[P4504] Provincializing the Core: Impact of Provincial History on Egyptian National History 1850s to 1920s

Created by Stephanie Boyle
Friday, 11/18/16 3:45pm


Narratives situated in Cairo dominate Egyptian national history between the 1850s and 1920s. Stories of the many provinces become anecdotes or appear as part of biographical information of migrants to Cairo or Alexandria. Quite often Cairo appears as the political capital, cultural center and religious core rather than one of the numerous towns and cities that developed over the course of the 19th century. Provincial cities each had their own rich histories that inform national, regional and global perspectives of Egypt. The "Cairo as Egypt" model emerged from the nationalization project that made Cairo the administrative pinnacle of political power during the reign of Muhammad Ali's dynasty. Part of the function of this narrative intentionally displaced cities and provincial towns that held regional significance because they competed with Cairo's potential to control Egypt as a bounded unified political entity. The great disparity of representation of Egypt's provincial towns has resulted in a historiography that overemphasizes Cairo's role in shaping Egypt culturally, politically and socially from the 1850s to the 1920s.

This panel seeks to inform the Cairo-centric nature of Egyptian history by understanding provincial cities as part of a larger urban network rather than feeder cities for Cairo. It uses the Egyptian provinces as unit of inquiry to elevate the provinces as significant in their own right. It operates from the assumption that the vast majority of people who lived in Egypt during the 19th and 20th centuries did not live in Cairo or Alexandria, but instead were dispersed throughout Egypt. Cities like, Port Said, Aswan, Mahallah and Tanta each had a unique character that distinguished them from one another, but also cast them as part of a larger Egyptian nation and globalized world. By exploring the transformation and development of the public space in these cities through urban development, public health and protest this panel will show that upsetting the dominant historical vantage point shows a more nuanced image of Egyptian national history and its relationship with the larger world.





Peter Gran

(Temple University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Paul Sedra

(Simon Fraser University)
Paul Sedra is Associate Professor of History at Simon Fraser University, and Middle East Editor of the Wiley-Blackwell journal, History Compass. A specialist in modern Egyptian history, Sedra has taught at Dalhousie University and the University of Toronto,...
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Mohamed Gamal-Eldin

Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;