Egypt in Transition

By Jean Lacouture; Simonne Lacouture et al. | Go to book overview

II
The Agrarian Reform

This lethargic society, this servile and swollen population, and its speculative, one-crop system, give a typically colonial appearance to the Egyptian economy.

The revolutionaries had to react against this state of affairs in 1952. They had to extend the cultivable acreage, redistribute agricultural wealth, reconvert agriculture, open new markets and industrialize the country. But they also had to teach, tend and modernize the Egyptian himself, and adapt law and custom to the needs of the modern world. It needed many measures to be taken together, or each in its proper turn, to offset the effects of overpopulation. But the Officers were so little prepared for taking or rather using power, that this enormous programme could only be gradually worked out in the four years or so of the régime's existence. That is why it is still in its first stages.

But after the first few weeks of government, the Officers tackled the problem they knew most about and which appeared most urgent: this was the sharing-out of the country's agricultural resources. On the 9th of September 1952 they announced the law known as the Agrarian Reform. Neguib and his men were not the first to have tried redistributing landed property. Pharaoh, the sole owner of the land, often modified its distribution by means of gifts or transfers between the religious and military orders. But there is no document pointing to a new, overall system of property-ownership. By proclaiming himself the sole master and exploiter of the Egyptian soil, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, Mohamed Ali, as we have seen, was achieving what amounted to an agrarian reformation.

That harsh reversion to state ownership was far from being socialistic, and was closer to the old serf system. This cynical exploitation worked very well for about twenty-five years. But Mohamed Ali's second son, Sa'id Pasha, had to redistribute the land, which had been neglected by the thwarted peasantry. The most powerful

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Egypt in Transition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 5
  • Contents 7
  • Illustrations 8
  • Introduction - Egyptian Continuity And Revolutions 11
  • Part One - The Awakening of Egypt 37
  • I - The Advent of Bonaparte 39
  • II - Mohamed Ali Creates a State 50
  • III - The Cotton Boom 56
  • IV - A Revolution in Irrigation 60
  • V - The Adventurous Khedive 63
  • VI - The Arabi Revolt 69
  • VII - The Reformers 74
  • VIII - British Technocracy 78
  • IX - The 1919 Revolution 82
  • X - The Wafd 86
  • XI - Making the Best of War -- 1939 97
  • XII - The Burning of Cairo 105
  • Part Two - The Officers' Republic 123
  • I - A Short History of the 'Free Officers' Movement 125
  • II - Power -- to What Purpose? 160
  • III - Neguib's Fall 179
  • IV - The Structure of Nasser's State 192
  • V - The 'Diplomacy' of Small Nations 196
  • VI - The Political Parties 240
  • VII - Revolutionary Tendencies, 1952-57 275
  • VIII - Not a Real Revolution. 292
  • Part Three - Working Life in The Valley 307
  • I - The Land and Its Men 309
  • II - The Agrarian Reform 340
  • III - The Problem of Over-Population 357
  • IV - Economic Growing-Pains 362
  • V - Industrialization and Social Problems 367
  • VI - The Aswan Dam Problem 388
  • Part Four - Forging a Society 397
  • I - Cairo -- City of Convulsions 399
  • II - In Search of a National Culture 413
  • III - Egypt, Islam and the Modern World 430
  • Part Five - The Great Test 451
  • I - Nasser as He Really Is 453
  • II - The Suez Crisis 467
  • III - The Franco-British Invasion 481
  • IV - Egypt Carries On 493
  • V - The 'United Arab State' 505
  • A Chronology of Modern Egypt 515
  • Reading List 519
  • Index 523
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