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Saad Zaghloul’s Struggle with the Revolutionaries
The historiography has in most cases viewed the 1919 revolution as an ‘engagement of local elites with the British state’, ignoring the peasant, working class, and labor engagement in revolutionary processes (Marfleet). This bias in the historiography has been shaped by British colonial narratives of events that represented the Egyptians as less than a nation, lacking civil institutions, and that political society was restricted to a few elite persons. In exception to this bias, studies of labor organizations and peasant communities have argued that lower-class groups acted independently of the elites and were motivated by dislocations that attended the intensification of the colonial economy during the First World War. In short, 1919 had the appearance of a social revolution, driven from the bottom up, for which the elites were ill-prepared and subsequently sought to control to ensure continued elite domination of the political field. These are important observations; however, this treatment of first and third generation theories of revolution reinvestigates the importance of state structures and inter-elite conflict, avoiding interpretations that involve one type of agency, lower-class against elite, to the exclusion of the other. Beginning with the French Revolution, theorists insist on the importance of the ‘pre-revolution’ and the ‘stages’ of revolution. Third generation studies point to the importance of structural changes through the stages of revolution. The 1919 revolution, it is argued, was a revolution of the ‘stages’ type, and involved the combination of lower classes and elite groups, with diverse ideological resources. Using the memoirs of Saad Zaghloul as a source, the paper points to the conversion of Zaghlul from an elite oriented statesperson to a revolutionary, the involvement of pre-revolutionary groups, Watani cells, particularly the student associations, but also the revolutionary committees organized by the central committee in the second stage of the revolution.
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