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Postcolonial Egypt

Lecture - powerpoint file

Egypt achieved full formal independence in 1952, and it finally broke free of all British influence after the Suez War in 1956. During this period Britain was supplanted by the USA as the dominant power in the Middle East, and American power was the main context in which postcolonial Egypt developed. After initially joining the non-aligned movement, during the 1970s Egypt forged close ties with the USA and has been a key American ally ever since. Postcolonial Egypt has been marked by the authoritarianism of all its governments, legitimized by a strident popular nationalism. The USA’s consistent support for authoritarian government in Egypt stands in stark contrast to its stated commitment to fostering democracy in the Middle East.


Seminar Questions

1. How did Nasser's Egypt (1952-70) relate to the two Cold War superpowers (the United States and the Soviet Union)?
2. How and why did Egypt come to forge closer ties with the United States after 1970?
3. Why has the United States consistently supported authoritarian government in postcolonial Egypt, despite a stated commitment to fostering democracy in the Middle East?


Core readings

Robert Tignor, Egypt: A Short History (Princeton UP, 2011), chapter 11 (‘Egypt for the Egyptians, 1952–1981’) and chapter 12 (‘Mubarak’s Egypt’).

Jason Brownlee, Democracy Prevention: The Politics of the US-Egyptian Alliance (Cambridge University Press, 2012): Introduction and chapter 1, “Peace before Freedom,” 1-42.


Optional Primary Source

extract from: Gamal Abdel Nasser, Egypt's Liberation (1953)


Further readings

Anouar Abdel-Malek, Egypt, Military Society: The Army Regime, the Left and Social Change under Nasser (Random House, 1968).

Galal Amin, Whatever Happened to the Egyptian Revolution? (American University in Cairo Press, 2013).

Jason Brownlee, Authoritarianism in an Age of Democratization (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Steven A. Cook, The Struggle for Egypt: from Nasser to Tahrir Square (Oxford University Press, 2013).

M.W. Daly (ed.), The Cambridge History of Egypt, vol. 2: Modern Egypt, from 1517 to the End of the Twentieth Century (Cambridge University Press, 1998).

Joel Gordon, Nasser: Hero of the Arab Nation (Oneworld, 2006).

Hazem Kandil, Soldiers, Spies and Statesmen: Egypt’s Road to Revolt (Verso, 2012).

Rashid Khalidi, Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America’s Perilous Path in the Middle East (IB Tauris, 2004).

Roger Owen, The Rise and Fall of Arab Presidents for Life (Harvard University Press, 2014).

Carrie Wickham, The Muslim Brotherhood: Evolution of an Islamist Movement (Princeton University Press, 2013).


For an excellent documentary on the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and aftermath, see The Square (2011) - http://thesquarefilm.com/. The Warwick Library has the DVD available for loan, and it can also be viewed on Netflix.