THE BRITISH IN EGYPT by Peter Mansfield


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The British ruled Egypt in the same way some bankers milk slum properties: Britain supplied the mortgage while the local Ottoman sultans collected receipts by looting the peasant fellah to the marrow. Mansfield misses the central point of his history, dubiously explaining that ""there was little sense of imperial mission behind the original occupation"" and that ""Britain's real interest lay not in Egypt itself but in Egypt as stepping-stone on the road to India."" The evidence of Britain's true motives is too glaring to ignore, however, and to Mansfield's credit he consistently alludes to the mechanisms and processes of loan imperialism, despite his overemphasis on the minutiae of intrigue. The 74-year occupation is described with extensive documentation but there is little explicit grasp of the economic aspects of formulated policies. For example, Gladstone's transformation into a howling jingoist by 1882 is blithely viewed as a matter of parliamentary politics with no attempt to analyze the phenomenon in terms of Britain's dramatic loan investment expansion dating from the mid-70's. At times Mansfield's naivete becomes comical: long descriptions of intricate tax-collecting skullduggery are followed by statements to the effect that ""little was understood of development economics"" or that British administrators ""were. . . much concerned with the welfare of the fellahin."" Never hedging his biases, Mansfield has provided a felicitous account of Anglo. Egyptian history up to 1956 -- for readers capable of reading between the lines.

Pub Date: May 15th, 1972
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston