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View series: The Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century

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Egypt after Napoleon’s Expedition

This map is part of a series of 18 animated maps showing the history of The Middle East since the beginning of the 20th century.

The history of modern Egypt begins in the late 18th century. In 1798, eager to rival England’s influence in the region, Napoleon Bonaparte led a military and scientific expedition to Egypt and created a real culture shock.  The following year, this expedition ventured as far as Syria and Palestine.

Although France’s military, scientific and administrative efficiency was much admired, Bonaparte did not succeed in establishing a strong position for France in Egypt or universal recognition for France’s “civilization mission”.

In 1801, worried that its access to India might be threatened, Great Britain launched a decisive campaign to prop up the Ottoman Empire.

Between 1805 and 1811, the Ottomans, led by Muhammad Ali, turned against England and regained control over Egypt.

Muhammad Ali owed his success to his willingness to introduce reforms, particularly in the armed forces. With the support of the Ottoman Government, he crushed the armies of the powerful Saud family in the Najd and took the Sudan.  He then became involved in crushing the Greek revolt in 1824, which allowed him to bring Crete under his authority.

Muhammad Ali invited European engineers and counsellors to transform Egypt and build an empire, but continued to portray himself as protector of Islamic values.

Emancipation from Istanbul was inevitable. Late in 1831, he invaded Syria and part of Anatolia for a while, but was unable to reach an agreement with the Muslims.  Meanwhile, the weakness of the Ottoman Empire was beginning to worry the European Powers. With support from England, Istanbul was able to force Muhammad Ali to withdraw.

Egypt and the Sudan were transformed into an autonomous province within the Ottoman Empire, and Muhammad Ali was named hereditary Governor.

His successors continued to promote civilization and progress as a way of increasing their autonomy from Istanbul. This period saw the rediscovery of Egypt of the Pharaohs and the building of the Suez Canal.

But in fact, this situation created a new form of dependency. In 1876, the state debt pushed the country into bankruptcy, which led to the imposition of a Franco-British condominium. A new movement of Egyptian nationalism emerged, giving England an opportunity, on the pretext of a major rebellion in the Sudan, to send a military expedition in 1882 and establish its presence in the country. After signing the Entente cordiale with France in 1904, England became the undisputed ruler of Egypt.