Nationalism and Capitalism in British-Occupied Egypt

Episode 475

hosted by Susanna Ferguson

Nationalism is often seen as a natural political desire or as a modal form spread around the world by modern technologies and conditions, such as literacy or print media. In this episode, Aaron Jakes reframes the history of the nation-state by looking at the British occupation of Egypt which began in 1882. He shows how the specific conditions of colonial rule, as well as the ups and downs of finance capital in an early moment of globalization, shaped how people thought about sovereignty, territory, and emancipation. Looking at peasant petitions, spy reports, and writing in the Arabic press, he explains how many people came to believe that territorial nationalism was the secret to a better life in the decades leading up to the Egyptian Revolution of 1919.

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Contributor Bios

Aaron G. Jakes is Assistant Professor of History at The New School, where he teaches on the modern Middle East and South Asia, global environmental history, and the historical geography of capitalism. His first book, Egypt’s Occupation: Colonial Economism and the Crises of Capitalism, was published by Stanford University Press. [Photo by Nina Subin]
Susanna Ferguson is Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Smith College. She writes and teaches on the history of gender, sexuality, and political thought in the modern Arab world.


Episode No. 475
Release Date: 8 September 2020
Recording Location: New York, NY / Cambridge, MA
Audio editing by Susanna Ferguson
Music: "Fifteen Street," Blue Dot Sessions
Special thanks to Sam Dolbee
Images and bibliography courtesy of Aaron Jakes

Further Listening
Jennifer Derr 408
Making Environmental Subjects on the Egyptian Nile
Alden Young 466
The Economic Roots of Modern Sudan
Eve Troutt Powell 283
Narratives of Slavery in Late Ottoman Egypt
Omar Cheta 265
Capitalism and the Courts in 19th Century Egypt
Pascale Ghazaleh 449
The Language of Protest in 19th Century Egypt


“The Expansion of Egypt,” The Egyptian Gazette (November 7, 1907)

Stock certificate of The Egyptian Improvements Corporation (collection of Aaron G. Jakes)
“Miṣrīyīn makhālib al-ajānib,” al-Siyāsah al-Muṣawwarah (April 3, 1908)

Select Bibliography

Jakes, Aaron. Egypt’s Occupation: Colonial Economism and the Crises of Capitalism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2020.

Arrighi, Giovanni. The Long Twentieth Century: Money, Power, and the Origins of Our Times. New York: Verso, 1994.

Fraser, Nancy. "Behind Marx's Hidden Abode: For an Expanded Conception of Capitalism." New Left Review, no. 86 (March-April 2014): 55-72.

Goswami, Manu. "Rethinking the Modular Nation Form: Toward a Sociohistorical Conception of Nationalism." Comparative Studies in Society and History 44, no. 4 (2002): 770-99.

Martin, Jamie. "The Colonial Origins of the Greek Bailout." Imperial and Global Forum (2015). Published electronically July 27, 2015.

Moore, Jason. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. New York: Verso, 2015.

Odell, Kerry A., and Marc D. Weidenmier. "Real Shock, Monetary Aftershock: The 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and the Panic of 1907." The Jounral of Economic History 64, no. 4 (Dec. 2004): 1002-27.


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