Eric Schewe

  • Fellowship Dates 2011-2011
  • Research Topic British Imperialism and Social Change in Egypt during World War II
  • Fellow or Grant Type Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs
  • Affiliation Pre-doctoral candidate University of Michigan

Although Egypt did not declare war on the Axis powers until February 1945, Britain’s decision to base its military command for the Middle East in Cairo in 1939 and the Axis attacks on this base from Libya involved Egypt heavily in World War II and accelerated its political, economic, social and cultural development. Britain used the Egyptian Parliament’s decree of martial law, which it had demanded in the 1923 Constitution passed on Egypt’s formal independence, to command Egypt’s economy and society in new ways.

This research addresses a gap in historical scholarship focusing on civilian, cross-class Egyptian experiences during World War II and recorded in Arabic-language texts as a primary cause of historical change. It explores how the war affected the relationship between society and the British-dominated Egyptian state and how Egyptian narratives and memories of the war evolved during the decline of British world power and the emergence of a viable anti- imperialist movement.

The research relies on two interrelated groups of sources: records of the regime of martial law imposed by the Egyptian government at the request of the British and cultural representations of violence and social change during the war in contemporary Arabic-language mass news and entertainment media and in later Egyptian personal memoirs, official histories and fictional accounts. It hypothesizes that the British-directed Royal Egyptian government used hegemonic fears of new total, civilian-targeting forms of violence, like the air raid and terrorism, and rapid socioeconomic transformation as a result of war to impose new legislative, police, bureaucratic and economic techniques to control society and that these changes shaped the way Egyptian society experienced the war and narrated the war’s events to posterity.

TopicsArabic & Islamic & Near and Middle Eastern Studies, History, Political ScienceThemePeople & SocietyHistoric PeriodModern


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