Egypt in Transition

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

III
The Problem of Over-Population

The population in Egypt increases by one more human being every minute. The Nile Valley, over-populated like all oases, is so crowded that it can no longer feed its inhabitants. The political and diplomatic history of the country revolves round this problem: there are too many Egyptians in Egypt.

In the days of Ramses II there were 9 million Egyptians. The figure dropped to 5 millions in the Christian era and to 2 ½ millions in Bonaparte's time. Towards the middle of the nineteenth century Bowring recorded a rise and estimated the population at about 4,750,000. All these figures are obviously rough estimates. The first official census in 1897 gave a figure of 10 millions and the 1947 census 19 millions. In 1956 the population was put at 23 million inhabitants. Thus the population of Egypt has doubled in less than fifty years, making the Nile Valley the most densely populated area in the world.

We have seen that the average density is 1,400 inhabitants per square mile, nearly twice that of Belgium with 730 and seven times that of France (187). A density of 1,800 inhabitants per square mile is not uncommon in rural areas, and we have seen that in Cairo it rose to 290,000.

This increase is constantly accelerating. More disturbing still is the fact that this is a recent phenomenon which has not changed over the past twenty years. The average increase of 1.3 per cent (until 1937) became 2.2 per cent, and even 2.5 per cent by 1955. And this perpetual increase suggests a steadily rising curve. But, in fact, it is due to a lower rate of infantile mortality. As many children are born as ever, but fewer of them die. A great number of adults thus reach the age of marrying and procreating and the number of births will soon be increasing. By 1965 Egypt will have nearly 30 million inhabitants.

We have already said that the main towns attracted the farm workers and that the two biggest towns, Cairo and Alexandria,

-357-

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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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