Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards
University of California,
2009 Winner (Social Sciences)
The Nature of Ottoman Egypt: Irrigation, Environment, and Bureaucracy in the Long Eighteenth Century
In a strikingly innovative, multi-disciplinary and empirically rich dissertation, Dr. Mikhail examines the nature of eighteenth century Ottoman Egypt on the cusp of modernity. He does so not through the lens of elite studies nor colored by nationalist depictions of this period of supposed decline. Rather, Dr. Mikhail locates the roots of modern Egypt in the adaptation of the Ottoman imperial bureaucracy to the realities of Egyptian agricultural life, and in particular the building and management of a range of irrigation technologies. Dr. Mikhail’s work goes much further still, to include extensive research on a full range of pertinent environmental and medical issues that completes an integrated social, cultural and political depiction of this critical period in Egypt’s history. Fluent in Ottoman Turkish and Arabic, Dr. Mikhail spent several years of research in the central Ottoman archives in Istanbul, the Egyptian state archives in Cairo, and the Islamic court records of key provincial towns in Egypt that he used as case studies. Dr. Mikhail’s dissertation is a model of scholarship that marries extraordinarily detailed empirical research with a concern for broader and more important theoretical debates.
Glenn E. Robinson, Naval Postgraduate School, Chair
Marnia Lazreg, City University of New York
James Reilly, University of Toronto