The Middle East in Transition: Studies in Contemporary History

By Walter Z. Laqueur | Go to book overview

EGYPTIAN ATTITUDES TOWARDS LAND REFORM, 1922-1955

by GABRIEL BAER


I. VIEWS ON AGRARIAN REFORM PRIOR TO THE MILITARY REVOLUTION

A. The Social and Political Background

FEW PEOPLE would deny that the distribution-structure of landed property in Egypt prior to the Military Revolution seriously impeded Egyptian economic development. This fact alone, however, or even the realization of its significance on the part of Egypt's leaders or sections of Egyptian public opinion, was not sufficient to give rise to a popular demand for agrarian reform, let alone its implementation. The question of the distribution of private landed property engaged Egyptian public opinion only to a slight degree before the 1940's. Apart from the proposal advanced by the insignificant Communist Party in the early 1920's,1 no demand was made to limit the size of the great estates or to confiscate them, and there was no public discussion of the question.

This phenomenon requires some explanation, since it might appear strange in the light of two other facts: (a) the inimical effect on the economy of the prevailing distribution of land was marked before the 1940's, and two attempts to stabilize smallholdings -- the Five Feddāns Law and the sale of state domain -- had already ended in failure; and (b) during the 'twenties, agrarian reforms were carried out in many countries of Eastern Europe, and there was the

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1
Cf. J. Castagné, Les Indes et l'Égypte vues de Russie. Extrait de la Revue du Monde Musulman ( Paris, Leroux, 1925), p. 112.

-80-

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