Read the following in sequence or jump to:|
British Protectorates and
Egyptian Embassy in Washington
Europe and Russia
Colonies in Africa
British people seem to live their lives like any
others living in their own country, and --as only humans-- few would
complicate it by worrying themselves of the powerful control it
has over others' lives far from Britain. In fact it seems that the craft of occupying
and controlling other countries
didn't go without domestic opposition in Britain but of course economic
gains and competition with other European powers must have always allowed it at the end.
In this sense, there's no more influential
place at that time to Ahmed's home-country, Egypt, than Britain. His
understanding of its society and politics and, even more
important, its industrial mechanisms and economics must have
It must have been increasingly obvious --however gradually-- to the Egyptian elite
that London is
becoming more interesting (or rather influential) than Istanbul. More than just a student in England,
Ahmed must have made impressions by exploring this key-country
which later shows in his communication with them and him being
recognized to the level of Founder's Medalist of the extremely
prestigious RGS early in his career. Understanding how Britain was like at this time
is therefore an essential background to understand his mentality
and some of his decisions/choices.
But many things have changed in the 1920s
(when Ahmed became a celebrity) since his early
days of studying in Oxford before the Great War (wasn't called first
world war until the second has been committed). He must have noticed the changes both domestically
and in the colonies at the time of his1924 article to the American
magazine of National Geographic.
Here's some sides of it. (or go
to brief background on the history of Egypt, Ottomans, and Senussis at the time)
Brits tried --in vain-- to go back to
'normal' but something has changed forever after the Great War
After what seemed to be an unexpectedly
devastating WWI, even the victorious Allies have been horrified
by the consequences to both sides. Perhaps this is the reason why the British
Prime Minister David Lloyd George wrote:
"As a tribunal for
ascertaining the rights and wrongs of a dispute, war is crude,
uncertain and costly … let all who trust justice to the
arbitrament of war bear in mind that the issue may depend less
on the righteousness of the cause than on the cunning and craft
of the contestants. And the cost is prohibitive. The death of
ten millions and the mutilation of another twenty millions … is
a terrible bill of costs to pay in suit for determining the
responsibility and penalty for the murder of two persons."
David Lloyd George
Economically, some traditionally strong
British industries such as textiles, ship building, etc. have
started a decline and didn't recover after the war. America
emerged as a new economic power and Russia's growing industries
The Russian Communism (previously called
Bolshevism) has become a new social pressure. Already the
Communist Party of Great Britain has been established and
showing signs of possible popularity.
Cover of Book by Lenin (In
English): "On The Road To Insurrection", Published by The
Communist Party of Great Britain. 16 King Street, Covent Garden,
The general atmosphere was gloomy with
steady decline and growing unemployment that reached a record
2,000,000 people in 1921 and didn't stop there and the
Communists seemed to see all this as opportunity to export the
revolution to Europe.
Remember that this was Great Britain the
Superpower of the day, the Empire that the sun never sets on,
and great Colonial power with the mighty navy. Its High
Commissioners and envoys in colonies although had some
independence in many local decisions, must have suffered from a
frustrating series of governments of ineffective policies and
perhaps delayed responses.
At the time of London's unilateral 1922
Declaration of February 28 of Egypt's independence which --as mentioned in Egypt and
Orient section-- seems to have
triggered Hassanein's expedition, the British post-war coalition
government fell under a series of scandals followed by many
short-term governments. By the year Ahmed was serving in
Washington in 1924, Britain had its historical first Labour
government and still in economic and political turmoil.
To the eyes of the laymen in
Egypt and perhaps in all of the world except Europe, the British
Lion was victorious, all powerful and maybe hungry for more. For
the elite in Egypt, it seems from the sequence of events that
there was no mistake of the wavering will of the Lion! Never
able to communicate the subtle changes, Egyptian leaders --such
as Hassanein-- would seize the opportunities without much ado.
Still the progress was evident as befits a
centre of an Empire at the Roaring Twenties (as was
called later in Australia). The world of Radio programs was
starting. BBC was established and then a Royal Charter was set
and promised impartial news broadcast. Mass marketing was made
possible and many innovative household products were introduced
and synthetic fabrics used for clothing. First commercial
airliner was to Paris then to other European destinations.
Australian airliners of QANTAS too was that early. Trolleybuses (electric
buses with two rods raised to reach electric lines) were
increasing in London enhancing the infrastructure and enabling
an increasingly efficient workforce.
Hassanein Bey must have had a lot of Britain's
affairs to talk about with his American colleagues. Perhaps even
more, about British policy overseas in areas under their control such
as in Egypt as we'll see now.
British Protectorates and Dominions
After the war and the dramatic change in a
super power like that of Britain and other European powers,
there must have been so much brainstorming happening in the U.S.
at the time to exploit strategic opportunities that seem to open
up because of the loosening of the British grip over its
colonies. Ahmed Bey an Oxford-educated diplomat from a large and
rich country like that of Egypt must have been a very intriguing
figure. American industrialists talking about how the West was
won could have felt how easy to talk about a lot of things with
our explorer diplomat. (see America
It seems that the policy of
taking the war as an excuse to tighten control was a wrong
policy. A country emerging victor from the Great War such as
Britain but weakened by it was pressured under its own weight. Most
of the nations that were waiting for such loosening of control
in colonies or dominions under British suzerainty would not
budge for less than full independence.
Although Egypt's successive native
governments have --as a policy-- steered it away from war (seyaset
tagniib misr waylaat el7arb سياسة
تجنيب مصر ويلات الحرب ),
but still seems to have suffered from
British war exploitation of its cotton and fodder at below
market prices in addition to forced labour of about half a
million peasants, which inevitably caused soaring prices and
unemployment. (see more in
http://countrystudies.us/egypt/28.htm) This and more has
made the colonies more determined to win independence.
Southern Ireland won the status of a
dominion (nominal independence like that of Canada at the time) after some turbulent times with
IRA. Egypt's Protectorate status removed after long years of
turmoil. Even India, the Jewel of the Crown of Britain, was in
its first phases of revolution led by Gandhi.
Colonies and Dominions like Australia and
Canada offered better opportunities for many of the unemployed
and ex British soldiers. Although most plots given to immigrants to farm
were served with no useful infrastructure, employment was on the
rise and economies doing very well especially in Australia. This
must have been all good reason to the give even more energy to
the growing thinking of independence.
This was Britain that Ahmed knew but he was
in America now and things must have looked slightly different
from the distance.
A country rising in confidence after a
Great War in which its GNP more than doubled! Many of the
countries emerged in great debt to the U.S. When Ahmed arrived
as a diplomat,
it was the beginning of the Jazz age and the Roaring Twenties
with many life-is-too-short-to-waste kind of lifestyle fashions
sweeping the society. In Europe, the return to the Empire days
of before simply did not happen, and there was no better place
in the world to feel this European change better than in
America. Perhaps Ahmed and his King Fuad were thinking that the
growing economy of U.S. could help breaking the monopoly of
British trade in Egypt.
Influx of Immigration: Immigrants from Great Britain to USA at the
1920s have reached more than one third of a million apart from the
200+ thousands from Ireland. The Germans topped that (as
expected from a defeated country) by 412 thousands and Italians even more at just under
half a million. Apart from Polish immigration at the time that
was as comparable, almost all other European nations produced
immigrants much smaller but that has confirmed the common
pattern of America's image by Europeans. Even Australia andCanada have produced
emigrants to the USA at this time.
Ahmed Bey has seen during
his post in Washington the new Johnson-Reed Act that introduced
a quota system to limit immigration based on national origins
from some 'producers' of immigrants and ban any from --for
instance-- some Asian
countries. Many Americans seem now to look at this with a
sense of guilt and shame.
Women: has just got the right
to vote in 1920, Rebecca Felton of Georgia becomes first woman
US Senator. Women were more than just a fashion and now entering the workplace in larger numbers.
Newsreels (news in cinemas before the movie) of the time showed
ladies filling large offices and it must have been quite a scene
for the society that wasn't used to it.
Ku Klux Klan: reaching a
membership of 5 millions of Americans. It must have been the
talk of everybody at the time specially after exposing their
activities to the public against Blacks, Catholics (even whites
of them like Irish and Italians), and Jews. They were a secret
society of white mostly Southerners in the United States. KKK was
formed in the 19th century to resist the emancipation of slaves
and used terrorist tactics to suppress its victims. WKKK
(Women's Ku Klux Klan) had a head of its own.
Ku Klux Klan meeting in 1920s
Prohibition: which are legal
attempts to end the consumption of alcohol in America and
counter-attempts to stop it with all the chaos of the rise of
gangsters working to sell it illegally. (eg, Al Capone in
Jazz and Youth Culture
are on the rise (the Lost Generation).
Evolutionism vs. Creationism:
a hot debate at the time and obviously still is in America. See
Intelligent Design for more on this as it happens today.
In culture, we know of
Charlie Chaplin in motion pictures and Louis Armstrong in Jazz.
Radio Programs are starting
to become popular.
Construction: Empire state
Building (but it came later during the 1930s) and Underground in New York (note that the underground in London
was started much earlier in the 19th century)
World War Foreign Debt Commission
established on 1922 to negotiate with European nations their
debts owed from World War I. Total was $22 billion. America was
benefiting enormously from European World War and its industries
have flourished during it specially pharmaceutical, and
America builds its first military
aircraft carriers on 1922 called USS Langley.
The U.S. increasingly challenged the
principle on which Colonialism was founded and Woodrow Wilson's
Principles were very famous in Egypt at the time although he
later admitted officially the British control of Egypt.
Egyptian Embassy in Washington
Egypt's direct diplomatic relations has
gone through three phases:
- Under British Occupation and Ottoman
suzerainty: Nezaret elKharegeya (نظارة الخارجية ) was to
deal with local foreign communities needs, but have no
delegations abroad (represented by Istanbul).
- By 1914 Cairo was separated from
Istanbul under Britain, the Nezaret elKharegeya was
cancelled in and outside the borders.
- By February 1922, Cairo became
independent from Britain, Abdel Khaelq Tharwat became the
first Minister of Foreign Affairs (Waziir Khargeyaوزير الخارجية ) beside
being Prime Minister and Egypt started sending diplomatic
missions around the world.
Ahmed Hassanein Bey wrote this article in
1924 when he was in the very new and first ever Egyptian Embassy
in Washington (tell me if you have a photo of our embassy then!). The article must have been part of the efforts to
impress Americans with fine Egyptian calibres.
There's a curious similarity between Ahmed
Bey's role in Libyan Desert and America. He was 'exploring'. While
sent to the first to extend relations with Senusis in a
territory increasingly claimed by Italians and French and that
distances Green Africa's exports to the Mediterranean trade, the
second is perhaps to explore the growing American industries and extend ties with
their industrialists and politicians. Both
for possible future trade. I haven't got any material on Ahmed's
exploits in America, but I would guess from his article that he
was promoting himself as the outdoorish down-to-Earth
personality that is both smart and dynamic. From my personal
experience, this is what Americans always like. He probably have
succeeded in what the King wished from America or the King wouldn't have entrusted him
later to be the Crown Prince's tutor in London.
Europe and Russia
After end of WWI, Britain has adopted in
general its previous policy of isolationism (en3ezaleyah,الإنعزالية= not to be involved in international relations). Europe was left to France.
They seem to have pressured
the defeated Germany for reparations (ta3weedatالتعويضات). All European countries seemed to be suffering
economically though. Communism was gaining grounds steadily
convincing others that this is the sign of the fall of
In defeated Germany, social resentment grew with
increasing economic pressures and a very passive and weak
government (googleFrench occupying Ruhr).
All of this seemed to be a very fertile soil for Nazism to grow
in the society and Hitler has been caught and imprisoned on his
attempt to overthrow the government few weeks after Ahmed's
return to Cairo from his expedition (google Beer Hall
Another significant development of Europe
happened only few months before Ahmed leaves to Sollum.
Mussolini's rose to power in Italy by appointment of the Italian
King under threats of Fascists to march on Rome.
(Fascism=non-parliamentary ideology that considers country's
interests solely even if it crushes that of the individuals.) He's
launched many industrial reforms and colonization
plans in Africa (including that of Senussis. SeeSenussis for more).
Generally it seemed that far-right
(Mussolini and Hitler) is rising in Europe and that that is good
for some concerned Europeans because it is a counterbalance for the rising Communism
Russia's Bolsheviks (communists) at the
time were consolidating their position although with many fronts
of fighting with Polish, Turks, etc. European powers were weary
of their expansion and growth and would from time to time
support wars against them like what they did with Sultan Abdul-Hamid
Benito Mussolini and Adolf
Colonies in Africa
With the exception of
Egypt, on the Mediterranean shores of North Africa, the 19th and
early 20th centuries have seen Spain, France and Italy occupying
the lands directly to their south. The rest of the continent was
a dynamic mess that ended with inevitable partitioning into bordered
entities between few European countries, namely: France,
Britain, Germany, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, and Italy.
Exceptions were Sudan that was under what is called the Anglo-Egyptian
while Egypt is under British control although remains under
Ottoman suzerainty! Ethiopia remained the only independent state
in Africa except for an Italian adventure to colonize it that
World War I (1914-1918)
saw the defeat of the Central Powers (Germany,
Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottomans) by the Allies
(British, Russian, French and Japanese empires, later joined by
Romania, Greece, USA and Italy.) The German colonies in Africa,
was reassigned to Allies countries.
In 1920, the map shows
France controlling about one third of the continent of Africa
with shores on the Mediterranean at Algeria and on the Atlantic
at Gabon, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal and Mauritania.
The Sahara (except in Egypt and neighbourhood) was effectively
under the French and little under Italians and Spanish.
Safarists reading this far in Western
history are now probably more familiar of how Ahmed Bey was
seeing the territories he was venturing into and how they are
related to world's politics which he was playing a role in.