Egypt Bankruptcy and Occupation Essay

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Egypt -- Bankruptcy and Occupation:

Imperialism by European countries in the Middle East region did not only incorporate the use of colonization and occupation. This is primarily because economic and political factors also contributed to the emergence of sectarianism in the eastern Mediterranean. For instance, the prosperity of the Christian community in the Mediterranean coast increased significantly during the 19th Century because of the increased integration of the Ottoman Empire into the global economy. Since most of the Middle East countries were affected by the European imperialism, Egypt was also affected since British imperialism in the country had far-reaching effects. Actually, Egypt was involved in fighting the British imperialism under the pyramids during the 19th Century (Gelvin 2011, 96).

Egypt's History:

Even though Egypt has the status only of an Ottoman province following its conquest by Selim, it remained a country where Mamelukes continue to use great power. Since the 16th Century, Cairo has continued to exercise control of the fertile Nile region, the Arabian pilgrimage places, and the Red Sea. During the 17th Century under the feebler sultans, the lack of strong rule from the core allowed the Mameluke beys to become increasingly unruly. Notably, the Mameluke beys is a term used to describe officials in the Ottoman empire that became more unruly in the 17th Century ("History of Egypt," n.d.). The increased disorderliness of the officials in the Ottoman Empire contributed to significant challenges between the Ottoman governor in Cairo and officials controlling their respective regions in the province.

This state of anarchy was also characterized by the 1798 arrival of a European who focused on introducing administrative discipline. The European, Napoleon, declared that he had arrived as a friend of the Ottoman Turks to convalesce their province from the Mameluke tyranny. As Turkish engagement in European matters was limited mainly to immediate neighbors, there was a succession of wars with Russia and continual changes to the frontier with Austria in the Balkans. In 1798, the Ottoman Empire found itself inevitably entangled in Europe's Great War during this period. This was evident when Napoleon decided to attack Egypt as an indirect means of damaging British imperial interests. While the Ottoman governor of Egypt and the disorderly Mameluke forces were ill-prepared deal with the attack, the condition of Napoleon's army did much to level the odds.

Before the beginning of the 19th Century, Egypt's influence on European history was relatively a seemingly unknown and mysterious place to most European countries. The relative obscurity of Egypt was fueled by various reasons including the fact that Europe was Christian while Egypt was Muslim. As a result of these religious differences, there was no open communication, especially because of the bitterness produced by Crusades and the resultant wars (Jones, 2013). Actually, the combination of religious affiliation and political distinctiveness had significant consequences. Inhabitants of areas with various religious communities living side by side easily interpreted every act of exploitation or indignity they experienced as an attack on their religious community (Gelvin 2011, 98). Furthermore, there were several leaders or potential leaders in religious communities who were willing to exploit these situations for their own political intentions. An example of the religious conflict occurred in several places in the eastern Mediterranean where Muslims attacked Christians because of being angered by the rising economic and political position of Christians.

The other reason for the relative obscurity of Egypt was the loss of most knowledge regarding the ancient Egyptian society before Greeks settled in the coast. Consequently, the origin and purpose of these ancient Egyptian societies remained unknown. This was regardless of the fact that many individuals had witnessed the temples, pyramids, and hieroglyphics.

British Imperialism in Egypt:

The rise of British imperialism in Egypt can be attributed to Britain's major interest in the region, which was to stabilize this area. Due to its interest for stabilizing the region, Britain tended to support the Ottoman Empire against all opposition. This support was accompanied with efforts by British merchants to identify business opportunities in the Nile Valley and Suez (Jones, 2013). Actually, the British Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, stated that his country had no intention of possessing Egypt provided that Egypt was well-managed and hospitable to the extent that the British merchants could carry out their activities freely across Egypt.

Nonetheless, the trouble between Egypt and Britain started in the 1870s following the decision by the Egyptian nationalist movement to become active and target Europeans including Turks. These attempts by the Egyptian nationalist movement were fueled by the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in the 1877-1878 Russo-Turkish War. The trouble can be regarded as the major factor resulting in British occupation of Egypt that developed from intervention.

Egypt's Bankruptcy and Occupation:

British occupation of Egypt was fueled by British argument that Egypt was descending into anarchy, which threatened the Suez Canal. As a result, the British government sought global support to attack Egypt, but was forced to act alone since Ottoman Sultan and European governments did not join in. Through the invasion, Egypt seized the canal and conquered the Egyptian army at Tel-el-Kebir within two months. Following these changes, Urabi and other nationalist leaders were forced to exile in Sri Lanka (previously known as Ceylon). However, British invasion and subsequent occupation of Egypt provoked a revolution of fundamentalist Muslim forces in the Sudan.

Britain's occupation of Egypt is considered as a prototype for a form of financial imperialism that involved the use of loans of unprecedented value to obtain an interest in local matters and subsequent default as the basis for invasion to safeguard European interests. Therefore, British occupation of Egypt is a concept that developed from Britain's intervention on financial issues. Ismail requested for British assistance or intervention in financial reform after being seriously concerned with Egypt's financial situation. Steven Cave, who was sent to investigate by Britain, stated that Egypt was solvent with regards to its resources and argued that Egypt needed to recover through proper servicing of debts. The British Member of Parliament suggested the establishment of a control commission over Egypt's finances to endorse all future loans ("From Intervention to Occupation," n.d.).

Egypt followed a similar path as Turkey in various essential ways through large-scale foreign borrowing to bankruptcy and increased European control (Owen 1993, 122). Similar to the Ottomans, several ambitious rulers in Egypt introduced programmes of development and reforms that required huge amounts of money than could be generated from the local revenue. Furthermore, the country obtained huge financial obligations through the disastrous deals with De Lesseps and the company with the responsibility to build the Suez Canal. These measures led to recourse of several temporary expedients such as loans from local banks and short-term bonds. The temporal expedients were followed by constant access to larger sources of funds that were found in European money markets.

Similar to the Ottomans, successive larger and larger loans contributed to a rapid increase in the amounts required to service the debts beyond the ability of the country to manage. This inability resulted in the eventual official declaration of bankruptcy by Egypt in April 1876, a measure that was followed by Turkey seven months later.

Unlike Turkey, Egypt used much of the foreign borrowed money on encouragement of agriculture, especially in cultivation of cotton rather than on administration of the large empire or armed forces. The focus on agriculture was evident in the fact that the whole Delta was converted into an export sector for the production, processing, and export of at least two crops by the late 1870s (Owen 1993, 122). In addition, Egypt was in a relatively weaker economic situation, particularly in relation to a final settlement with creditors. These two factors can be regarded as the major reasons for Egypt's official declaration of bankruptcy despite of numerous efforts by successive Egyptian… [END OF PREVIEW]

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