Modern History of the Arab Countries. Vladimir Borisovich Lutsky 1969



Mohammed Ali’s capitulation opened the way to foreign capital. In 1842, the terms of the Anglo-Turkish Trade Treaty of 1838 were applied to Egypt. The system of monopolies was abolished. Henceforth British merchants and industrialists could freely buy Egyptian cotton from the producers, either directly or through their compradore agent, while they had to pay hardly any customs duty on the good they exported to Egypt. By 1845, England was predominant in Egypt’s foreign trade. She accounted for a quarter o Egypt’s imports (242,000 out of £1,000,000) and over a thin of Egypt’s export (6626,000 out of £1,747,000).

From being a great eastern power, Egypt had become vassal of the weakening Porte. The Turks, who could hard]; cope with their own affairs, could not, of course, exercise effective control. Their tutelage was, in fact, a mere cove for the domineering policy of the foreign consuls. In reality, Egypt was under the joint protection of England am France and only the rivalry between the two Powers made it possible for her to retain a degree of independence.

Within the country a struggle was being waged between the two rival groups of the ruling class. One of them was composed of retrograde landlords of the old society, who strove to maintain their contacts with Turkey. They tool their cue from the British, whose influence was prevalent in Constantinople. The other group consisted of merchants and liberal landlords, who had embarked on the capitalist pat]: of development. They were in favour of a continuation of the reforms and relied on the French.

The struggle between the two groups was reflected in the activities of Ibrahim Pasha and his successor Abbas Pasha.

At first, the odds were in favour of the Francophiles headed by Ibrahim Pasha, who was the real ruler of the country in the forties. Mohammed All was aging. The capitulation had affected his intellectual faculties. He grew old overnight and soon withdrew from the conduct of state affairs.

The reins of power were taken over by his son and successor Ibrahim Pasha. The new ruler gave considerable attention to Egypt’s economic development, he tried to improve the corrupt and hidebound civil service. He improved the country’s finances, which had been disrupted by the events of 1840, and introduced a regular state budget. In 1842, the rights of the landowners were expanded, permitting them to sell their lands. In 1845-46, Ibrahim accomplished a long journey to Europe. In Paris, a big parade was organised on the Champs de Mars in honour of the victor of Konya and Nezib.

In 1848, Ibrahim Pasha became the official governor of Egypt, but died three months later, on November 10, 1848. Mohammed Ali died soon after, on August 2, 1849. Power passed to his grandson, Abbas Pasha, who turned out to be the exact opposite of his grandfather.

ABBAS PASHA (1849-54).

Abbas Pasha officially accepted the reins of government on December 24, 1848, while Mohammed’ All was still alive. He was extremely reactionary and seemed to set himself the aim of destroying as far as lay in his power all the work of his father and grandfather. He liquidated manufactories founded by Mohammed Ali, gave orders to stop work on the construction of the Great Nile Dam and to destroy what had already been built. He closed factories and schools and greatly reduced the army. The Egyptian army had gradually begun to acquire a national character during Mohammed Ali’s reign. Under Abbas it became little more than a personal bodyguard, as it had been under the old beys. Moreover, his actual bodyguards consisted of elements alien to the population, mainly Albanians and slave Mamelukes. Abbas found support in the big feudal landowners, Albanian, Circassian and Turkish pashas, who had acquired extensive latifundia under Mohammed Ali. Abbas lavished new lands on them. He himself was the biggest landowner in Egypt and shamelessly robbed the fellaheen. Mohammed All and Ibrahim had dreamt of full independence for Egypt. But such dreams were alien to Abbas. On the contrary, the always emphasised his submissive loyalty to the Turkish Sultan and the old Turkish customs. He openly scorned Western culture and despise( Europeans, which, however, did not prevent him from obeying directives from England.

In 1851, Abbas granted the British concessions to build a railway from Alexandria to Cairo and Suez, which mil( have great strategic importance as one of the main link connecting England with India. The Suez Canal had no yet been built. But since the early years of the 19th century England had been trying to replace the route round Africa with a shorter one through Egypt. British ships sailed from England to Alexandria, from India to the Suez. Camels were used to transport passengers .and mail back and forth between the two ports. Egypt became the most important trans-shipping base on the British route to India. The construction of the railway line Alexandria-Cairo-Suez, which was carried out between 1853 and 1857, enhanced Egypt’s importance as a trans-shipping base. In 1858, the British used the line to transport troops to suppress an uprising of the sepoys in India.

The French capitalists, who had had a decisive say in matters during the reign of Mohammed Ali and Ibrahim, were forced into the background. But they had no intention of giving up. On the contrary, they redoubled their efforts. In opposition to the British plan for a railway, they submitted a project for a canal linking the Mediterranean with the Red Sea.


As far back as the beginning of the 19th century, Napoleon had assigned one of his engineers, Lepère, to draw up a project for a canal. But Lepère wrongly concluded that the level of the Red Sea was higher than that of the Mediterranean, making the construction of a canal almost a technical impossibility. Although Fourier and Laplace soon discovered Lepère’s mistake, all attempts by the French to raise the question of the Suez Canal again always met with the resistance of Mohammed Ali and England. Mohammed Ali did not want to create a second Dardanelles. He was fully aware of the canal’s strategic significance. He realised that the European Powers would fight over the Suez Canal just as they had over. the Dardanelles. He resolutely opposed the construction of the Canal to safeguard Egypt’s independence. England was also against the canal as long as French influence prevailed in Egypt.

In the fifties of the 19th century, the French capitalists submitted a new project for the Suez Canal. Its ardent advocate was the biggest financial tycoon of the 19th century, the French diplomat, Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-1894). As usual, England and Abbas Pasha were against the scheme.

Abbas was preventing not only the construction of the canal but also the economic development of Egypt as a whole. The nation, which had once known the reforms of Mohammed Ali, could not be reverted to the old Turkish rule. Egypt had become part of the world capitalist economy. The productive forces had developed, as had the market and also commodity production. Capitalist relations had begun to form and a bourgeoisie was gradually coming into being. The economic needs of Egypt as well as the interests of France urgently called for Abbas Pasha’s removal.

One hot night in July, an official communication declared that Abbas Pasha had died of a stroke. In reality, he had been murdered by his own bodyguards. History has not yet determined who was behind the assassination, but France was the first to profit by his removal.

On July 14, 1854, Said Pasha (1854-63), one of Mohammed Ali’s youngest sons, became the viceroy of Egypt. He was a liberal, Westerner and a personal friend of Ferdinand de Lesseps. As soon as he came to power,, he immediately, on November 30, 1854, granted de Lesseps concessions for the construction of the Suez Canal. This step increased Egypt’s dependence on the European Powers and hastened its conversion into a colony.

In 1855, de Lesseps made a preliminary survey and on January 5, 1856, he obtained a new firman, which specified the terms of the concession. Under this firman the Egyptian Government granted the canal company without compensation all the land and quarries needed for construction of the canal. It also undertook to construct a fresh-water canal from the Nile in order to provide the construction zone with drinking water and exempted the company from the payment of customs duties. Most important of all was the Egyptian Government’s undertaking to supply at least four-fifths of the labourers needed for the work free of charge. The concession was to last for 99 years from the date of the opening of the canal and share capital was to be 200,000,000 francs.

In November 1858, de Lesseps opened .the subscription lists for his company, the capital of which was 400,000 shares of 500 francs each; 207,000 shares (52 per cent) were subscribed in France. Said Pasha subscribed for 64,000 shares at a total value of 32,000,000 francs. Moreover, de Lesseps put down to Said Pasha’s account large shareholdings (112,000 shares worth 56,000,000 francs), which were meant for Turkey, England, Russia and the United States. In order to meet his obligations in connection with the purchase of 176,000 shares, Said Pasha was compelled to conclude foreign loans. In 1860, he concluded a private loan in Paris for 28,000,000 francs and in 1862, he concluded the first state loan for 60 million francs (£2,400,000). Thus, apart from the land, the labourers, the water supply and quarries, Said Pasha had to give de Lesseps about half (44 per cent) of the share capital. The Egyptians built the canal with their own hands using chiefly their own natural resources. But the canal only brought Egypt huge losses, not to speak of its negative effect on her political life.

On April 25, 1859, the construction work was formally begun. Said Pasha was true to his word. He rounded up hundreds of thousands of fellaheen from all over Egypt. With almost no wages and poor nourishment, the fellaheen had to work from dawn till dusk under the broiling sun to dig the canal with their own hands. No machines were used. The manual labour of free workers was much more profitable and 25 to 40 thousand fellaheen were permanently engaged at the construction site. As soon as one batch had served its time, others took their place. Many of them were unable to bear the hard working conditions and up to 20,000 workers perished before the canal was built. One of the greatest structures of 19th century capitalist civilisation was erected with the help of the compulsory, semi-slave labour of the Egyptian fellaheen. It was erected over their bones.

The virtual enslavement of hundreds of thousands of fellaheen awakened hatred for foreigners and stirred up a wave of popular protest against foreign domination in Egypt. The feeling of hatred extended to the Egyptian ruling classes, who were incensed by the arbitrariness of the company, its disregard for the laws of Egypt and her interests. The general discontent was skilfully exploited by England and a campaign was launched in the British press against the system of forced labour used in digging the canal. Under pressure from England, the Porte announced that the Egyptian Pasha had no right to hand out concessions and demanded their annulment. A serious political crisis threatened to upset de Lesseps’ undertaking.

Said Pasha did not live to see the outcome of the Suez affair. He died on January 18, 1863. His successor, Ismail Pasha (1863-79), like Said, had received his education in France and was a Westerner to the marrow of his bones. He wanted to make Egypt “a part of Europe” and continued the ‘ reform policy of his predecessor. He did not oppose the construction of the Suez Canal, but considered that de Lesseps’ excessive privileges were a burden to Egypt.

On January 30, 1863, Ismail Pasha issued a firman, prohibiting the use of forced labour on the canal. His actions were immediately supported by tile Porte, who was backed by England. The Turkish Government sent two notes, one after the other, in which it made confirmation of the concessions conditional on the banning of the use of forced labour on the canal, demanded the return of the lands alienated for the benefit of the company, and so on. Otherwise, the Porte threatened to stop the undertaking by force.

Difficult times began for de Lesseps. However, he managed to extricate himself from this embarrassing situation, and even used it as an opportunity to plunder Egypt anew. He appealed against the actions of Ismail Pasha and forced him to submit the case for consideration by a court of arbitration.

The Emperor of France, Napoleon III, who was married to de Lesseps’ cousin, was elected the “impartial” arbitrator. In July 1864, he suggested that Ismail should pay the .General Company of the Suez Maritime Canal 84,000,000 francs. This included not only an indemnity for the abolition of the corvée. According to the new terms of the concession, the General Company of the Suez Maritime Canal was allowed to retain the land along both banks of the canal to a distance of 200 metres from its course, and the remaining lands had to be returned to Egypt. For the land it returned

the company had not paid Egypt a single piastre. All the same, Ismail had to pay de Lesseps 30,000,000 francs to get it back. This was open robbery! Said had undertaken to build a fresh-water canal for the construction site. The canal served the needs of construction; however, when it became Egyptian property, Egypt had to pay de Lesseps 14,000,000 francs for a canal which had not cost him a penny and had been built completely at Egypt’s expense.

In order to satisfy these wild claims, Ismail, like Said Pasha, was forced to appeal to the European banks. The loans were granted on the most outrageous terms and Egypt was soon trapped in debts.

The new terms of the concession were confirmed by the convention of February 22, and on March 19, 1866, they were ratified by the Porte. British intrigues had not achieved their aim. Having lost its supply of free manpower, the company began inventing machines to do the digging. ln 1860, the French engineer Couvreux invented a multiscoop mechanical shovel and the construction of the Suez Canal forged ahead. The formal opening of the canal was celebrated on November 17, 1869. Scores of crown personalities and hundreds of statesmen from all over the world participated in the festivities held in honour of this event. At Ismail’s request, the composer Verdi wrote the opera Aida especially for the occasion. Luxurious palaces and yachts were built for the guests. The celebrations lasted several weeks and were paid for by the Egyptian treasury.

The construction of the canal, including the value of shares, forfeit, expenses of the opening ceremony, and so on, cost Egypt 400,000,000 francs. Six years later, the Egyptian Government sold its shares of the canal for 100,000,000 francs. The net loss amounted to 300,000,000 francs, apart from the thousands of lives sacrificed in the construction work and the political harm the Suez Canal caused Egypt.


During the fifties and especially during the sixties of the 19th century, there was a significant economic upsurge in Egypt. It was called forth mainly by the increased demand for Egyptian cotton owing to the Civil War in the United States, during which the European textile industry experienced an acute shortage of raw materials. In those years, cotton plantations were expanded. For this purpose the old network of irrigation canals was modernised and a great number of new ones were built (with an overall length of 21,000 kilometres). The system of year-round irrigation was extended to Upper Egypt and the area of land under cultivation increased from 4,100,000 feddans in 1852 to 4,700,000 feddans in 1877.

Most of the cotton grown on the estates of the semi-feudal landlords were exported. The export of cotton during the cotton boom (1861-65) increased fourfold, from 500,000 cantars in 1860 to 2,000,000 cantars in 1865. After the Civil War in America, the export of Egyptian cotton declined somewhat, but it still remained on a relatively high level. In 1870, it rose again to 2,000,000 cantars and in 1876, it reached 3,000,000 cantars.

The rapid growth of cotton cultivation led to a reduction in the cultivation and export of other crops, and Egypt was in real danger of becoming a one-crop country. To restore the balance, Ismail tried to speed up the sugar-cane crop. In 1872, 1,500,000 cantars of sugar were produced in Egypt, out of which 500,000 cantars were exported.

The cotton boom was followed by a sharp rise in foreign trade. The overall value of Egyptian cotton exports grew from 200,000,000 piastres in 1860 to 1,000,000,000 in 1870 and 1,500,000,000 piastres in 1872. Imports to Alexandria rose from 185,000,000 piastres in 1843 to 400,000,000 in 1863 and 600,000,000 in 1872. In thirty years (1843-72), the total volume of Egyptian overseas trade increased fivefold.

The growth of trade was accompanied by the growth of navigation. In 1845, 62 steamers called at the Port of Alexandria while in 1865, the number rose to 1,145. The number of sailing vessels that called at Alexandria in the same period increased from 1,338 to 3,138. In 1850, 26 steamers passed through the Suez and in 1865, before the inauguration of the canal, 216 steamers.

In the year 1870, after the opening of the canal, 570 steamers passed through the Suez. The tonnage of trading vessels calling at Alexandria grew from 907,000 tons in 1863 to 1,238,000 tons in 1872. In the same period, the tonnage of trading vessels passing through the Suez Canal grew from 170,000 to 666,000, and the tonnage of trading vessels calling at Port Said increased from 52,000 to 857,000 tons. In 1847, 1,000 passengers disembarked at Alexandria. In 1867, the number rose to 45,000 and in 1872, to 68,000. Alexandria became one of the biggest international seaports in the world. In 1875, freight turnover at Alexandria reached 1,925,000 tons, thus rivalling Marseilles.

Egypt acquired her own commercial fleet. In 1873, there’ were 55 sea steamers and 58 river vessels in Egypt, apart from a large number of sailing vessels. Regular shipping lines were established along the Nile and in the Mediterranean. Most of the ships belonged to Ismail Pasha personally. One of the foremost maritime Powers of the time, France, which had a population seven and a half times the size of Egypt’s, had a steam fleet that was only three times larger than the Egyptian. Moreover, the Egyptian fleet, being the younger of the two, was technically superior. The average tonnage of one French sea-going steamer was 350 tons, while the tonnage of one Egyptian steamer was 1,000 tons. The French fleet had only 15 per cent steamers to 85 per cent sailing vessels. The British fleet had 25 per cent steamers to 75 per cent sailing vessels. Whereas over 60 per cent of the Egyptian fleet’s overall tonnage were steamers and less than 40 per cent were sailing vessels. Between 1865 and 1875 fifteen light-houses were set up on the Mediterranean and Red Sea coast for the development of navigation.

In the same period, Egypt acquired a wide network of railways belonging to the state. Until 1860, Egypt had only one railway, Alexandria-Cairo, 210 kilometres long (with a branch line to Zagazig 35 kilometres long). [The line between Cairo and the Suez, which had been built in 1856-57, was unfit for use.] Then in fifteen years (1861-75) of intensified railway construction in Egypt, 1,590 kilometres of railway were laid. In this respect Egypt outstripped several advanced capitalist countries. In France, for instance, in 1876, there were 37.5 kilometres of railway per 1,000 square kilometres of land, while in Egypt there were 55 kilometres of railway per 1,000 square kilometres of populated territory. [Not counting deserts, which were uninhabited and without railways.]

Modern means of communication grew. Up to 1863, Egypt had 582 kilometres of telegraph lines. By 1872, she had 6,450 kilometres, outstripping several advanced countries. In 1878, France had 77 kilometres of telegraph lines per 1,000 square kilometres of land. Egypt had 216 kilometres. France had 11.33 kilometres of telegraph lines per 10,000 of the population; Egypt had 12.25 kilometres.

Towns sprang up. Not less than 20 per cent of the Egyptian population lived in 113 urban centres. Cairo had a population of 350,000, Alexandria – 212,000, Tanta – 60,000 and Zagazig – 40,000. Gas and water mains and sewers were laid in Cairo.

Egyptian industry moved ahead. Ismail Pasha, the ruler of Egypt, owned two weaving mills near Cairo, in which over. 400 workers were employed, and 22 big sugar refineries with a capacity of 150,000 tons of sugar a year, where about 10,000 workers were employed. In addition, Ismail Pasha owned four arms factories, two dockyards, employing 500 workers, and saltpetre mines. Many private industrial enterprises were founded in Egypt, most of which were small textile mills, foundries and repair workshops, tanneries, creameries, cotton-cleaning mills and wood-working plants, steam mills and salt works.

The technical level of the Egyptian enterprises, however, was lower than the European. The products of the small Egyptian weaving mills and foundries could not compete with the goods of the large British textile and metallurgical industry, which flowed into the Egyptian market without encountering any customs barrier on the way. On the strength of the Anglo-Turkish Trade Treaty of 1838, the Egyptian industry had been deprived of tariff protection. On the whole, at the height of her economic development, from the fifties to the seventies of the 19th century, Egypt continued to remain an agrarian country. Raw materials – cotton- were her main product, not industrial goods. She supplied more and more cotton to the world market and in return purchased more and more foreign manufactured goods. Thus, the growth of overseas trade deepened Egypt’s economic dependence on the European countries. Egypt was becoming an agrarian and raw material base of the industrial Powers.

Another contradiction in the Egyptian economy at the time of Said and Ismail was that Egypt had embarked on the capitalist path of development without having first liquidated by revolutionary means the numerous and powerful survivals of the Middle Ages. The mainstay of capitalist relations in agriculture were the landlords, who combined the new methods of economy with the old methods of exploitation. They introduced machines on their estates (the steam plough was used for the first time in Egypt, not in Europe), they expanded the areas planted with such export crops as cotton and sugar cane. They conducted wide-scale commercial operations and built factories on their estates. But at the same time they continued to exploit the fellah, to impose medieval extortions on him, to force him to do corvée, and so on. The first such half-feudal and half-capitalist land- owner, financial manipulator, merchant, factory-owner and speculator, who ably made use of the market situation, and at the same time a feudal lord, was Ismail Pasha himself, the ruler of Egypt. Other big landowners from the Turco-Albanian-Circassian nobility followed his example.

The domination of feudal survivals in the countryside hampered the genuine development of agriculture and industry. The starved Egyptian countryside, exploited as it was by semi-feudal landlords, was a bad market for industry.

The reverse side of Egypt’s economic development was the influx of Europeans to the country. Only a few of them were specialists-agronomists, mechanics, doctors, teachers, workers, people who were prepared to work. The overwhelming bulk of them were parasitic elements of the worst kind such as dealers, speculators, stock-jobbers, money-lenders, smugglers, brothel owners, swindlers, thieves, corrupt journalists, prostitutes, and others. Operating under the protection of the capitulations and foreign consuls, these scum of Europe, who regarded themselves as the representatives of “high culture,” exploited the working people of Egypt and poisoned the atmosphere in the towns, especially in the beautiful town of Alexandria, which they had turned into a veritable bog. Alexandria became an international centre of the drug traffic. Whole blocks were turned into brothels, dens and taverns. In 1840, there were only 6,150 Europeans in Egypt, whereas by 1871, their number had risen to 80,000, 34,000 of whom were Greeks (who engaged chiefly in usury), 17,000 French, 14,000 Italians, 6,000 British and 7,000 Germans. About 50,000 foreigners lived in Alexandria (they comprised nearly a quarter of the urban population) and about 20,000 in Cairo.


Unlike Abbas, Said and Ismail were clearly aware of the demands of Egypt’s economic development and carried out a number of much-needed socio-economic and political reforms.

Under Said Pasha slavery and the trade in slaves were prohibited in Egypt; the import of slaves was forbidden and the slaves living on Egyptian territory were set free. A land law was issued in 1858, granting the peasants who owned plots of land (atar), or kharaj, the right to sell freely, purchase, mortgage or hand down their lands by right of succession. In other words, it granted them the same right to private landownership as the owners of the ushr lands. The corvée and other obligations stemming from the social inequality of the fellaheen were formally abolished. All land became a commodity. This created conditions for the development of capitalist relations in the countryside, making it possible for the merchants and the rich peasants to purchase land. Considerable areas of land passed into the hands of the usurers and foreign capitalists.

The land reform was followed by a reform in taxes. Money tax took the place of taxes in kind. The collective taxation of whole villages by means of mutual guarantee was substituted by the individual taxation of separate peasant families. Tax gathering, which previously had been carried out by the village sheikhs, came under the control of special functionaries.

Said abolished the last survivals of the monopoly system, liquidated internal customs and granted full freedom of trade. Each peasant could now sow the land with what crops he saw fit, freely sell his harvest and transport it without government control.

Big changes took place in the army. Said Pasha abolished a number of restrictions which had been introduced in 1841. In 1856, he received the Porte’s permission to increase the Egyptian army from 18,000 to 30,000 men. Like Mohammed Ali, he attempted to give the army a national character and began to recruit the fellaheen. For the first time in the history of Egypt, Egyptians were promoted to the rank of officers. The most capable were given a military education and were appointed to key posts. One of them, Arabi, quickly rose to the rank of lieutenant-colonel and became Said Pasha’s aide-de-camp.

Unlike Said, Ismail promoted not national Egyptian personnel to key posts in the army, but representatives of the feudal nobility such as Albanians, Turks and Circassians. The Egyptian officers from among the fellaheen were pushed into the background. This resulted in a conflict in the army between the democratic national elements among the officers, who called themselves “fellaheen” and the aristocratic pashas, who were nicknamed “Circassians.” The conflict played an important role in the further development of the Egyptian national movement.

Said and especially Ismail pressed for Egypt’s independence from the Porte. Actually, Egypt already enjoyed full internal autonomy and in spite of the restrictions of 1841 pursued an independent foreign policy. Egypt had her own army, government and laws. The Turkish legislation, and in particular the tanzimat, did not apply to Egypt. Said and Ismail wanted to consolidate this position legally. The firman of 1866-67 occupied an important place in these plans. The firman issued on May 27, 1866, changed the order of succession to the throne. Instead of the old Turkish order of succession practised until now, by which power passed to the eldest in the family, now it passed from father to the eldest son, as was the custom of the European monarchies. The firman of June 8, 1867, granted Ismail the hereditary title of khedive, which meant ruler in Persian but lacked any particular sense. Now, however, the title began to single out the Egyptian ruler, who was no longer an ordinary pasha, a governor of one of the many provinces of the Ottoman Empire. According to the firman, the khedive received the right to conclude commercial and other agreements of a non-political character with the foreign Powers.

In 1866, in imitation of the Western constitutional monarchies, Ismail established a semblance of a parliament, the House of Representatives (Mejliss Niyabi) or House of Notables. According to the 19th century Russian philosopher and writer Herzen, Egypt had entered the era of parliamentarianism on a camel. The House of Notables was composed of seventy-five delegates, who were elected for a term of three years by the village sheikhs and the notables of Cairo, Alexandria and Damietta. It had consultative functions and reviewed the state budget. The House was an obedient tool in the hands of the khedive and played no part in the administration of Egypt.

In 1873, Khedive Ismail induced the Sultan to issue a firman on Egypt’s financial autonomy. Egypt gained the. right to conclude loans without the permission of the Porte. The firman was of a dual nature. On the one hand, it weakened Egypt’s dependence on the Porte. On the other, it made it easier for foreign banks to enslave the country by means of loans, thus increasing its dependence on foreign capitalists.

The legal reform carried out by Ismail was also of a dual nature. By trying to limit the functions of the consular courts, which existed by virtue of the capitulations, Ismail decided to establish mixed courts composed of both foreign and Egyptian judges. The preparations for the reforms, including the talks with the Powers, took several years. The courts began to function on February 1, 1876. They considered ordinary cases of conflict between the Europeans and the Egyptians, between Europeans of different nationalities and also criminal cases, which concerned the Europeans; Actually, not only did the mixed courts not restrict the privileges which had been granted to foreigners by the capitulations, but they also became supplementary tools of foreign domination over Egypt.

Said and Ismail continued the cultural reforms initiated by Mohammed Ali. Under Said, the Arabic language became the only official language of Egypt. Public education, to which much attention was devoted, developed in Arabic. The old schools, which had been closed at the time of Abbas, were reopened, and many new ones were set up too. Under Ismail the number of schools increased from 185 in 1863 to 4,685 in 1875, when about 100,000 pupils were enrolled. The number of secondary and specialised educational establishments also increased. The Egyptian National Library, a museum, scientific societies and the Cairo Opera were founded. A new interest in Arab history and literature arose. Translations and original works by Egyptian poets, writers and dramatists appeared. The well-known poet and states man, Mahmud Sami el-Barudi, the talented writer and publicist Ibrahim el-Muveilikhi, the pedagogue and literal historian, Hussein el-Matsafi, greatly contributed to the Arab renaissance. Between 1865 and 1875, many newspapers an magazines were issued in Arabic and French, such as Wadi El-Nil (1866), Le Progres Egyptien (1868), Nuskhat El-Afkar (1869) and Al- Ahram (1875). Scientific and literary magazines began to be published.

Many writers portray Ismail as a lazy and ignorant Oriental pasha, who out of a desire for gain became involved in various shady undertakings. Cromer reproached Ismail for “preferring the company of his coachmen and lackeys to the of European diplomats.” In reality, Ismail was an educate and energetic Egyptian statesman, a pioneer of capitalist development in Egypt. ln the cultural sense he was far superior to the European diplomats and merchants who surrounded him. He was, however, first of all, a representative of his class, the class of semi-feudal landowners who ha turned to capitalist enterprise. In the meanwhile, the social development of Egypt in the seventies of the 19th century’ gave birth to new and more progressive democratic element of the national bourgeoisie. This bourgeois-democratic movement was ultimately to sweep the semi-feudal landowner of Egypt headed by Ismail from the historical scene.