had sunk to a small town of some 15,000 inhabitants. The whole population of Egypt numbered a little over 2,000,000. The native Egyptians, both Moslems and Copts, had no responsible share in the government of the country, and cowered in utter subjection beneath the rapacity and violence of the Mameluke beys, who, under the usually nominal suzerainty of the Turkish sultan, were the real masters of the country.

To trace the origin of the Mamelukes it is necessary to go back to the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth centuries, when Salah-ed-Din al Ayyubi and his descendants ruled in Egypt. Finding the docile and peace- loving peasantry of Egypt unsuitable as soldiers either for guarding their persons or for prosecuting their wars, the Ayyubi rulers recruited their armies from slaves, most of whom were of Turcoman origin. With the decline of the . . .

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