Egypt has always been a place of high value due to its geographical location and fertile land

March 13, 2019 Critical Thinking

Egypt has always been a place of high value due to its geographical location and fertile land. Because of this, Napoleon invaded in 1798 and the French controlled Egypt until they were kicked out by the Turkish (Ottoman empire) and British in 1801. Britain’s motives for conquering Egypt were very clear; they wanted to set up a method of transporting their trade to their British Raj in India. This would eventually be done via their construction of the Suez Canal. Socially, the British used Darwinism to enforce European values, but the Egyptian people didn’t want to be under British rule, which was made clear by the multiple protests held by the people. Politically, Britain made Egypt a perfect example of Imperialism by taking control of resources, establishing government, and creating infrastructure like the Suez canal. Economically, Britain reaped the profits of the land, and brought the industrial revolution to Egypt. This was in Egypt’s benefit in the long run because even though it was destroyed in one sense, it was resurrected as a new and better nation. Ultimately though, Britain beared a miserable impact on Egypt during and following imperialism.
By 1865 Britain had an extensive military force, large navy, and a huge supply of coal and steel. They decided to colonize more of Africa and eventually built the Suez canal in Egypt. In 1882 they decided to stay and colonize Egypt. The Suez canal was the main focus for the British Empire and that’s all that they really cared about. “Egypt was not a full fledged British colonial possession. Because the British occupation was supposed to be a temporary one, Egypt remained formally a part of the Ottoman Empire.”(“Egypt: A Short History”) The “temporary” possession was supposed to be enough time to set up the Suez Canal, a very important trade route. The importance of the trade route can be seen through thorough investigation of the amount of ships arriving and leaving Egypt annually. “In 1910, the number of transits was 4538, an increase of about 30% since 1890, while the net tonnage jumped to 16,585,000, a gain of 70%.” (“The Suez Canal”) Indisputably, the Suez Canal was allowing tons of commerce to flow through Egypt bringing more supplies for the empire. It made the trip to India 3 weeks instead of 3 months and at the time was seen as a huge economic convenience to England. With roughly a net tonnage of 16,585,000 there must have been countless items, weapons, and goods that created a vast market. The Suez Canal was by and large the biggest motive for British purpose to colonize Egypt.
Even though the locals of the area didn’t think it was fair for the British to rule them, they didn’t revolt, but held peaceful protests because they knew if they tried to rebel, they would be in trouble. For roughly thirty two years Egypt remained a police state under England. “The role of the police force was central in the politics and social life of Egypt during the British occupation between 1882 and 1914. Egyptians initially resisted British encroachment” (“Living in the British empire”) At first, the Egyptians wanted Britain to leave, but Britain refused and there was nothing Egypt could do because Britain had over 400,000 soldiers ready to fight at all times. The notorious and well trained British military was ready to kill and conquer if need be. Therefore, instead of starting a revolution or a big rebellion, they peacefully protested, “…many Egyptians resented British rule. By the early 1900s there was a small but growing movement for independence in Egypt.”(“Policing Islam”) Many of the Egyptians living under British rule followed Gandhi’s way of peaceful protests and demonstrations because they heard that it was edging way to independence and didn’t want to start large scale massacres with Britain. They had heard of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre when a British officer, Colonel Reginald Dyer, ordered the shooting of 1,500 innocents in India. Many Egyptians heard the tragic news and thought it was wrong.
It was in 1919 that Egypt started the campaign for peace and rebelled at perfect timing due to the end of WWI when Britain’s military was weak and unprepared. “Over 10,000 students, workers, and professionals marched on Cairo’s Abdeen Palace …where they were met by thousands more protesters discontent with British rule…boycotting British goods and directing other protests throughout the campaign for independence…Egyptians had started a strike.” (“Egyptians campaign”) Finally in 1919, they took a stand against Britain with their displeasure and began to march for freedom, boycott for freedom, and go on strike for freedom. They were uniting as a new nation, and working together to gain independence. As time went on, Britain realized what a mess Egypt was becoming politically, and began to replace people who they thought were being too sympathetic with the Egyptian people and their fight for freedom. The British were becoming frustrated with the Egyptians because tens of thousands were rebelling and fighting for the cause at once.
Eventually, Britain resorted to sending in a specialist with imperialism who attempted to subdue the independence movement because they faced difficulty with the growing state of civil disobedience. (“Egyptians campaign”) In effect, the power was in the people’s hands and not Britain’s because they were united and almost all of Egypt was taking part in the fight for freedom. Once a land lacking politics, became a politically united Egypt, that demanded freedom from oppression. Egypt was granted partial independence in 1922 and implementation of a new constitution in 1923. Britain, however, refused to recognize full Egyptian dominance over Sudanese territory. Fortunately, in 1952, a full effort was made for total liberation from England, and a revolution started. On July 23rd, 1952, President Abdul Nasser publically announced that the army had taken back full control and Egypt was officially declared an independent nation. (“Egypt, Politics and Society”)
Britain’s colonization was Economically horrific for Egypt; they took full advantage of the Nile River’s rich resources, reaping the profits Egypt had to offer, and sometimes made Egypt pay for projects. Egypt’s most attractive feature at first was the Nile River’s excellent farmland: “Egypt was ripe for further economic development, for which the full control of the Nile waters was essential.”(“The Intellectual Origins”) The fact of the matter is that the Nile River was crucial for the British to control and helped the economy once secured by them. The Nile was perfect for places on the coast line of the Mediterranean sea to import goods, and the British export. Britain was very wary of their economy, so they made sure that only they got the profits and not Egypt. Not to mention that the Nile made perfect farmland for growing cotton and creating an irrigation network. Unfortunately for Egypt, “the British set about turning Egypt into a cotton base for British industry…This called for the wide-scale construction of irrigation canals, which Britain was quite willing to realise at Egypt’s expense”(Lutsky) When the British wanted something they would make it Egypt’s expense to get it done and forfeit it to them. Even worse, the Egyptians were paid little to nothing because of Britain’s avarice when they picked cotton. This also lead to Egypt being economically damaged at the time of British rule.
Socially, Britain had a very negative impact because they abused the Egyptians by destroying their houses, and used social darwinism like many other Europeans at the time to claim right to conquer land known as “White man’s burden.”. An example of this was when “British bulldozers and Centurion tanks ‘bulldozed 50 Egyptian mud houses out of the way’ to open a road for the British army to a water supply…fifty killed and a hundred wounded.” (“Egypt, Politics and Society”) Most of the time the British didn’t use brute force, yet on some occasions they did and no disciplinary actions was taken against them. This hurt the Egyptians socially and ruined their sense of freedom. By the 1900’s “Social Darwinism” was the new justification for imperial conquest and the British believed that their blood was more superior than the Egyptians. Furthermore, when they decided to stay they wanted to get rid of “White Man’s Burden” which states that white men had to spread their European values because it was their duty to do so, especially in Africa. “Survival of the fittest Social Darwinists base their beliefs on theories of evolution developed by British naturalist Charles Darwin.”(Robert C. Bannister). Social darwinism wasn’t a motive to stay, it was a justification of why they were there, and in this case, maintaining control of the Suez Canal was their main motive.
Eventually, British rule did end in 1922 and everything has been going downhill since the Britain left. Egypt has been uneasy and is still fighting for democracy. To top that off, they have been in thirteen wars with a weak military and many casualties. Even though there is independence, there is still a great divide in social classes and according to The United Nations “more than 22 million Egyptians live in poverty.” The poverty rate is increasing in Egypt and riots are being held on a massive scale. “President Sadat assassinated by Islamist extremists month after clampdown on private press and opposition groups in wake of anti-government riots.” (“Egypt Profile”) Clearly, due to all the riots and unresolved issues, the nation has been sinking ever since Britain left. The British acted as a power vacuum, but since once they were gone, Egypt became power hungry, hence all the wars. Along with political issues, “Egypt is a place where ‘the rich are few and have much, the poor are many and have little.’ Forty percent of the population lives in abject poverty, subsisting on less than $2 a day.”(Hartman, Mitchell) All in all, Egypt has been in ruins ever since Britain left with a few improvements, such as the literacy rate being at an all time high, but a larger negative impact like poverty rates at an all time high as well and there is great political instability.
Ultimately, Imperialism worked out well for the British because it was an easy conquer and they got good trade benefits from the land. Their stay was supposed to be temporary for their use of the Suez canal for transportation and to expand their economy. However, they took advantage of the Egyptians kindness because for the most part, their revolts/protests were peaceful. They improved the country economically, but disrupted and hurt many people’s lives, ultimately destroying it politically.