The 2nd Chapter of History of West Asia and North Africa in the Twentieth Century | Egypt: 1919-1942

On the afternoon of April 13th, 2021, Prof. Eugene Rogan, Member of the Academic Committee of Institute for International and Area Studies, Tsinghua University (IIAS-THU), and Professor of Middle East History at the University of Oxford, gave a lecture on the theme of “Egypt: 1919-1942” to the audience, including students from IIAS and other leading academic institutions home and abroad. This lecture is the second chapter in a series of lectures on “History of West Asia and North Africa in the Twentieth Century” organized by IIAS and was hosted by Wang Tingyi, Assistant Professor at IIAS.

Being divided into three parts, this lecture focused on Egypt during the two World Wars from 1919 to 1942. Prof. Rogan pointed out that Egypt was the most advanced country in politics in the Arab world in many ways. Since the second half of the 19th century, Egypt had gradually become financially independent from the Ottoman Empire. In 1919, the Egyptian nationalist movement rose.

In the second part, Prof. Rogan explained that Egypt entered the first stage of nationalism in the 1880s characterized with numerous historical writing and literary publishing. The literary institutions established provided necessary symbolic assets for shaping the country’s nationalist ideology. In the 20th century, during World War I, the relationship between the UK and Egypt became increasingly tense. In 1914, Egypt was still a part of the Ottoman Empire, while Britain unilaterally declared Egypt’s separation from the Empire. When the Egyptian Revolution broke out in 1919, the whole country stood up under the leadership of a shared nationalist ideology and consistent nationalism, which represented an important movement of political change.

In the third part, Prof. Rogan pointed out that the year of 1922 opened a new chapter in Egypt’s political history, which was an era of growth and prosperity. Historians call the interwar period “the liberal age”, because Egypt entered the period of parliamentary and multi-party politics. In 1923, Egypt promulgated the constitution and established a parliamentary monarchy. However, it is worth noting that the UK’s position in the Middle East was entrenched throughout World War II.

After the lecture, Prof. Rogan had heated interactions with the audience and gave thought-provoking and inspiring answers to a number of questions raised by the audience, including current development of the relations between Egypt and Africa, the nationalism in Arab history and the historical significance of the Egyptian revolution.

Professor Eugene Rogan
BA Columbia, MA PhD Harvard, MA Oxford
Professor of Modern Middle Eastern History
Director, St Antony’s College Middle East Centre

Eugene Rogan is Director of the Middle East Centre at St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. He has a B.A. in economics from Columbia, and an M.A. and PhD in Middle Eastern history from Harvard. He taught at Boston College and Sarah Lawrence College before taking up his post in Oxford in 1991, where he teaches the modern history of the Middle East to both undergraduates and graduates as well as providing DPhil supervision. He was elected a Fellow of the British Academy in 2017.

He is author of The Arabs: A History (Penguin, 2009, 3rd edition 2018), which has been translated in 18 languages and was named one of the best books of 2009 by The Economist, The Financial Times, and The Atlantic Monthly. His earlier works include Frontiers of the State in the Late Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 1999), for which he received the Albert Hourani Book Award of the Middle East Studies Association of North America and the Fuad Köprülü Prize of the Turkish Studies Association; The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948 (Cambridge University Press, 2001, second edition 2007, with Avi Shlaim), which has been published in Arabic, French, Turkish and Italian editions; and Outside In: On the Margins of the Modern Middle East (I.B. Tauris, 2002).

His new book, The Fall of the Ottomans: The Great War in the Middle East, 1914-1920, was published in February 2015.

Text by: Wang Zijing
Typeset & Edited by: Wang Zijing
Reviewed by: Wang Tingyi & Zhang Yuan