Cairo Lecture: How Lord Cromer’s heritage was received and treated differently in the US and in Egypt

Presented by: Dr. Peter Gran

  • 6:00 PM Cairo Time
  • ARCE Cairo Center2 Midan Símon Bolívar Garden City Cairo 11461 Egypt
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Lecture Information

Lord Cromer’s “Modern Egypt”, published in 1907, cast a long shadow on American and Egyptian scholarship on modern Egypt over three main historical periods.  American scholars attempted to work within the Cromer’s framework and encouraged Egyptian development while Egyptian scholarship challenged Cromer’s oriental despotism paradigm, beginning with Shaykh `Ali Yusuf’s original 1907 attack on Cromer.   

The period ending with World War I, was the Cromer period par excellence.  Despite earlier writings of Salim al-Naqqash, W.S. Blunt and other critics, most colonial era writers were well-received in the US; while in Egypt only the royalist school of Egyptian historiography accepted Cromer’s paradigm. The second period, 1930s-1950s, revealed a widening divergence between Egyptian and American historians around the Cromer legacy. American scholarship approached Egypt with Cromer’s neo-Biblical, oriental attributes coupled with a belief that development would improve matters; while Egyptian historians adopted a nationalist approach focused on ending colonialism. Americans were disturbingly silent about colonialism.  

The third period, 1960s-onward, was marked by further divergence. Among American scholars, developmentalism gave way to postmodernism, with a brief critique of orientalism emerging as the development phase came to an end. Meanwhile in Egypt scholars challenged the Cromer paradigm, the significance of the 1798 coming of the West and the concept of despotism.  

Dr. Gran will conclude the lecture with hypotheses explaining the differing uses of the Cromer heritage.  

Speaker Bio

Peter Gran is professor of history at Temple University. He has been teaching since 1974 on to the era of Zoom. Apart from surveys and courses in Arab studies, he has taught on courses on Third World history and the history of capitalism. Gran is author of a number of books, including Islamic Roots of Capitalism: Egypt, 1760-1840 and most recently, The Persistence of Orientalism: Anglo-American Historians and ModernEgypt, both published by Syracuse University Press.