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The Politics of Exile and the Narrowing Horizons of Egyptian Anti-British Activism, 1905-1924
The historiography of the 1919 Egyptian revolution tends to portray events as centered on the group of Egypt-based political figures who came to be known as the wafd. With this focus in mind, the revolution is normally taken to have begun with the arrest and exile of Sa‘d Zaghlul and three others in March 1919, or perhaps with his organizing work beginning the previous November of 1918. This paper is part of a new research effort piecing together a number of different primary and secondary sources in multiple languages to situate the 1919 revolution in the context of anti-British activism throughout the first quarter of the twentieth century. Earlier waves of anti-British organizing by Egyptians were undertaken by a more mobile group of activists, which followed events and imported tactics from international revolutionaries in Europe, North America, and Asia. In 1905, emboldened by Japanese military victory and socialist rebellion against the Russian Czar, a three-man fida’i committee including Ibrahim Nassif al-Wardani was formed within the Egyptian Nationalist party. This culminated in the assassination of Prime Minister Boutros Ghali by Wardani in 1910. A dialectical tension between the adoption of violence by the Nationalist Party and the development of more punitive and sophisticated policing techniques by the Anglo-Egyptian colonial state led to the development of a unique politics of exile during the following decade. Influential men like Mohammad Farid, ‘Abd al-‘Aziz Jawish, and Mansur Rifaat—along with their female counterparts such as Renée (Aziza) de Rochebrune and Bikhaji Cama—crisscrossed the globe organizing anti-British efforts that were vaguely connected to the anarchist international and the criminal underground. But their efforts to cooperate with the Germans during the First World War backfired, and they became increasingly marginalized after the German defeat. The wafd would adopt many tactics from the Nationalist Party as their struggle with the British dragged on after 1919, culminating in the assassination of Sir Lee Stack in 1924. But their political horizons would be severed from the anti-colonialist international that included an earlier generation of Egyptian activists.
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