Jason Brownlee

  • Fellowship Dates 2015-2015
  • Research Topic The Fiscal Politics of Egyptian State-building, 1876-79
  • Fellow or Grant Type National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Affiliation Post-doctoral candidate University of Texas, Austin

Between January 1876 and June 1879, elected Egyptian delegates attempted to constrain Khedive Ismail, the country’s ruler, by linking domestic revenue extraction to national authority. Efforts to fuse representation with taxation were no more romantic or cynical than kindred experiments in Western Europe and the Americas. Delegates to Egypt’s first representative parliament, the Assembly of Representatives, hailed from a narrow electorate comprising landowners and local headmen. Although their methods were quasi-constitutional, their motives were material. The Assembly’s plan for repaying Egyptian debt was less profitable for lenders than the alternative advocated by European appointed administrators. When Egyptians rose up against the monarch and his foreign patrons in 1881-82, British forces occupied the country, where they remained for the next seven decades. The historiography of the period merits a prominent place in the canon on state-building, but comparatists in political science and sociology have not given the juncture close attention. Examining Egyptian politics in the late 19th century, rather than beginning in 1952, brings valuable empirical material to the literature. The events of 1876-79 demonstrate how fiscal negotiations were a trilateral process – between the monarch, local notables and foreign lenders – rather than a two-way negotiation between incumbents and ascendant domestic elites, outside powers and local elites were equality. This research departs from the leading narratives of state-building in comparative historical sociology and political science by tracing the deleterious effects of foreign lending on the domestic dynamic and investigates this critical juncture in Egyptian state-building by addressing the conditions under which countries replace absolutist dynastic rule with constitutional government.

TopicsArabic & Islamic & Near and Middle Eastern Studies, History, Political Science, SociologyThemePeople & SocietyHistoric PeriodKhedival


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