Changing the Perspective of Mehmed Ali’s Military Reforms | (dot)history
(dot)history | A space by SARA ZANOTTA
Khaled Fahmy is a prominent historian of the modern Middle East. His main research interests are the social and cultural history of the modern Middle East, with a focus on the history of law, medicine, the army and the police in nineteenth-century Egypt. Currently, he is professor of Modern Arabic Studies at the University of Cambridge, and since the Egyptian Revolution in 2011 he has also started writing newspaper articles relating to human rights, academic freedom, free speech and freedom of information.
His first book All the Pasha’s Men: Mehmed Ali, His Army and the Making of Modern Egypt, published in 2002 by The American University of Cairo Press, is an important work in the historiography on Mehmed Ali Pasha military reforms. The book is neither a biography of Mehmed Ali Pasha nor an account of the activities of the generals and the officers of the army. Conversely, it is about the history of the army from the perspective of its soldiers. In doing so, Fahmy criticizes the traditional historiography by challenging the positive perception of Mehmed Ali: despite acknowledging that the army was crucial for the rise of modern Egypt, he claims that it did so “by instituting novel practices of surveillance, control and management that radically altered the nature of the government in Cairo and fundamentally changed the manner in which it dealt with the Egyptian population” (p. ix). Additionally, he claims that “the deeply felt sentiments of injustice, frustration and animosity that the Arabic-speaking soldiers and their junior officers had towards the Turkish-speaking military elite was a powerful ingredient in forging the rising national consciousness and was made even more potent by being echoed in the civilian society at large” (p. 314).