BECK index

Egypt, Sudan, and Libya 1700-1950

by Sanderson Beck

Egypt under the Ottomans 1700-1805
Egypt of Muhammad ‘Ali 1805-48
Egypt and the British 1848-1921
Egypt and the British 1922-50
Sudan 1700-1950
Tripoli and Libya 1700-1950

This chapter has been published in the book Mideast & Africa 1700-1950.
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Egypt under the Ottomans 1700-1805

Egypt 1300-1700

In the 18th century the viceroys in Egypt tried to keep a balance between the Qasimi and Fiqari factions by appointing one as treasurer and the other as head of the pilgrimage. In the Great Sedition of 1711 Janissary commander Ifranj Ahmad called in 6,000 Hawwara Bedouins from Upper Egypt in his conflict with the ‘Azab corps, the Qasimi, and their allies, who killed him and several Fiqari. Four years later Isma‘il Bey had the rival Qasimi leader Qaytas Bey executed. In 1724 Isma‘il Bey was killed as the Circassian Mehmed Bey proscribed his household by forming an alliance with the Fiqari. Mehmed Bey was exiled and drowned in 1730, and Dhu’l Fiqar Bey was assassinated. As Qasimi power faded, Viceroy Bakir Pasha tried to divert the illegal funds of the soldiers to the treasury and had three Fiqari leaders assassinated for resisting, causing his own deposition in 1737. Sulayman Pasha arrived in August 1739 and was also deposed for instigating another assassination in January 1740.

‘Ali Pasha ibn al-Hakim promised he would not interfere with the governors; under Qazdagli officers Egypt prospered for the next thirty years as exports to Europe greatly increased. Ibrahim Katkhuda worked with Ridwan Katkhuda of the Azabs and became rich, dying in 1754. When Ridwan Katkhuda proposed another tax on coffee, he was killed by the Janissaries.

‘Ali Bey was called the “Cloud-catcher” and was brought up in the Mamluk household of Ibrahim Katkhuda. He joined a plot led by ‘Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda al-Qazdagli in 1760, and four years later he led the pilgrimage to Mecca. Having promised to pay the deficit for the past ten years, ‘Ali Bey got ‘Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda exiled to the Hijaz in 1765; but the next year ‘Ali Bey himself had to flee to Upper Egypt for a year. There he made an alliance with the wealthy Hawwara shaikh Humam (r. 1740-69) and rival Salih Bey to march on Cairo. They were victorious, and ‘Ali Bey had many of his opponents proscribed and killed. When the Viceroy tried to organize resistance in 1768, ‘Ali Bey deposed him and took his place. ‘Ali Bey remained loyal to the Ottoman sultan and in 1770 intervened to end a dispute in Mecca. After the Russian fleet destroyed the Ottoman navy at Cheshme that year, ‘Ali Bey sent a force under his mamluk Muhammad Bey Abu’l-Dhahab to take Damascus in 1771. Abu’l-Dhahab returned by way of Upper Egypt, forcing ‘Ali Bey to gather his wealth and cavalry to flee to Acre. ‘Ali Bey joined with Shaykh Zahir and the Russians against the Ottomans in Syria. When ‘Ali Bey returned to Egypt, he was imprisoned by Abu’l-Dhahab and died a week later. Abu’l Dhahab invaded Syria and died in 1775 while besieging Acre. His mamluk Murad Bey took over and returned to Cairo, and his comrade Ibrahim Bey was chosen shaykh al-balad.

Fighting and much robbery aggravated a severe economic crisis that began in 1780. In the next two years the para currency lost 54 percent of its value. In the famine of 1784 the fallahin (peasants) left their villages to avoid paying taxes to the beys. That year the pilgrimage caravan could not pay the fees at Medina. The next year a plague killed about one-sixth of the population. In 1786 the Ottomans sent troops to Egypt under Ghazi Hasan Pasha to collect their annual tribute. Ottoman control over Upper Egypt was restored also. In 1787 Yusuf al-Shirbini wrote Shaking the Peasants’ Heads, satirizing rude farmers and the pride of narrow-minded ‘ulama’. After several loyal beys died during the epidemic of 1791, Murad and Ibrahim returned to Cairo from Upper Egypt and took over the government, making an agreement with Istanbul the next year during another famine. Scholars from al-Azhar helped lead the uprising of 1795 against high taxes. Extorting money from European commercial houses eventually provoked the French.

Not only commercial interests but France’s conflict with England led the Directory to send Napoleon Bonaparte to Egypt in 1798. The General had been warned by the traveler Volney that if the French invaded Egypt, they would find themselves at war with the British, the Ottoman empire, and the Muslims. Napoleon gathered a force of 36,000 veterans and hundreds of civilian experts in 400 ships, which reached Alexandria just after Nelson’s British fleet had left there. On July 2, 1798 a French army quickly stormed Alexandria and read Bonaparte’s proclamation that he respected Islam, that he had destroyed the Pope and the Knights of Malta, and that they had come only to terminate the tyranny of the Mamluks.

Murad Bey persuaded Ibrahim and Sa’id Abu Bekir Pasha that they should resist the French invasion; but in the battle by the pyramids the French killed about 2,000 Egyptians while only losing ten of their men. Murad fled south up the Nile to Upper Egypt while Ibrahim and the Pasha deserted Cairo for Palestine. On August 1 Nelson’s squadron returned and destroyed the French fleet at Abuqir, leaving ships to blockade the harbor. Although Napoleon claimed to be acting on behalf of the Ottoman empire, the French did not even have an ambassador in Istanbul. The British had Spencer Smith there, and he formed a coalition with the Ottomans and Russia. On September 11 Sultan Selim III (r. 1789-1807) declared war on France.

The French levied money from the merchants and artisans of Alexandria and Cairo, and Mamluk properties were confiscated. Everyone was required to register their properties with the Government or lose them, and new urban taxes were imposed. After Napoleon had the local administrator Muhammad al-Kurayyim executed as a traitor, Egyptians in Cairo rose up in October and killed 300 French while losing more than two thousand in two days of insurrection; ten shaikhs were beheaded. In February 1799 Napoleon led 13,000 troops and stormed al-‘Arish. After Jaffa killed his messenger, the town was taken; then Napoleon had two or three thousand prisoners shot. General Desaix led French troops into Upper Egypt and occupied the Red Sea port of Qusayr in May 1799. Napoleon’s siege of Acre failed, and his battered army returned to Cairo in June.

Napoleon secretly left Egypt in August with a few officers, leaving General Kléber in command. He wanted to evacuate Egypt and began negotiating with the Ottoman vizier in December. That month an Ottoman army reconquered al-‘Arish. A month later an agreement was made that the French would be escorted out of Egypt by the Ottoman allies; but the British government rejected the Convention of al-‘Arish, and in March 1800 the French defeated the Ottoman army at Heliopolis, causing another insurrection in Cairo. Kléber besieged Cairo for several weeks; after an assault resulted in capitulation, he punished the city with fines.

Kléber was assassinated in June 1800 and was replaced by General Jacques Menou, who wanted to colonize Egypt. He converted to Islam and married an Egyptian. He tried to reform the land taxes and the judicial system. In March 1801 British General Abercromby landed with a force of about 15,000 British troops, followed by about 7,000 Ottomans at Abuqir. Abercromby was killed; but as the British marched toward Cairo, an army of 7,000 from Palestine led by the Ottoman Vizier Yusuf Ziya Pasha entered the Delta. France’s General Belliard in Cairo surrendered on June 27. After evacuating in August, General Menou surrendered at Alexandria, and his French forces also left Egypt. The extensive research the French did was published in twenty volumes as Description de l’Egypte. The significant discovery of the trilingual inscription on the Rosetta Stone facilitated the deciphering of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, providing the literary keys to much ancient knowledge.

Ten thousand Ottoman soldiers had not been paid and looted Egypt. Amid the breakdown of law and order, the English General Hutchinson tried to protect the Mamluk beys after Yusuf Pasha killed and arrested many of them. In the March 1802 Treaty of Amiens the British agreed to withdraw from Egypt by July; but General Stuart did not pull British forces out until March 1803, taking with him Mamluk Bey Muhammad Alfi, who had driven people out of Upper Egypt with his excessive taxation. To curtail Mamluk power the Sultan Selim had decreed that Circassian slave boys were no longer allowed to be imported and sold in Egypt; the beys were assigned to the province of Aswan but were supplied with arms by Stuart. Khusrav Pasha imposed arbitrary taxes despite a weak economy and sent Albanian troops led by Tahir Pasha to pursue the Mamluks in the provinces. When the Albanians returned to Cairo for their pay, Khusrav had his troops fire on them. The Albanians bombarded the Viceroy’s palace, and Khusrav fled to Damietta.

When Tahir had trouble paying Turkish officers, he was murdered. His deputy Muhammad ‘Ali formed an alliance with Bardisi Bey, and they captured Khusrav. The next viceroy ‘Ali Jezairly arrived in July; but he stayed in Alexandria because Ibrahim Bey told him he could only bring an escort of 200 men into Cairo. The Mamluks controlled the grain market, and people in Cairo were starving. Bardisi ordered Muhammad ‘Ali to break in and distribute grain, making the latter a hero. Jezairly demanded the Mamluk beys submit, but the Mamluks and Albanians put him to death in January 1804. Muhammad ‘Ali ordered his soldiers to stop the looting and arrest anyone molesting civilians. When Alfi returned, the Albanians demanded pay from Bardisi, who sent them to plunder Alfi. Unsatisfied, Muhammad ‘Ali attacked the house of Bardisi, who fled. Muhammad ‘Ali became popular for stopping an exorbitant tax and for having the Albanians troops drive the Mamluks out of Cairo. He released Khusrav and proclaimed him viceroy; but the Albanian captains quickly deported Khusrav to Istanbul.

Egypt of Muhammad ‘Ali 1805-48

The Cairo leaders selected Alexandria’s Pasha Khurshid as viceroy, and he was confirmed by imperial edict in April 1805. Khurshid brought in Kurdish Delhis, and their looting, kidnapping, raping, and killing alienated the people of Cairo until finally the chief judge and leaders persuaded Muhammad ‘Ali to take over as viceroy (wali) in May; this was accepted by Sultan Selim two months later. In August 1805 Muhammad ‘Ali arranged for the Mamluks to enter Cairo and had them ambushed by his soldiers; but the Albanians’ attack on the beys under Ibrahim Bey at Giza failed. Next Muhammad ‘Ali sent an army under Hussain Pasha to drive the Kurdish Dehlis out of Egypt to Syria. Further expeditions attacked the Mamluks and collected taxes from the peasants (fallahin). Merchandise was seized, and the Christian and Jewish minorities especially suffered. In July 1806 a Turkish admiral arrived at Alexandria to remove Muhammad ‘Ali. Alfi had offered 1,500 purses for power but sent the envoy to Bardisi and Ibrahim for two-thirds of it. Muhammad ‘Ali agreed to pay 4,000 purses to be confirmed as viceroy and borrowed it from wives of Mamluks and wealthy Christians.

After Bardisi and Alfi died, in 1807 Muhammad ‘Ali sent an army to subdue the Mamluks in Upper Egypt. In March a British brigade led by General Wauchope landed at Rosetta; but Governor Ali Bey’s forces defeated them, killing ninety and capturing twenty. Muhammad ‘Ali at Asyut asked the Mamluks to help him drive out the British, and in April the Turks won a bloody battle against the British who were led by General Stewart. In exchange for the return of his prisoners, General Frazer evacuated Alexandria in September 1807. The next year Muhammad ‘Ali agreed to sell grain to the British army. He had triumphed; but he was shot at by his own troops, and his palace was attacked by Ottoman and Albanian troops demanding back pay. He promised them three months and a bonus when they gained control over Upper Egypt. He granted Shahin Bey the province of Fayum. Muhammad ‘Ali’s oldest son Ibrahim had been held hostage for a year in Istanbul; but in 1807 he returned to become defterdar (treasurer) for the next six years. Later when Ibrahim Pasha was governing Upper Egypt, he followed his father’s orders in having the Coptic moneychanger Muallim Ghali executed for opposing a new tax on date palms.

Mamluks were allowed to govern in Upper Egypt and paid taxes to Muhammad ‘Ali. In 1809 he began taxing the waqf or rizqa lands that had been set aside for religious purposes to pay for mosques and madrasas (schools). ‘Umar Makram led a revolt that failed, and Muhammad ‘Ali exiled his former ally to Damietta. As Muhammad ‘Ali got more control over Upper Egypt, he gained revenue by exporting its grain. Egypt began building a fleet of eighteen ships for the Red Sea in 1809. The Ottoman Sultan Mustafa IV had been asking Muhammad ‘Ali to send forces against the Wahhabi revolt in Arabia, and the Pasha of Egypt announced a ceremony to invest his 16-year-old son Tusun with the command. On March 1, 1811 the 24 Mamluk beys and 60 agents he invited were massacred by the Albanians. There and in their houses more than a thousand Mamluks may have been murdered, and Muhammad ‘Ali expropriated their tax farms (iltizamat). Then Ibrahim was sent to dispossess other tax farmers (multazimun) also and to seize all the rizqa lands in Upper Egypt. In seven years Muhammad ‘Ali had tripled his annual revenue, and trade with Europe was increasing. In 1813 he ordered a survey of all agricultural land in Egypt in order to regulate the collection of taxes.

Tusun’s army captured Mecca and Medina early in 1813; but Muhammad ‘Ali went to the Hijaz himself in August and replaced the less competent Tusun with his oldest son Ibrahim. Viceroy Muhammad ‘Ali sent the mamluk Latif Agha to present the keys of Mecca and Medina to the Sultan in Istanbul, and they plotted to replace the Viceroy of Egypt; but while Muhammad ‘Ali was in Arabia, his deputy Muhammad Lazughlu had Pasha Latif Agha beheaded in Cairo. When the Viceroy returned, the Albanians were upset by his reforms making their tax farms unprofitable and by his modernizing military uniforms and discipline, imitating the French. An assassination attempt was foiled, and the Viceroy ordered compensation to the merchants for the frustrated rebels’ looting. Ibrahim captured the Wahhabi capital of al-Diriya after a six-month siege in 1818.

Egypt began manufacturing its own gunpowder and armaments in 1815. The same year Government factories began weaving cotton, jute, and silk, prohibiting private looms. The Viceroy Muhammad ‘Ali monopolized staple foods and cash crops such as cotton, which was grown in the Delta. Fallahin had to sell their grain to the Government at its fixed price. Merchants worked for the Government or went out of business. Children were brought into the factories and were trained to be workers. In 1820 the Viceroy ordered all foreign merchants to pay their debts or leave Egypt. In the 1820s embargoes blocked the importation of foreign textiles, except for luxuries. By 1825 total imports into Egypt had risen to $5,043,000, but total exports were valued at $10,636,529.

Muhammad ‘Ali modernized government bureaucracy according to Ottoman and French models. He put large numbers to work using corvée labor, improving and adding canals. The new canal from the Nile to Alexandria was named after Sultan Mahmud and was completed in 1820. The Viceroy sent his son Isma‘il Pasha to capture slaves from Sudan, which was made a colony; but of the 20,000 slaves taken to Aswan for his modern army, only 3,000 were still alive in 1824. Funj’s Sultan Badi VI surrendered in 1821 at Sennar while another force led by Treasurer Muhammad Bey Khusrav was conquering Kordofan. Distant Darfur could not be subjugated and was not annexed by Egypt until 1874. Isma‘il on his way through Shindi in 1822 demanded $30,000 and 6,000 slaves in two days. When the local Ja‘liyin chief Nimir protested that was too much, Isma‘il hit him with his pipe. In revenge for this insult, Nimir had Isma‘il and his staff burned in a dwelling. Khusrav came and used firearms to suppress the uprising with massacres.

Muhammad ‘Ali conscripted 4,000 men from Upper Egypt and built up his army to 130,000, using half his budget to pay them. Originally conscription was only supposed to be for three years; but continuing wars kept soldiers so long that by 1835 Ibrahim suggested limiting it to only fifteen years. Ottoman Turks were considered superior, and peasants speaking Arabic were not promoted above the rank of captain. Conscription in Lower Egypt caused a rebellion in 1823, and the next year 30,000 men and women revolted in Upper Egypt; but the troops sent remained loyal and quelled the rebellion by killing 4,000 in two weeks. The modern army proved its effectiveness by defeating a Wahhabi force ten times its size in the Hijaz. An explosion in the powder magazine of the Cairo citadel killed 4,000 on March 24, 1824. Disgruntled Albanian troops were blamed, but a modern battalion restored order.

In 1821 Sultan Mahmud II had asked Egypt to help fight the Greeks, and the next year they suppressed the revolt on the island of Crete. Ibrahim Pasha led 17,000 trained troops that fought more successfully than the Ottomans and occupied the Morea. The Egyptian army captured Choron, Navarino, and Tripolitza in 1825, Missolonghi the next year, and Athens in June 1827. A quarrel between Muhammad ‘Ali and Ottoman fleet commander Khusrav got the latter removed; but on October 20, 1827 the French-British-Russian fleet destroyed the Egyptian-Turkish navy at Navarino Bay. The Egyptian army left the Morea the next year. The Viceroy and his son Ibrahim blamed the Sultan for refusing to accept European mediation for Greek independence. Muhammad ‘Ali ordered a new navy built at Bulaq and Alexandria. Sultan Mahmud II had promised him part of Syria but gave him only rebellious Crete. Egypt had established government printing about 1822, and in 1828 Muhammad ‘Ali authorized the publishing of an official gazette. A council of 156 advisors with Ibrahim as chairman was established the next year.

In November 1831 the Egyptian army and navy led by Ibrahim Pasha invaded Syria by landing at Jaffa with 30,000 troops and besieging Acre. Muhammad ‘Ali told the Ottoman envoy that Acre was his; he would stop there if the Sultan agreed. If not, he would take Damascus and stop there if that was accepted; if not, he would take Aleppo. Ibrahim’s army stormed Acre in May 1832, killing 5,600 of its 6,000 men. They took Damascus in June and marched on Aleppo in July, capturing eight pashas and killing 2,000 men near Homs. Ibrahim invaded Anatolia and captured Konya in December. He wanted to march to Istanbul; but a letter from his father made him stop at Kutaya. In the treaty of May 1833 Ibrahim was made viceroy of Acre, Damascus, Tripoli, and Aleppo and tax collector for Adana in Anatolia; but Egypt still had to pay annual tribute to the Ottoman sultan. Conscription and new taxes to pay for the occupation caused rebellion in Syria, and within a few years at least 60,000 soldiers had deserted. Ibrahim followed his father’s policy of religious toleration; this was welcomed by the Christians, but it was resented by the majority Muslims.

With so many men in the Egyptian army, women had to work, mostly in the Viceroy’s factories. Prostitution spread disease, and in 1834 it was banned in the cities. Following a plague in 1835 Egypt established free clinics in urban areas, and a new hospital with a medical school was built at Cairo in 1837. The autocratic Viceroy allowed the private manufacture of cloth in 1835. Apparently he discovered that private incentives were more profitable, but he taxed them highly. Egypt had 29 cotton factories in 1837; but war, plague, and perhaps competition had reduced the number of factories to 15 by 1840.

In 1838 Sultan Mahmud II ordered Muhammad ‘Ali to dismantle his fleet and reduce Egypt’s army; he refused, and 70,000 Ottoman troops invaded Syria in April 1839. Ibrahim Pasha won his last great victory at Nezib, capturing 10,000 prisoners. Sultan Mahmud died before hearing of the defeat, and his 16-year-old son Abdul Mejid succeeded him. Two weeks later the Ottoman navy sailed to Alexandria and defected to Egypt. Envoys of Britain, France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria intervened diplomatically. England’s foreign minister Henry Palmerston wanted to curtail Muhammad ‘Ali’s power lest the Ottoman empire turn to Russia for protection. He got the young Sultan to agree to the Balta Liman treaty that banned monopolies in the Ottoman empire. In September 1840 Charles Napier led a British squadron to Beirut and demanded that the Egyptian army evacuate the Levant. Ibrahim led his reduced and starving army of 20,000 back to Egypt. In 1841 Muhammad ‘Ali accepted an imperial edict that recognized his authority in Egypt and established that he would be succeeded by his oldest male relative. The annual tribute to the Ottoman empire was set at 18,000 purses (9 million francs), and the Egyptian army was not to exceed 18,000 men. Egypt was to be under Ottoman imperial law and could not build warships without permission from the Sultan.

After the end of government monopolies, large private estates increased the use of arable land from about ten percent in 1818 to about 45 percent in 1844. In 1836 the uhda system allowed the wealthy to take over lands where the taxes were in arrears. By 1837 these estates could be inherited, and in 1842 they became private property. Thus Muhammad ‘Ali let the elite acquire these assets, and by 1845 his family owned 19% of the land. Muhammad ‘Ali declined in old age. Ibrahim Pasha took over the government in 1848 but died a few weeks later.

Egypt and the British 1848-1921

When Muhammad ‘Ali died in 1849, he already had been succeeded by his grandson ‘Abbas (1848-54). He continued the autocratic rule of Egypt, and in 1851 he agreed to pay increased tribute to Istanbul in order to reestablish his right to confirm some death penalties. ‘Abbas was suspicious of European influence, and he told the British that the railway to be built between Cairo and Alexandria would be financed and administered by the Egyptian government. In 1854 ‘Abbas sent money and troops to help the Ottoman empire in the Crimean War. He and his successor Sa’id maintained the Egyptian army at about 50,000 men despite the 1841 edict. ‘Abbas was criticized for personal cruelty, and in July 1854 he died, probably murdered by two of his slaves.

Muhammad Sa’id (r. 1854-63) was the fourth son of Muhammad ‘Ali and became viceroy of Egypt. He allowed free trade, and he ordered taxes collected in coin rather than in kind except in Upper Egypt. He borrowed money to construct canals, railways, bridges, harbors, and telegraph lines. In 1854 Sa’id gave his friend Ferdinand de Lesseps land free of taxes for ten years for the Suez Canal and purchased 64,000 shares. The British opposed French construction of the isthmus canal and persuaded the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Mejid to withhold permission. In 1858 de Lesseps went ahead anyway and sold shares for 200 million francs (£8 million), mostly in France and some more to Egypt.

Unlike his predecessor, Sa’id welcomed European participation in Egypt, and he allowed them to use the Capitulations to try cases involving Europeans in consular courts. He trusted European bankers, who made £21,876,000 in fees and commissions, about a third of the loans to Egypt. For centuries corvée labor had been used to clear irrigation canals, and this continued. Slavery remained a part of Egyptian culture, as many slaves brought from the Greek war chose to remain slaves in Egypt rather than return. Slaves in Egypt often considered themselves better off than the peasants subject to the corvée. Sa’id conscripted all parts of the population, but Christian Copts resisted military service. Some Bedouins refused to farm as settlers and went back to raiding. Sa’id Pasha died in January 1863 and was succeeded by his nephew Isma‘il.

Isma‘il I (r. 1863-79), son of Ibrahim, at first benefited from a four-fold increase in the price of cotton because of the civil war in the United States. In 1866 he used lobbying money (bakshish) to get the Sultan Abdul Aziz to change the Egyptian succession to his own oldest son. Egypt’s annual tribute to the Ottoman empire was nearly doubled the next year when Abdul Aziz proclaimed him khedive (viceroy). Contributions also allowed Egypt to acquire the Red Sea ports of Suakin and Mitsiwa in 1865. The Turkish captain Selim had led an Egyptian expedition as far south as Gondokoro in 1841, and others used Khartoum as a base for raiding in the Sudan. In 1869 the khedive sent British explorer Samuel Baker to the lake country of western Uganda. He reached Gondokoro in April 1871 and established a monopoly over ivory one year later. By 1875 Isma‘il had extended his authority to Harar in eastern Abyssinia (Ethiopia), but the defeat of the commander-in-chief Ratib Pasha by the Abyssinians the next year tarnished the reputation of the Turco-Circassian officers.

The Egyptian government still allowed slave trafficking from the Sudan down the Nile, and Khartoum became the entrepot for this lucrative trade. Shaykh Rifa‘a al-Tahtawi (1801-73) had published his thoughts on the French Revolution and urged a secular constitution for Egypt to protect civil liberties in 1834; but these ideas did not take hold for thirty years. He brought a renaissance to literary Arabic by translating European works, though Viceroy ‘Abbas closed down the translation bureau and sent Tahtawi to Sudan. His 1869 book The Paths of Egyptian Hearts to the Joys of the Modern Way of Life started a national movement toward socialism. Al-Tahtawi advocated sharing work among all for the public interest. Foreign minister Nubar Pasha proposed an international tribunal to replace the consular courts, and in 1875 fourteen European nations agreed to independent tribunals mixed with European and Egyptian judges using the Napoleonic Code. Nubar had to go into exile because Isma‘il was upset that he was now subject to this jurisdiction.

Isma‘il greatly increased Egypt’s debt from £7 million to £98 million by 1876. About twice as much as was spent on the Suez Canal went into 910 miles of new railways, and nearly that much also paid for maintaining 8,400 miles of Nile canals. They also built 64 sugar mills and extended telegraph lines 5,200 miles. In 1864 Viceroy Isma‘il and Ottoman Sultan Abdul Aziz agreed to let France’s Napoleon III arbitrate the Suez Canal project, and he withdrew the company’s right to use free Egyptian labor and returned the land to Egypt for 84 million francs. The work resumed in 1866, and Napoleon III’s wife Eugénie witnessed the opening of the historic canal on November 17, 1869. The English avoided using the Suez Canal at first, but by 1874 it was making a profit. That year Isma‘il sold his 187,603 shares of Canal stock to the British for almost £4 million. The next year Isma‘il Pasha had so much debt that he sold all Egypt’s shares to British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli for £4 million. The Suez Canal had cost the Egyptian government more than £13 million, and all it got for this was the Sweet Water Canal and the land it irrigated. After 1875 Egypt’s courts had more foreign judges than Egyptians, they used a French code and the French language.

In December 1875 the British sent Stephen Cave to investigate Egypt’s finances, and his report was published in April 1876. By then Egypt had a foreign debt of £68 million, an internal debt of £14.5 million, and a floating debt of £16 million. They could no longer pay the £5 million annual interest on the debt. A decree on May 2 created the Commission on the Debt with appointees from Britain, France, Austria, and Italy which reduced the debt to £85 million and reserved £4 million from Egypt’s annual budget for the debt. In October another investigation led to dual control by the English and French over Egypt and its finances. In 1878 Major Evelyn Baring led a commission that recommended taking over the estates of Egypt and making Isma‘il a constitutional sovereign with the Armenian Christian Nubar Bughus as Prime Minister, Rivers Wilson as Minister of Finance, and de Blignieres as Minister of Public Works. Many Egyptians objected, and Col. Ahmed ‘Urabi led a revolt against European control.

Khedive (Viceroy) Isma‘il would not agree, and so the British and French persuaded Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II to replace Isma‘il with his son Tawfiq on June 26, 1879. Isma‘il went into exile and died in Istanbul as Baring, Auckland Colvin, and the French de Blignieres governed the country. The Assembly of Delegates was dissolved, and Col. ‘Urabi led the anti-foreign movement and gained control of the army. Muhammad Sharif was prime minister from April to August 1879. His following and ‘Urabi’s formed the National Party (al-Hizb al-Watani). In September the British and French forced Tawfiq to accept Mustafa Riyad as prime minister. Muhammad Sharif and others anonymously published “Manifesto of the Egyptian Nationalist Party” in November; but after they submitted a petition in 1880, his La Réforme newspaper was suppressed. The Law of Liquidation set aside half of Egypt’s revenues for payment of the debt.

In January 1881 ‘Urabi opposed the Circassian War minister Rifqi Pasha with a petition and had him arrested, but he was freed by mutineers. Tawfiq dismissed Rifqi and appointed ‘Urabi’s friend Barudi Pasha as War minister. In September a military demonstration in Cairo forced Tawfiq to put Sharif in charge of the government and summon the Assembly. In January 1882 the English and French tried to strengthen Khedive Tawfiq, but this caused Egyptians to turn against him. The Assembly of Delegates supported ‘Urabi, and Sharif resigned. Barudi became prime minister and appointed ‘Urabi War minister. Nationalist demonstrations in Alexandria led to riots that killed nearly fifty foreigners, and in July the British navy led by Admiral Beauchamp Seymour overthrew the ‘Urabists by shelling and invading Alexandria. On July 25 British Prime Minister Gladstone got the House of Commons to authorize £2.3 million for the military in Egypt. The British also took over Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez. On September 13 the British troops defeated the ‘Urabists at Tel-al-Kebir, and they captured Cairo the next day. British Special Commissioner Lord Dufferin prevented ‘Urabi from being executed and sent him into exile to Ceylon. Dufferin suggested how the British could govern Egypt. In 1883 the General Assembly had fourteen members appointed by the Viceroy (Khedive) and sixteen elected.

Evelyn Baring came back to Egypt as Consul-General in 1883 and became known as Lord Cromer in 1892. He immediately withdrew from Sudan to save money, and he appointed Mustafa Fahmi’s son-in-law Sa’d Zaghlul as Minister of Education. In 1885 the Convention of London secured an international loan for Egypt with added participation by Germany and Russia in the Commission on the Debt. In June 1888 Prime Minister Nubar challenged Baring and was dismissed and replaced by Mustafa Riyad. By 1889 Egypt was running a budget surplus. A clash over the Justice ministry caused Riyad to resign in 1891, and Mustafa Fahmi became a compliant prime minister to Baring.

Muhammad ‘Abduh was born in 1849 into an educated family. He studied at al-Azhar University in Cairo, where he became a disciple of the Iranian philosopher, Jamal al-Din al-Afghani, who advocated Pan-Islamism and Arab independence from European colonialism. In 1877 ‘Abduh began teaching philosophy, history, and Arabic. He became the chief editor of Egypt’s official newspaper, al- Waqa’i al-Misriyya, and he worked to reform Egyptian society through religious and scientific education. He criticized corruption, luxuries of the rich, and superstition. He participated in the ‘Urabi revolt, and in 1882 he went into exile in Lebanon. In 1884 he and al-Afghani published the periodical, The Insoluble Bond. That year ‘Abduh moved to Paris and then lived in London before going back to Beirut in 1885.

‘Abduh returned to Egypt in 1888 and was appointed a judge. In 1897 he published his Theology of Unity (Risalat al-tawhid) to integrate religion and science. From 1899 until his death in 1905 ‘Abduh served as Grand Mufti of Egypt. He traveled and studied French law and European literature. ‘Abduh was for modernizing Islamic law and adding modern history, geography, and science to education. He accepted the Qur’an and hadith (traditions), but he also believed in the value of individual reasoning and judgment. He introduced to Egyptians the Arabic classic Peak of Eloquence (Nahj al-Balagha) with his commentary. His reforms inspired the Salafiya movement in Arab countries and with Muslims as far away as Indonesia. Al-Afghani emphasized Islamic solidarity, and ‘Abduh worked for educational, legal, and spiritual reforms.

Viceroy Tawfiq died in 1891 and was succeeded by his 17-year-old son ‘Abbas Hilmi II (r. 1892-1914). He dismissed Mustafa Fahmi in January 1893, but Cromer objected. After Nubar was premier again, Cromer got Fahmi reinstated in November 1895. Fahmi then served as prime minister until November 1908. Mustafa Kamil (1874-1908) founded the newspaper The Standard (al-Liwa) in 1900 and urged Egyptians to support the Khedive against the British. In June 1906 villagers in Dinshaway killed a British officer who was hunting pigeons, and a mixed tribunal had four people executed, four sentenced to life, and fourteen flogged. Kamil organized a strike by students at the law school, beginning an era of protest. In March 1907 moderate nationalists led by Ahmad Lutfi founded The Newspaper (al-Jarida) and the People’s Party (Hizb al-Umma) in September. Cromer resigned in May 1907. Shaykh ‘Ali Yusuf had been publishing the al-Mu’ayyad newspaper since 1889, and he organized the Constitutional Reform Party to support the Khedive. Mustafa Kamil revived the National Party (Hizb al-Witani); but it ended with his death in 1908, and the Constitutional Reform Party died with its founder in 1913.

Eldon Gorst was Consul-General from 1907 until his death in July 1911. Imports and exports multiplied, and Egypt’s population increased from 6,800,000 in 1883 to 11,500,000 in 1910 while the number of British bureaucrats in the government had increased from 170 in 1883 to 662 in 1906. The army improved also. Kitchener had commanded the Egyptian army which conquered Dongola in Sudan in 1896 and won the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. The next year the British took control of Sudan by choosing a governor-general. Egyptian finances improved, and irrigation was greatly expanded. They completed the Aswan Dam in 1902 and barrages at Asyut, Zifta, and Isna. Cotton remained about 80% of Egypt’s exports and even increased to 93% in 1910. The number of foreigners in Egypt grew to more than 150,000. They dominated finances and commerce while most Egyptians remained illiterate farmers. Although school enrollment doubled from 1890 to 1910, there were still fewer than 60,000 students in modern schools of which less than a fifth were in government schools. The General Assembly refused to extend the 99-year concession to the Suez Canal Company, and its advocate, Prime Minister Butrus Ghali, was assassinated a few days later on February 10, 1910 by a secret Tadaman extremist.

Gorst was succeeded by Herbert Kitchener. Politics and government deteriorated because he tolerated no differences of opinion. He refused to appoint Zaghlul, who in 1913 was elected president of the new and more effective Legislative Assembly.

In November 1914 the British declared war on the Ottoman empire, and they proclaimed Egypt a protectorate on December 18. When Viceroy Abbas Hilmi visited Istanbul, he was deposed on November 19 and replaced by Sultan Husayn Kamil. He died in October 1917 and was succeeded by his brother Ahmad Fu’ad I. Prime Minister Rushdi Pasha followed British advice on foreign policy during the war, and Cairo was used as a military headquarters by the British. The price of cotton went up from $12 a kantar in 1914 to $39 by 1917. Growing more cotton caused a food shortage and very high prices. The large numbers of troops from the British empire caused conflicts and stimulated the nationalist movement. War profiteering also caused inflation that hurt those on fixed incomes. The British also recruited Egyptian workers in labor battalions, and food production declined. Nationalists took hope from Wilson’s Fourteen Points that promised freedom from foreign domination after the war.

Anti-British riots erupted in 1918, and on November 13 Sa’d Zaghlul, Ali Sha’arawi, and Abdul Aziz Fahmi formed the Egyptian Delegation (al-Wafd al-Misri) and demanded independence from the British High Commissioner Reginald Wingate. Thousands of telegrams and signatures were ignored, and in 1919 Zaghlul founded the Wafd Party. On March 8 the British arrested and then deported Zaghlul and three other Wafdists to Malta. Workers, students, and others went on strike. Cairo was isolated, and on March 17 High Commissioner Edmund Allenby sent in troops from Syria to crush the insurrection. The next day eight British military officers were murdered on a train going from Aswan to Cairo. Zaghlul was allowed to go to Paris and speak at the Peace Conference before going to London. The British cabinet sent Alfred Milner to investigate in December, and in March 1920 his report recommended an alliance between Britain and Egypt. A treaty was drafted in August, but negotiations became deadlocked.

Zaghlul returned to Egypt in April 1921 and worked to block any treaty that did not first lift martial law. More riots broke out, and he and others were deported again. Prime Minister Adli Yeghen Pasha spent the summer in England negotiating, but he resigned in December. Sarwat Pasha became acting prime minister and formed a cabinet, hoping the British would recognize Egypt as an independent state. On December 19 Zaghlul was banned from political activity; but he continued his agitation, and Allenby deported him to the Seychelles.

Egypt and the British 1922-50

High Commissioner Edmund Allenby went to London and came back with a unilateral declaration on February 28, 1922 proclaiming Egypt independent. Martial law was to end as soon as the Sultan’s government agreed to an indemnity; but England reserved secure communications, defense, protection of foreigners and minorities, and relations with Sudan. Sultan Fu’ad accepted the declaration and assumed the title of king on March 15. A worldwide collapse in prices caused Egyptian cotton to drop from $187 a cantar to $18. However, this helped the peasants (fellahin) because more food was grown instead. The Liberal Constitution Party broke off from the Wafd.

On April 19, 1923 King Fu’ad promulgated a constitution based on the Belgian constitution of 1830, which retained much power for the crown and established a bicameral legislature. The King appointed two-fifths of the senators, and the rest were elected to ten-year terms. The Chamber of Deputies was elected by districts with five-year terms. Martial law was lifted in July. Amnesty allowed Zaghlul and his party to return and participate in a campaign leading up to the first constitutional elections, which were held in January 1924. Zaghlul’s Wafd Party won 188 of the 215 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. Zaghlul became prime minister and worked to revise the unilateral declaration, hoping that the British Labour Party led by Ramsay MacDonald would be sympathetic. However, talks broke down, and demonstrations sprang up again.

On November 19, 1924 a Wafdist fanatic assassinated Lee Stack, the governor-general of Sudan and commander of the Egyptian army. High Commissioner Allenby demanded an apology, punishment of the assassins, an indemnity of £500,000, prohibition of public protests, and removal of Egyptian troops from Sudan. He insisted that British officers oversee the departments of Finance, Justice, and the European portion of Interior. He also planned to extend irrigation in the Gezira district of Sudan. Prime Minister Zaghlul was especially concerned by the irrigation affecting Egypt’s water supply and resigned on November 24. His successor Ziwar Pasha formed a non-Wafd cabinet and accepted Allenby’s conditions, though the irrigation was later reversed. This increased the British control over Egypt and removed Egypt’s influence in Sudan. In March 1925 the Chamber of Deputies elected Zaghlul its president, and King Fu’ad reacted by dissolving the parliament. Fu’ad appointed new ministers to his cabinet that was dominated by Nashat Pasha and the new Unionist (Ittihad) Party founded by Yehya Ibrahim Pasha. The Gezira irrigation project began providing more water for the Sudan, and the Sennar Dam was completed on the Blue Nile.

Allenby retired in 1925, and Lord Lloyd became high commissioner. He joined Wafd’s call for new elections, and King Fu’ad complied. The Wafd won again, but Lloyd persuaded Zaghlul to let Adli Pasha of the Liberal Party be prime minister. After struggling against the Wafd, the King, and the British, he resigned in April 1927 and was replaced by the Liberal Sarwat (‘Abd al-Khaliq Tharwat). That summer he began negotiating a treaty of alliance with British Foreign Secretary Austen Chamberlain. Zaghlul died in August, and Nahhas Pasha became the leader of the Wafd Party. The issue of British troops in Egypt caused the negotiations to break down in March 1928. Sarwat resigned, and Nahhas became prime minister. King Fu’ad released documents showing that he and two associates had received £130,000 for having transferred the King’s estates. The former Wafdist Muhammad Mahmud became prime minister and cooperated with the British and King Fu’ad. Mahmud dissolved the parliament and suspended the constitution for three years. A treaty helped regulate the water for both the Sudan and Egypt.

In 1929 when the Labour Party replaced the Conservatives, Arthur Henderson became foreign secretary and dismissed High Commissioner Lloyd. In June the Labour cabinet made concessions to the Egyptian nationalists by agreeing to remove troops except from the Suez Canal and to abolish the Capitulations that gave foreigners privileges. However, Mahmud could not get the Wafd to ratify the new treaty. The British insisted on new elections, and Mahmud resigned. In December the Wafd Party won the elections again, and Mustafa Nahhas became prime minister; but he had already denounced the treaty. King Fu’ad managed to get Nahhas to resign in June 1930 and appointed Isma‘il Sidqi prime minister. Parliament was dissolved, and Nahhas instigated violent demonstrations. The British sent the navy, and Sidqi restored order to reduce foreign intervention. He abrogated the constitution of 1923 and changed voting rules to keep the Wafd from winning. Sidqi organized the new People’s (Sha’b) Party that won the elections boycotted by Wafd and the Liberals. Sidqi suffered a paralytic stroke, and King Fu’ad used a minor scandal to remove Sidqi in September 1933. In the next decade a series of prime ministers had little power as the controller of the royal estates, al-Ibrashi, gained influence under the ill Fu’ad.

In November 1934 Egypt tried to go back to the 1923 constitution, but this was blocked by the British. During the Italian intervention in Ethiopia the British increased their military presence in Egypt, moving their naval headquarters from Malta to Alexandria. Nahhas, Sidqi, and Mahmud united against the compliant Prime Minister Nessim Pasha. British Foreign Secretary Samuel Hoare criticized the Egyptian constitutions, and anti-British riots broke out on November 21, 1935. King Fu’ad restored the 1923 constitution on December 12, and elections were planned for spring. The National Front joined Wafd and the King, but Fu’ad died in April 1936 and was succeeded by his son Faruq. In May the Wafd Party won 166 of the 232 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and a majority in the Senate. Nahhas became prime minister again with an all-Wafd cabinet and appointed the regent. He was trusted to make a treaty with the British that was signed on August 26, replacing the occupation with a 20-year military alliance. Unlimited Egyptian immigration and Egyptian troops were allowed in Sudan. The Chamber ratified the treaty 202-11 on December 22.

On May 8, 1937 the Montreux Convention was signed, and it removed foreigners from the tribunals by October 1. The Capitulations were scheduled to end in 1949. Foreigners became subject to Egyptian laws and taxes. Egypt joined the League of Nations. Faruq became old enough to govern in July, and Nahhas resigned at the end of the year. A coalition of Liberals, Sa‘dists, and Independents made Mahmud prime minister again, and in April 1938 they defeated the Wafd Party at the polls. Mahmud suppressed the Fascist Young Egypt (Misr el-fatat), which was founded in Cairo in 1933. Their militia wore green shirts to counter the Wafd youth wearing blue shirts. Sa‘dist leader Ali Mahir became prime minister in 1939, and he excluded Liberals and Wafdists from his cabinet; but King Faruq and the British had the power during the war. Meanwhile dam construction barely kept up with the needs of a growing population. Taking away the foreigners’ advantages enabled Egyptians to be more successful in business. Egyptians no longer felt inferior. The number of students increased to 232,000 by 1939, but most did not go beyond elementary school.

After Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, King Faruq severed diplomatic and economic relations with Germany. He declared martial law and put the ports under the British navy. When Italy declared war, Egypt broke relations with them also; but they would not fight Italy unless they were attacked. In June 1940 the anti-British Ali Maher refused to declare war on Germany and was replaced by the Independent Hasan Sabri, who formed a national government that included the pro-British Ahmad Hasanayn as chief of the cabinet. More than a half million Allied troops were stationed in Egypt during World War II. In September 1940 Italian forces came within fifty miles of Egypt, but the British led by General Archibald Wavell drove them west of Benghazi. Prime Minister Hasan Sabri died in November 1940 and was succeeded by the non-partisan Husayn Sirri. In April 1941 the British retreated to Tobruk, and they held there. The British relieved blocked shipping by buying Egypt’s cotton crop at a generous price. After Germans captured Benghazi, Husayn Sirri resigned on February 2, 1942. The British and the American ambassador insisted that King Faruq appoint Nahhas or leave the country, and he complied. The British finally defeated General Erwin Rommel’s German Africa Corps at al-Alamayn in October 1942.

Nahhas allowed favoritism and corruption, and he governed until the war emergency subsided in October 1944. That month delegates from seven Arab nations (Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Trans-Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen) met at Alexandria in the Arab Unity Conference with Nahhas presiding, and they signed the Protocol of the Arab League. Some Wafdists founded the Kutla Party, and Sa‘dist Ahmad Mahir formed a coalition government. On February 24, 1945 he told the Chamber of Deputies that he intended to declare war on Germany so that Egypt could join the United Nations; but while leaving the Chamber he was assassinated by a young Egyptian Fascist. The next leading Sa‘dist al-Nuqrashi succeeded him and declared war on Germany and Japan two days later. After Egypt was admitted into the United Nations, they began to press the British for full independence. In December 1945 Prime Minister Nuqrashi asked them to reconsider the treaty.

In February 1946 the Wafd Party, the Fascists in Young Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood, Communists, and student nationalists caused riots and forced Nuqrashi to resign. King Faruq appointed Isma‘il Sidqi again, and he permitted peaceful demonstrations. Egyptians wanted the British military occupation to end. In 1946 Egyptians were leaders at the Workers’ Congress, and they participated in the World Federation of Trade Unions. On July 4 the British turned the Cairo Citadel over to Egyptian troops. That month strikes and demonstrations provoked the arrest of Communists, and in the fall they arrested more Communist agitators at several universities. The Labor government agreed that the British would withdraw troops from Cairo, Alexandria, and the Delta in 1947 and the Suez Canal zone in 1949.

Egyptians wanted Sudan united with Egypt; but when British Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin told the Sudanese they would be independent, Nuqrashi resigned. Because of this, the Egyptian legislature refused to ratify the Bevin-Sidqi agreement on the Suez Canal Zone. After the treaty was revised, he returned to office. The issue of removing the British from Egypt was debated in the United Nations Security Council in July and August 1947, and Nuqrashi accused the British of occupying Egypt without its consent and of a hostile policy in Sudan. Egyptians were afraid that Nile water diverted to Sudan would leave them with too little water. Egypt passed a law setting minimum percentages for Egyptians in Egyptian companies. Building the Aswan hydroelectric plant started in 1948 and was estimated to cost $43,500,000. In March the British troops evacuated Cairo and established their headquarters at Fayid in the Suez Canal Zone.

Egypt loaned money to Britain during World War II and became a creditor state. Egypt invaded Palestine on May 15, 1948, declaring martial law and censorship. They advanced, but in October the Israelis pushed them out of the Negev Desert. In January 1949 they met at Rhodes and agreed to an armistice. Egypt retained possession of the Gaza strip with its 200,000 refugees.

Hasan al-Banna had founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, and they wanted to recreate Egypt as an Islamic state. Many of them fought in Palestine during the Arab insurrection that started in 1936, and others fought heroically in the war against Israel in 1948. Gangs also engaged in retaliatory attacks. In 1948 a Brotherhood member murdered Cairo’s chief of police, and 31 members of the Brotherhood were arrested. The Government banned the Brotherhood in December, and a few days later a student member assassinated Prime Minister Nuqrashi. Hasan al-Banna was murdered on February 12, 1949 in Cairo, and the police did little to look for the killers. More Egyptians began to demand the withdrawal of British troops from the Suez Canal Zone. In October 1949 the mixed tribunals were terminated. The Wafd Party did well in the elections in January 1950, winning 228 out of 321 seats. Nearly twenty million people were living in Egypt by 1950.

Sudan 1700-1950

Nubia and Ethiopia to 1700

Funj aristocrats rebelled against Sudan’s Sultan Badi III (r. 1692-1711) for using slaves in the army, but the practice continued. They deposed his son Unsa III in 1720. Under Badi IV Abu Shulukh (r. 1721-62) the Funj fought two wars against Ethiopia, winning the second in 1744. Abu Likaylik commanded the Funj army and defeated the Musabba‘at in 1747; he ruled Kordofan as viceroy for fourteen years. In 1762 he deposed Badi IV and ruled as regent for his son Nasir. After Abu Likaylik died in 1776, the Funj sultanate suffered a half century of intrigues, revolts, and civil wars. Islamic reform movements revived the spirit of the Sufi brotherhoods, and Muhammad Uthman al-Mirghani founded the Mirghaniyah (Khatmiyah) in the early 19th century.

In July 1820 Egypt’s Viceroy Muhammad ‘Ali sent an army led by his son Isma‘il to conquer Sudan. The Funj and the Sultan of Darfur surrendered the next year. Gold, livestock, and slaves were collected as taxes and sent to Egypt. The Sudanese rebelled and killed Isma‘il and his bodyguard, but the revolt was suppressed. In 1826 ‘Ali Khurshid became governor-general, lowered taxes, and listened to the advice of the respected Sudanese leader, ‘Abd al-Qadir wad az-Zayn. Amnesty was granted, and taxes were made more fair and were administered by the holy men and shaikhs who were exempted. Trade was protected and expanded, and Khartoum at the junction of the White Nile and Blue Nile became the capital in 1830. When ‘Ali Khurshid retired in 1838, his successful policies were continued by Ahmad Pasha abu Widan, who tried to eradicate official corruption. He favored the army that expanded the Egyptian administration in Kassala and among the Baqqarah Arabs in southern Kordofan. Viceroy Muhammad ‘Ali recalled him in 1843, but Widan died of poisoning before leaving Sudan.

Muhammad ‘Ali weakened the power of the next governors as Europeans came to exploit gum arabic, ostrich feathers, and the ivory trade. Sudan deteriorated until Isma‘il, son of Ibrahim, became viceroy (khedive) in 1863. The slave trade was restricted, and a growing Christian community and European merchants provoked resentment. In 1869 Isma‘il I sent Samuel Baker up the White Nile to conquer Central Africa and stop slave trading on the Upper Nile, but the slave empires in the west resisted. The most powerful slave-trader, az-Zubayr Rahma Mansur, who was known as Zubayr Pasha, gained control of the Bahr al-Ghazal. Because he could not be defeated, in 1873 Egypt made him governor as Baker retired. Egypt annexed the province of Bahr al-Ghazal in 1873 and Darfur the next year.

In 1874 Viceroy Isma‘il appointed Charles George Gordon governor of the Equatoria Province. Gordon was famous for having fought in China during the Taiping Rebellion. He tried to bring the lake kingdoms of Bunyoro and Buganda under Egyptian sovereignty, but he could only establish outposts at Foweira and Mruli in Bunyor before retiring from Equatoria. In 1877 Isma‘il signed the Anglo-Egyptian Slave Trade Convention which promised to end the slave trade in the Sudan by 1880. He made Gordon the first Christian governor-general of Sudan, and he took many Christians and Europeans with him on the crusade against slavery. They broke up the markets and imprisoned the slave traders. Muslims and slave-traders resented them. In 1879 Egypt’s financial condition collapsed from debt, and Isma‘il was deposed. Gordon resigned. Muhammad Ra‘uf became governor-general of Sudan but had no financial backing.

In June 1881 the 33-year-old charismatic Muhammad Ahmad ibn ‘Abdallah, who had been educated by Sammaniyah Sufis, proclaimed himself the divinely guided Mahdi. The Sudanese treated him as an eschatological figure and called themselves ansar (helpers of the Prophet), and by September 1882 they controlled all of Kordofan. On November 5 at Shaykan they destroyed an Egyptian army of 10,000 men led by Col. William Hicks and gained many modern weapons. Gordon was appointed governor-general of Sudan and arrived at Khartoum on February 22, 1884. That month a British and Indian force led by General Graham landed at Trinkitat to hold it and Suakin.

Meanwhile the Hadendoa tribe had joined the rebellion and were led by the wealthy slave-dealer, ‘Uthman Digna, and they threatened the garrison at Tokar. The Egyptian government sent a force of 3,500 men led by General Baker from Suakin, and they were attacked by about a thousand Arabs on February 5 by the wells of Teb. The Egyptians and black troops threw down their weapons and ran while the Sudanese battalion fired at both sides; 2,250 men and 96 officers were killed. Baker managed to gather about 1,500 men and retreat to Suakin. The victorious Arabs attacked more towns with the weapons they gained, and they destroyed the garrisons at Sinkat and Tokar. The British wanted revenge and sent Hussars from India under General Gerald Graham, and on March 4 they killed 3,000 Hadendoa. Four weeks later at Tamai the British slaughtered more Arabs. Ten thousand men had been killed in three months, and General Graham’s troops were withdrawn.

On March 18, 1884 the Mahdi with 15,000 men besieged Khartoum. General Gordon had only Sudanese troops and faced a widespread Sudanese revolt. His request for Zubayr Rahma was rejected, nor would the British send him 200 troops from Berber. On April 16 he blamed Baring for abandoning the garrisons. He proposed visiting the Mahdi himself, but that was not permitted. He begged Samuel Baker to appeal to English and American millionaires to no avail. As weeks passed, the Mahdi and his Khalifa blockaded Khartoum. Gordon alone managed to inspire about 7,000 native troops and 30,000 inhabitants to resist the Mahdist attack for 317 days, and he wrote his account in his Journals at Khartoum. When the money to pay the troops ran out, he signed personal notes. Gordon could have left on a streamer, but he remained. Finally the Desert Column of the Camel Corps left Korti on December 30 with 1,100 men, which was increased to 2,000 by the time the Mahdi learned of them. On January 16 they were attacked by Arabs and had 74 men killed and 85 wounded. Charles Wilson waited three days by the Nile and arrived two days after the battle at Khartoum. The Mahdi’s army attacked Khartoum on January 25, and Gordon came out to meet them. They rushed him, took his head to the Mahdi, and massacred most of his men.

The British disbanded the Egyptian army and started over by recruiting and training new troops. Evelyn Wood was made commander of the new Egyptian army, and soon they had 6,000 troops. In 1886 Major Herbert Kitchener was appointed governor of Suakin. Egyptian Intelligence was directed efficiently by Col. Reginald Wingate.

The Mahdi built his capital on the west bank of the White Nile and called it Omdurman. When he died of illness on June 22, the Baqqarah Arab ‘Abdallahi ibn Muhammad became his Successor (Khalifa). The Baqqarah Arabs were most of the Mahdist army. Khalifa Abdallahi overcame the Mahdi’s relatives and defeated his rivals in Omdurman. When the Mahdists went to relieve Darfur in 1886, they lost Bahr al-Ghazal, which they had conquered in 1884.

To the southeast was Abyssinia (Ethiopia) ruled by King Yohannes. After a dervish sacked an Abyssinian church, the Arabs refused to turn him over to Amhara’s Governor Ras Adal. So in January 1887 a large army of Abyssinians invaded Gallabat, which Emir Wad Arbab tried to defend with 6,000 soldiers. Many were killed, and Gallabat was sacked and burned. The Khalifa sent the former slave Hamdan Abu Anga with a force of about 25,000 men and 10,000 Remington rifles. Ras Adal collected an even larger army, but they were defeated and retreated. In the spring of 1887 Abu Anga advanced and sacked Gondar, the capital of Abyssinia. In December the dervishes returned to Gallabat. A large army led by Menelik of Shoa kept the Mahdists from raiding the Lake Tana region until June 1888. King Yohannes assembled 130,000 infantry and 20,000 cavalry, and the Mahdists under Anga gathered 85,000 men, supported by Zeki Tummal. The armies met on March 9, 1889 in a great slaughter in which King Yohannes was killed. The Dervish Army suffered great losses in its Pyrrhic victory and never regained that strength.

Khalifa Abdallahi took on the Mahdi’s mission of reforming Islam by using military power. In 1889 they attempted to expand their influence in every direction. In February they were defeated by El Fasher in Darfur in the west. They defeated Ethiopia temporarily in the east but were pushed back from the Congo of Belgium’s Leopold II in the west. In the north the Mahdists were defeated by the Egyptians at Tushki on August 3. There the Anglo-Egyptian army led by General Francis W. Grenfell destroyed the Mahdist army under ‘Abd ar-Rahman an Nujumi, killing 5,000 dervishes and capturing as many while losing only 165 men. The Mahdist state had undermined itself by its own failed militarism, and the Sudan was devastated in the next three years by bad crops and declining herds caused by locusts and thousands of red mice eating seeds. The population of Gallabat, Gedaref, and Kassala fell by ninety percent. In February 1891 the Anglo-Egyptian army captured Tokar south of Suakin. Italians defeated Mahdists at Agordat in December 1893 and took Kassala in June, 1894. That year Mahdists led by ‘Arabi Dafa‘allah took over Equatoria and destroyed the remaining Egyptian troops.

In 1895 Conservative and Unionist politicians took over the British government. On March 1, 1896 the Abyssinians defeated the Italians in the Battle of Adowa. Eleven days later Lord Cromer ordered an invasion of the Dongola Province under Col. Herbert Kitchener, and Col. Hunter led the advance on March 18. On June 12 the Egyptian army of 6,000 had only 20 native soldiers die while killing 800, wounding 500, and capturing 600 of the dervishes. They also occupied Abu Hamed and in September invaded Berber with 350 men. The Italians had trouble holding Kassala against the Arabs, and General Caneva ceded it back to Egypt.

In June 1896 a French expedition led by Captain Jean-Baptiste Marchand set out from west Africa and marched to Fashoda on the Upper Nile by the fall of 1897. The Anglo-Egyptian army under Kitchener occupied Dongola, taking Abu Hamad in August and Berber in September 1897. In June the Khalifa’s army had occupied Metemma, the capital of Ja‘aliyyun, which resisted and was crushed. On April 8, 1898 Kitchener defeated the large Mahdist army by the ‘Atbarah River, and 3,000 Sudanese were killed. Then he prepared his army of 8,200 British and 17,600 Egyptians for four months to attack Omdurman, where they defeated 60,000 men in the Mahdist army of the Khalifa outside the city on September 2, killing nearly 11,000 and wounding 16,000. Twenty days later 2,000 men from ‘Uthman Digna’s army surrendered while camped on the Ghezira.

Kitchener took a flotilla up the Nile and met Captain Marchand’s forces on September 18 at Fashoda, but the French decided not to fight and retreated. Ahmed Fedil still had 5,000 men and moved south to Dinder River in November. There the dervishes made their last stand, and finally the last 300 surrendered. In March 1899 the French agreed to limit their expansion in west Africa at the edge of the Nile watershed. The Khalifa fled and was killed on November 24, 1899 in Kordofan by Reginald Wingate’s Egyptian column. Young Winston Churchill participated in these campaigns, and in his book, The River War, he estimated that about 300,000 lives were lost during the fourteen years. The Sudan wars cost the Egyptian treasury £1,554,000 and the British £800,000. More than half, £1,200,000, was spent on railways.

In 1899 the British and Egyptians agreed to govern Sudan together as a condominium. Reginald Wingate was appointed governor-general, and in 1900 a civilian administration replaced martial law. Wingate’s benevolent government won the trust of the Sudanese, and he governed until 1916. Gordon Memorial College opened in 1902 and gave the elite a Western education. Mahdists uprisings occurred in 1900, 1902-03, and 1904. Nuba communities also opposed the British, and in 1906 the mek of Kitra, Ahmad al-Nu‘man, rebelled, and the people of Talodi killed government officials and soldiers. The largest of the Mahdist rebellions was led by Wad Haduba; they were defeated, and he was hanged on May 17, 1908. In 1912 the Institute of Learning was founded in Omdurman. Darfur became a province of Sudan in 1916. The Sudanese were also influenced by Egyptian nationalists, and in 1921 ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif founded the United Tribes Society. Three years later he formed the White Flag League to drive the British from Sudan. Demonstrations that summer in Khartoum were suppressed. After Governor-General Lee Stack was assassinated on November 19, the British made the Egyptians withdraw and destroyed a Sudanese battalion that mutinied in support of the Egyptians. In southern Sudan the Nuer people refused to recognize British rule, and their biggest revolt came in 1927.

The Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936 allowed Egyptians to return to Sudan, and the Sudanese began to resent the Egyptians as well as the British. In 1938 the alumni association for Gordon College was formed as the Graduates’ General Congress, and they came to represent educated Sudanese. When the Sudan government refused to recognize their call for Sudanese nationalism, a radical minority led by Isma‘il al-Azhari broke off from the moderates who supported the government by appealing to Egyptians. In 1943 Azhari and his followers won a majority of the seats in Congress and formed a political party called the Ashiqqa (Brothers). The next year the moderates organized the Nation (Umma) Party that was led by Sayyid ‘Abd ar-Rahman al-Mahdi, the posthumous son of the Mahdi. His rival Sayyid ‘Ali al-Mirghani led the Khatmiyah brotherhood, which was not political but supported Azhari. An Advisory Council was formed in the northern Sudan with 28 Sudanese, but the governor-general held veto power. In 1947 the British allowed southern Sudanese to participate in a legislative council that represented all of Sudan.

Tripoli and Libya 1700-1950

In 1711 while the Ottoman governor Muhammad Khalil Amis was visiting Istanbul, a Kulughli chief of the cavalry named Ahmad Qaramanli usurped power at Tripoli by massacring 300 Janissary officers and founded an independent state. The Qaramanlis were in the Kulughli class of the Ottoman military, and these aristocrats were exempt from taxes. After withstanding two Turkish attacks, he sent a delegation to Istanbul, where Sultan Ahmad III declared him Pasha of Tripoli in 1722. Ahmad gained control of the trans-Saharan trade by sending three expeditions to Fazzan. The Qaramanli dynasty sponsored privateering while making commercial treaties with Britain and France. Ahmad Qaramanli was succeeded by his son Muhammad (r. 1745-54) and then his son ‘Ali Qaramanli (r. 1754-93). ‘Ali squelched an attempted rebellion by his uncles by having the princes supporting them arrested and executed in 1760, causing his uncle Mustafa to flee to Tunisia. Successful corsairs were treated as national heroes in Tripoli.

‘Ali Qaramanli’s son Hasan used his position as bey to take over his father’s authority and came into conflict with his younger brother Yusuf Qaramanli. When ‘Ali became ill in 1787, a civil war between the tribes of these factions erupted. After Yusuf assassinated his brother Hasan Bey in their mother’s quarters in 1790, outraged Tripolitans forced him to flee. Yusuf claimed to be supporting his other brother Ahmad but besieged Tripoli the next year. ‘Ali Burghul, a marine captain exiled from Algiers for having authorized the plundering of American ships, went to Istanbul and got 300 mercenaries to attack Tripoli in 1793. Elderly ‘Ali Qaramanli fled to Tunis; but ‘Ali Burghul extorted so much money and property from Jews and wealthy Muslims that after 17 months he was driven out of Tripoli by a Tunisian army led by Ahmad Qaramanli. Ahmad was installed as Pasha and appointed Yusuf as bey in 1795. A few months later Yusuf used this power to proclaim himself pasha and appointed Ahmad governor of Darna. Ahmad fled to Tunis.

Yusuf Qaramanli (r. 1795-1832) managed to consolidate his political authority and revive the economy, making Tripoli a maritime power with help from the Ottomans. He had an army of 10,000 with 40,000 tribal allies. The Qaramanli navy got $84,000 from Austria and even more from Sweden and Denmark in ransoms for ships and nationals. After his corsairs captured two American ships in 1796, Yusuf released the one which was carrying money to the Dey of Algiers but made the other a warship. In a treaty the Americans promised to pay Tripoli $52,000 and give them naval materials; but when these did not arrive, Yusuf declared war in 1801. The Americans blockaded Tripoli, but in 1803 corsairs captured the Philadelphia and its crew of 307 men. For two years the Americans tried to help Ahmad overthrow his brother Yusuf until they made a treaty with Yusuf, paying $60,000 as prisoners on both sides were released. Like the Husainids of Tunisia, Yusuf made produce and livestock state monopolies. He gained duty from slaves sold at Tripoli and tribute from Fazzan’s trans-Saharan trade.

After 1810 the British persuaded Tripoli to end its monopoly on the livestock trade. In 1812 Pasha Yusuf with a large expedition destroyed the Awlad Muhammad state in the Fazzan. In the 1815 Treaty of Vienna the European nations banned piracy and slavery, and in 1816 the powerful British fleet forced Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli to prohibit piracy and release Christian captives. Two years later the French fleet added their influence on the Maghrib to end piracy, and in 1820 England and France restricted their payment of tribute to Tripoli. In 1830 Admiral de Rosamel’s French squadron made the Pasha sign a treaty not to interfere in Algeria nor engage in piracy and to limit its navy and to pay its debts. Yusuf Pasha had so much trouble with his finances that he debased the currency seven times between 1829 and 1832. ‘Abdul-Jalil began a tribal rebellion in 1831 and asked for British protection. When the British blockaded Tripoli and insisted the Pasha pay his foreign debt of $500,000, his special levy stimulated more rebellion. In 1832 Yusuf abdicated to his oldest son ‘Ali. British consul Warrington ignored his instructions to be neutral and helped the rebels get weapons from Malta. The British government declined Warrington’s request for military intervention because they were negotiating with the French, who supported the Tripoli government.

Eventually in 1835 the Ottomans sent a fleet commanded by Tahir Pasha and arrested ‘Ali Qaramanli, replacing him with Nashib Pasha, whom the rebels of Manshiya accepted. The previous rebel choice, Muhammad Qaramanli, fled and committed suicide. Libya once again came under the Ottoman empire.

After studying various Sufi orders, in 1837 Sidi Muhammad ibn ‘Ali al-Sanusi (1787-1859) left Yemen and founded the Sanusiyya tariqa in Mecca. Four years later he settled in Banghazi, and in 1842 the Sanusis built their first lodge (zawiya) in Cyrenaica and began resisting foreign influences. Cyrenaica was separated administratively from Tripolitania, and the Sanusis helped Turkish officials collect taxes and enforce laws. In 1854 the Great Sanusi predicted that the British would invade Alexandria in Egypt and that Neapolitans (Italians) would attack Tripoli. In 1855 the Ottomans granted the Sanusi waqf land exemption from taxes. Probably to avoid Turkish authorities, Sanusi moved the seat of his order to the oasis at Jaghbub in 1856.

Like many Sufis, Sanusi wrote a book describing the phases a soul passes through to be purified and united with God; but in his book The Ten Matters (al-Masa’il al-‘Ushr) he challenged the Sufi idea that one should withdraw from life to reach divine perfection. He believed there are many paths to God, and no one should claim exclusive truth. He taught that the essence of Islam is intention, prayer, and practice. The Sanusiyya Order also became a political movement. By the time of his death he had founded 21 lodges in Cyrenaica and there were a total of 52. Sanusi was succeeded by his son, and the movement spread to Tunisia, Egypt, the Hijaz, and central Africa. The University of Jaghbub developed a library of 8,000 books. The Sanusi capital was moved south to Kufra in 1895 and to Quru in 1899. By then the Sanusi had about 15,000 students.

The Tripolitanian governor defeated the rebel leaders of Tarhuna, Fazzan, and Sirta in 1841. The next year Gharyan submitted, and ‘Abd al-Jalil was ambushed and killed by the Ottoman army. Inland rebels continued to fight the Turks, and the most famous Ghuma al-Mahmudi was killed in 1858 when the rebellion by the al-Adgham clan was defeated. After Tunisia abolished slavery in 1846 and Algeria did so in 1848, Tripoli increased its slave trade, sending 2,733 to the Levant in 1850, nearly twice the previous year. A decree banned slavery in Tripolitania in 1857, and it became effective in 1860. Turkey abolished slavery in 1889, but some slaves still passed through Tripoli to the Ottoman empire.

Ottoman authority modernized Islamic courts, and in 1851 a mixed court was established to help foreigners. In 1853 modern secondary schools began teaching history, science, and European languages as well as Arabic and Turkish. Trade began improving in the 1850s and reached its peak in the 1870s. In 1865 governor Mahmud Nedim Pasha reformed the Tripolitanian administration and established new criminal, civil, and commercial courts. Governor ‘Ali Rashid Rida (r. 1867-70) used French technical help and allowed them to settle in Tobruk until British resentment caused his recall. Food distribution centers were established in 1870 to relieve a famine. The trans-Sahara trade in ivory, ostrich feathers, and goatskins began declining in the 1880s. By 1885 Tripoli City had more than a thousand shops, 22 mills, and 40 wholesale stores.

In 1902 the Ottomans ended all tax exemptions in Libya. From 1886 some Italians began calling for colonial expansion in Libya. By 1911 the Italians had constructed twelve schools in Libya, and Gustavo Arbib began editing the newspaper Eco di Tripoli in 1907. That year the Bank of Rome became active in Libya by helping Italians buy land and invest in trade. Its president Romolo Tittoni was the brother of Italy’s Foreign Minister. Libya had about 20,000 Jews, and many of them cooperated with Italian investors. In 1908 Sulayman al-Baruni and Farhat al-Zawi were elected to the Ottoman parliament and became resistance leaders. In a battle over land the Ottoman army backed the Zintan tribe against the Awlad Busaif and the Mashashiyya.

On September 29, 1911 Italy declared war on the Ottoman empire, and Tripoli’s mayor Hassuna helped the Italians occupy the city on October 4. The Italian forces also landed at Homs, Benghazi, Derna, and Tobruk, but they met much resistance outside the cities. Young Turk officers who opposed European colonialism such as Nash‘at Pasha in Tripoli and Anwar Pasha, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), and ‘Aziz Ali al-Masri in Cyrenaica cooperated with the Sanusi leader Sayyid Ahmad al-Sharif. The Ottoman government sent Libya arms, money, and supplies until they signed a peace treaty with Italy on October 18, 1912 in which they granted independence to the Libyans and promised to withdraw.

Ahmad al-Sharif met with Anwar Pasha and declared a Sanusi state and holy war (jihad) against the invading Italians in 1913. At a conference al-Baruni also declared a Tripolitanian state. The Sanusi had 16,000 fighters and Tripolitania 15,000. The Italian army defeated the Tripolitanians at al-Asab‘a on March 23, 1913, but they were defeated by Ahmad al-Sharif’s forces south of Derna on May 16. The Italians conquered Fazzan the next year. Rebellion broke out on September 28, 1914 in Fazzan and spread in Tripolitania, where they defeated the Italian garrison of al-Gahara on November 27. ‘Abd al-Nabi had collaborated in 1913 with Col. Antonio Miani, who retreated to Syrtica in December 1914. After the resistance defeated the Italian army at Gardabiyya in April 1915, al-Nabi joined the resistance and attacked the Italian garrison at Bani Walid. Miani reacted by ordering 700 Libyan civilians hanged and 11,300 in Italy banished. Until 1918 Ottoman and German aid was smuggled through Egypt and Tunisia and helped the resistance and many small governments. Sulayman al-Baruni came back from Istanbul as Libya’s new governor and led the struggle against the Italians.

The Turks persuaded Ahmad al-Sharif to lead a Sanusi invasion of Egypt against the British in November 1915, but his force of 20,000 was defeated by the British army of 60,000 in January 1916. The British persuaded Idris al-Mahdi to replace his brother Ahmad al-Sharif as the leader of the Sanusis and have good relations with them, and a Sanusi delegation signed a peace treaty with the British at al-Zuwaytina in April. The Ottomans appointed Shaykh Suf al-Mahmudi regent in western Tripolitania. The Italians recognized the autonomy of the Sanusi Order in interior Cyrenaica with treaties in 1915, 1917, and 1920. The Sanusi-British treaty was ratified on April 17, 1917 at ‘Akrama, but Idris al-Sanusi could not convince his commanders to surrender their arms. Shaykh ‘Umar al-Mukhtar led this opposition.

Al-Baruni summoned an all-Tripolitania conference, which agreed to form the first republic in the Mideast on November 16, 1918 with capitals at Aziziyyia and Gharyan. A delegation from the Republic met with Italians and signed a peace treaty on April 18, 1919. Tripolitania passed a Fundamental Law in June, and Cyrenaica did so in October. The Sanusis won a majority in the elections in Cyrenaica in 1920, and Idris al-Mahdi was declared the Emir in October. However, local feuds between tribes in the Jabal erupted into two civil wars in 1920, and resisting tribes took refuge in Fazzan. A conference at Gharyan in November elected a committee of 21 headed by Shaykh Ahmad al-Mariyyad and his advisor ‘Abd al-Rahman ‘Azzam. They could not build a strong front and turned to Idris al-Sanusi, who was recognized by Italy as the ruler of interior Cyrenaica. The Cyrenaican parliament met in April 1921 with Sayyid Safi al-Din al-Sanusi as president. As delegations met with him at Syrte in January 1922, the Italian army occupied Misurata.

In 1922 the Fascists led by Benito Mussolini took over the government in Rome, abrogated all their treaties, and decided to conquer Libya. General Graziani’s army captured Gharyan on November 7. On December 21 Emir Idris al-Sanusi went into exile to Cairo, but he left his brother al-Rida as his deputy and ‘Umar al-Mukhtar in command of the National Forces in the Green Mountains. The Italians reoccupied Tripolitania in 1923. Graziani executed several resistance leaders who had surrendered, and others went into exile. The Sanusi camps were taken over in March, and half their army was captured. The Cyrenaican parliament disbanded. On May 1 the new governor, General Luigi Bongiovanni, announced the abrogation of all agreements Italy had made with Idris. The Italians put up a wire fence along the Egyptian border extending 300 kilometers to stop the aid. The Libyan partisans retreated from the coast.

‘Umar al-Mukhtar returned to Cyrenaica in 1923 and formed a unified military council in 1924. From 1926 to 1930 the Awlad Sulayman and their allies fought a guerrilla war against the Italians, who bombed Wawu and Kufra from planes in 1928. That year the tribes of the Awlad Sulayman, Warfalla, Gaddadfa, Zintan, Awlad Busaif, and the Mashashiyya fought battles at Tagrifit on March 24 and at ‘Afiya on October 31, and they managed to keep the Italians out of Fazzan until 1930. General Graziani cut off supplies to the guerrillas by occupying Kufra on February 20, 1931. The resistance leader al-Mukhtar was captured and tried on September 12, and four days later he was executed in front of 20,000 Cyrenaican tribesmen. Al-Mukhtar’s followers elected his deputy Yusuf Abu Rahil as commander; but after fighting for six more months, he withdrew to Egypt but was killed while trying to cross the border.

On January 24, 1932 the Italian governor of Libya, Marshal Badaglio, proclaimed that the conquest of Libya was completed. By then Italians had confiscated 40,000 guns from Tripolitania, 20,000 from Cyrenaica, and 10,000 from Fazzan and Gibla. About 160,000 Libyans had fought against the Italians. The Fascists denied the natives’ rights and put entire tribes in concentration camps where many starved; of the nearly 100,000 tribesmen and their families imprisoned only 35,000 survived to 1933. Natives were only given six years of education, and then they were used as laborers. The Italian population increased from 50,000 in 1934 to 90,000 by 1939.

After World War II began, Tripolitanian and Cyrenaican leaders met at Alexandria in October 1939 and offered leadership to Sayyid Idris if he would agree to appoint a joint advisory committee. Italy declared war on Britain on June 10, 1940. Idris urged the Libyan leaders to support the liberation of their country by the British army, and they met on August 8 at Cairo. The British pledged to grant Libyans internal independence with their own government by a Muslim Emir approved by the British. Libya would be a protectorate of Britain which would organize its financial and military affairs. Cyrenaican leaders wanted an immediate Sanusi government, and on September 10, 1941 Sayyid Idris complained in a letter to British Minister of State in the Middle East, Oliver Lyttelton. On February 23, 1942 Idris sent another note demanding that Britain declare Libya independent and guarantee it against foreign attack.

In April 1941 German forces led by General Erwin Rommel over-ran Cyrenaica, driving the British troops into Egypt. General Archibald Wavell was replaced by General Claude Auchinleck in July while the German Africa Corps was reinforced. Rommel attacked Tobruk, and the garrison surrendered on June 20, 1942. General Bernard Montgomery led the British counter-attack at al-‘Alamayn on October 23, destroying Rommel’s forces. The British Eighth Army recovered Cyrenaica in November, and Rommel retreated in December. The Allied forces captured Tripoli in January 1943, and the Axis forces evacuated Libya in February. A municipal council was set up with local officials, and the Arabic newspaper Jaridat Banghazi began publishing. Montgomery proclaimed the British military administration on December 15, and after a while he put the Deputy Chief Civil Affairs Officer in charge. Tripolitania suffered less war damage, and they welcomed the British administration as a transition toward independence. Sayyid Idris visited Cyrenaica in July 1944. ‘Umar Mansur sent a letter to Edward Grigg, the British Minister of State, in Cairo on June 18, 1945 with a plan for an independent Cyrenaican government under Sayyid Idris, who visited again in July 1946.

Clubs formed under the name of Mukhtar and agitated for independence. On September 26, 1946 the British government suspended their newspaper al-Watan. On December 7 Idris proclaimed that all political parties were to be dissolved, and he established his permanent residence in Cyrenaica in November 1947. The Four Power (United States, Soviet Union, Britain, and France) Commission of Investigation visited Cyrenaica in April 1948, and the National Congress submitted its proposal for complete independence with Idris as a constitutional monarch. At a meeting of the National Congress on June 1, 1949 Sayyid Idris proclaimed Cyrenaica independent, and the constitution of Cyrenaica was promulgated on October 11. Prime Minister Fathi al-Kikhya returned from France but resigned because of lack of power. Idris invited his father, ‘Umar Mansur, to form a government, which he did on November 9.

On December 21 the United Nations passed a resolution favoring the independence and unity of Libya. ‘Umar Mansur lost a vote of confidence in the Congress and resigned. He suggested Muhammad al-Saqizzli as his successor, and the Emir invited him to form a government on March 18, 1950. On January 15 the Mukhtar group had applied for permission to form a new organization, the National Association. Registration for voting began on April 17, and the first election was completed on June 5. The Mukhtar group won ten seats out of sixty, and the majority supported the government. Parliament began meeting one week later.

In Tripolitania the Nationalist Party (al-Hizb al-Watani) was organized in 1944 and was led by Ahmad al-Faqih Hasan. They soon had fifteen branches and 15,000 members. The moderate Liberal Party was formed on March 11, 1948. After spending two and a half months in Libya the Four Powers Commission found Libya unprepared for independence. Yet all the Libyan parties demanded independence. Emir Idris visited Tripoli on July 19, 1949, and the National Congress accepted Sanusi leadership. Free French forces had occupied Fazzan, and in 1950 they established a Fazzanese Representative Assembly. Fazzan also accepted Emir Idris as the head of state for Libya.

Copyright © 2010 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book Mideast & Africa 1700-1950.
For ordering information, please click here.


Ottoman Empire 1600-1907
Ottoman Fall and Turkey 1908-1950
Persia (Iran) and Afghanistan 1600-1950
Arabia, Yemen, and Iraq 1600-1950
Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan 1600-1950
Palestine and Zionism 1600-1950
Egypt, Sudan, and Libya 1600-1950
Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco 1600-1950
West Africa and the French 1600-1950
West Africa and the British 1600-1950
Ethiopia and Somaliland 1600-1950
East Africa 1600-1950
Congo, Angola, and Mozambique 1600-1950
Southern Africa 1700-1950
Summary and Evaluation



World Chronological Index
Chronology of Asia & Africa to 1800
Chronology of Asia & Africa 1800-1950
Mideast & Africa to 1950

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