Būr Saʿīd/Port Said, 1859-1900: Migration, Urbanization, and Empire in an Egyptian and Mediterranean Port-City
AdvisorClancy-Smith, Julia A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoDissertation not available (per author’s request)
AbstractBetween the 1850s and the early 1900s, an increasing number of migrants landed on Egypt’s shores. Egypt provided an alternative to stagnant economies, offered political stability, and even granted a system of separate judicial courts for foreigners. Within Egypt itself, more and more people moved from villages to cities, such as the rapidly growing Cairo and Alexandria and the brand-new towns of Port Said and Ismailia, arising from scratch along the works for the Suez Canal. My work builds on the existing historiography on migration and urbanization in the Middle East. Scholars have accounted for migrant communities in their histories of cities in the Maghreb, the Ottoman empire, and in Egypt, paying particular attention to Alexandria and Cairo. The cities founded along the Suez Canal upon the inception of its digging in 1859 have garnered some scholarly attention, but no historical inquiry yet exists of the role of mobile individuals in their history and in Egyptian history writ large. This dissertation traces the social and cultural history of Port Said between 1859, when it was founded as the Suez Canal’s northern harbor, and the onset of the twentieth century. It focuses on the role of migrants in influencing the formation of the Egyptian state. My documentary corpus is comprised of letters, petitions, consular court records, police files, the records of religious institutions, maps, and newspapers from thirty-five archives in Egypt, Malta, Italy, Great Britain, and France. The dissertation explores the every-day life of Port Said’s residents at a time of heightened migratory influx into the city. It demonstrates that the heterogeneous workforce who started moving to the isthmus of Suez in the 1850s opened up that area to commercial exploitation and political control. It also shows that, through their mundane, often contentious, encounters with local, consular, colonial, and Egyptian state authorities, the Egyptian and foreign newcomers who peopled the emerging town shaped norms and laws governing the use of the urban space, security, public hygiene, and morality. I conclude that law-making in modern Egypt was not merely the creation of bureaucrats in Cairo but also the work of transient individuals in an utterly new provincial port-city, one called into being by forces at once local and global. My research thus contributes to the histories of Egypt, of mobility in the Middle East, and of the relationship between capitals and ostensibly “peripheral” cities in times of urban transformations.
Degree ProgramGraduate College