Egyptian nationalism

Egyptian nationalism refers to the nationalism of Egyptians and Egyptian culture.[1] Egyptian nationalism has typically been a civic nationalism that has emphasized the unity of Egyptians regardless of ethnicity or religion.[1] Egyptian nationalism first manifested itself in Pharaonism beginning in the 19th century that identified Egypt as being a unique and independent political unit in the world since the era of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt.[1]


Late 19th century

Both the Arabic language spoken in modern Egypt and the ancient Egyptian language are Afroasiatic languages.[2] The rule of Muhammad Ali of Egypt led Egypt into an advanced level of socioeconomic development in comparison with Egypt's neighbours, which along with the discoveries of relics of ancient Egyptian civilization, helped to foster Egyptian identity and Egyptian nationalism.[1] The Urabi movement in the 1870s and 1880s was the first major Egyptian nationalist movement that demanded an end to the alleged despotism of the Muhammed Ali family and demanded curbing the growth of European influence in Egypt, it campaigned under the nationalist slogan of "Egypt for Egyptians".[1]

20th century

After the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, Egyptian nationalism became focused upon ending British colonial rule.[1] They had support from Liberals and Socialists in Britain. Wilfrid Scawen Blunt was a leading critic of British imperialism in Africa, as expressed in three widely circulated books: The Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt... (1907), Gordon at Khartoum (1911), and My Diaries: Being a Personal Narrative of Events, 1888-1914 (2 vols. 1919-20). Historian Robert O. Collins says:

The most vigorous English advocate of Egyptian nationalism, Blunt was both arrogant and irascible, his works scathing, discursive, and at times utterly ridiculous. Immature and unfair, both he and his writings must be used with caution, but even the dullest of men will come away stimulated if not aroused and with fresh insights to challenge the sometimes smug attitudes of British officials in Whitehall and Cairo. Of course, to them Blunt was anathema if not disloyal and Edward Malet, the British Consul-General at Cairo from 1879 to 1883, replied to Blunt's charges in his posthumously published Egypt, 1879-1883 (London, 1909).[3]

Egyptian nationalism reached its peak in popularity in 1919 when revolution against British rule took place in response to wartime deprivations imposed by the British upon Egypt during World War I.[1] Three years of protest and political turmoil followed until Britain unilaterally declared the independence of Egypt in 1922 that was a monarchy, though Britain reserved several areas for British supervision.[1] During the period of the Kingdom of Egypt, Egyptian nationalists remained determined to terminate the remaining British presence in Egypt.[1] Though Arab nationalism rose as a political force in the 1930s, there remained a strong regional attachment to Egypt by those who advocated cooperation with other Arab or Muslim neighbours.[4]

In January 1952, British forces attacked a police station leaving around 50 people dead. The capital of Egypt, Cairo, overflowed with British anti-violence. The January riots led to the development of the Free Officer movement, consisting of a thousand “middle-level” officers, overthrowing King Farouk.[5] After the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 that overthrew the monarchy and established a republic, Gamal Abdel Nasser rose to power on themes that mixed Arab and Egyptian nationalism.[4] Nasser saw Egypt as the leader of the Arab states and saw Egypt's role as promoting Arab solidarity against both the West and Israel.[4] Nasser's first priority was end subordination to Britain which meant most urgently the removal of British bases privileges and acquire greater control over the Suez Canal.[5] In 1952 Nasser produced a work that was half autobiographical and half programtic. It offers and account to how he and other officers who overthrew the monarchy on July 23 of that year came to a decision to seize power and how they planned to use their newly won power.[5] Egypt was briefly united with Syria from 1958 until 1961 when Syria abandoned the union.[4] Nasser's successors, Anwar Sadat and Hosni Mubarak de-emphasized Arab nationalism and re-emphasized Egyptian nationalism based on Egypt's distinctiveness within the Arab world.[4] Sadat and Mubarak also abandoned Nasser's Arab nationalist conflict with Israel and the West.[4]

Recent years

The Arab Spring in Egypt in 2011 that forced the resignation of Mubarak from power and resulted in multiparty elections, has raised questions over the future of Egyptian nationalism.[6] In particular the previous secular regimes of Nasser, Sadat, and Mubarak avoided direct religious conflicts between the majority Muslims and the minority Coptic Christians through their emphasis on secular Egyptian nationalist culture, while concerns have been raised on whether this Egyptian nationalist culture will remain with the political changes caused by the Arab Spring.[7] This has especially become an issue after a series of episodes of Muslim-Christian violence erupted in Egypt in 2011.[7]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Motyl 2001, p. 138.
  2. David P. Silverman. Ancient Egypt. New York, New York, USA: Oxford University Press, 1997. p. 234.
  3. Robert O. Collins, "Egypt and the Sudan" in Robin W. Winks, ed., The Historiography of the British Empire-Commonwealth: Trends, Interpretations and Resources (Duke U.P. 1966) p 282. The Malet book is online
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Motyl 2001, p. 139.
  5. 1 2 3 Hunt, Michael H. (2004). The World Transformed: 1945 to the present. New York, New York: Oxford University Press. p. 284. ISBN 9780199371020.
  6. Lin Noueihed, Alex Warren. The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of a New Era. Yale University Press, 2012. pp. 125–128.
  7. 1 2 Lin Noueihed, Alex Warren. The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of a New Era. Yale University Press, 2012. pp. 125–128.


  • Motyl, Alexander J. (2001). Encyclopedia of Nationalism, Volume II. Academic Press. ISBN 0-12-227230-7. 
  • Lin Noueihed, Alex Warren. The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of a New Era. Yale University Press, 2012.
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