Domestic Sovereignty, A'yan Developmentalism, and Global Microhistory in Modern Egypt
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 2018. Through a new type of global microhistory, this article explores the remaking of the political system in Egypt before colonialism. I argue that developmentalism and the origins of Arabic monarchism were closely related in 1860s Egypt. Drawing on hitherto unknown archival evidence, I show that groups of Egyptian local notables (a'yan) sought to cooperate with the Ottoman governor Ismail (r. 1863-1879) in order to gain capital and steam machines, and to participate in the administration. Ismail, on his side, secured a new order of succession from the Ottoman sultan. A'yan developmentalism was discursively presented in petitions, poems, and treatises acknowledging the new order and naturalizing the governor as an Egyptian ruler. Consultation instead of constitutionalism was the concept to express the new relationship. The collaboration was codified in the Consultative Chamber of Representatives, often interpreted as the first parliament in the Middle East. As a consequence of the sultanic order and the Chamber, Egypt's position within the Ottoman Empire became similar to a pseudo-federal relationship. I conclude by contrasting different ways of pseudo-federalization in the global 1860s, employing a regional, unbalanced comparison with the United Principalities and Habsburg Hungary.
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