Roger Owen Book Award

Aaron Jakes

The New School

2021 Honorable Mention

Aaron Jakes

Aaron Jakes

The committee also recognizes Professor Aaron Jakes' book, Egypt's Occupation: Colonial Economism and the Crises of Capitalism, which was also published by Stanford University Press in 2020, with the Honorable Mention for the 2021 Owen Award. Jakes’ powerful merging of economic and intellectual history advances the U.S.-dominated field of “histories of capitalism” and provides a detailed account of the impact of colonialism on economic underdevelopment through an authoritative study of the British occupation of Egypt. The book adds important new dimensions to this crowded field of scholarship by relying on novel Egyptian archival and press sources to approach the subject through the eyes of the Egyptian population. Jakes argues that the British aimed to improve the fortunes of the ordinary peasant farmer in order to cement their control over Egypt. In a strategy he terms “economism,” Jakes traces how the British promoted light taxation and increased access to irrigation for cotton cultivation while expressly avoiding efforts to reform the country in the European model, a choice they justified on culturalist grounds. In the end, these policies worsened the fortunes of the fellahin and enhanced the position of large landholders, leaving Egypt in far worse shape than when they originally took over.

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