You may know Egypt for its pyramids and pharaohs, but there is more to Egypt than its ancient history. Egypt went through several changes to become what we know today as Modern Egypt. These changes include the history of European imperialism, the westernization of Egypt, and the impact on their education. Egypt borrowed a lot of money from European countries, mostly Britain and France, for internal improvements. Egypt’s most important cash crop was cotton. Around the time of the American Civil War, cotton gained a growing demand around the world.
Egypt used the cotton market to their advantage to pay of their debt to Britain and France. Unfortunately, the demand for cotton dropped in 1876, and at that point Egypt had already borrowed money to the point of bankruptcy. As a result, the European states created the “Caisse de la Dette,” which was a debt repayment agency controlled by the French and British. “Caisse de la Dette” would keep an eye on Egypt’s revenue and expenses. European interference got in the way of Egypt’s military. To rebel against European encroachment, Colonel Ahmad ‘Urabi and his men led a mutiny against them.
Since Britain was very interested in that region of Africa where Egypt was, they decided to send in a fleet of ships to control the military, government, economy, and education system. They not only reduced the size of the military, but they also replaced some of the soldiers and officers with British military. They replaced members of the government with British ministers that created new laws on their behalf. Upon setting up Egypt so that they could control all aspects of life, British established a protectorate by the start of World War I.
Being under British control caused Egyptians to protest by disrupting railroads and causing havoc. In response, Britain grants Egypt conditional independence in 1922. Egypt was allowed to form a constitutional monarchy, but Britain still controlled Egypt’s foreign policy and defense. It wasn’t until 1954 that Britain formally withdrew all of their troops from Egyptian territory. Egypt is heavily influenced by European cultures, which is called Westernization. Egypt’s Westernization was caused by a few things. One of them was when Egypt was first colonized.
After conquering Egypt in 1798, Napoleon of France started modernizing Egypt. Then Britain’s protectorate over Egypt had influenced the Egyptians about the European ways. Because of this, elite Egyptians would throw fancy balls and travelled around the world learning new languages and dialects. Another reason for westernization was the abundant amount of foreigners coming into the country. Many foreigners came to Egypt to see beautiful attractions, and these foreigners also spread the European culture to the Egyptians, whether it was simply through conversation or marriage.
Lastly, globalization. Egyptians had linked the idea of modernizing and progressiveness with western culture. They believed if they wore the same clothes and eat similar foods, they were considered modern. Westernization had both positive effects and negative effects on the people of Egypt. Learning these new western ideals taught them about freedom, understanding of other cultures, and democratic values. But on the other hand, Egyptians began to think that their own culture is uncool and stick with the new cultures, and their family bonds start to weaken.
Overall, western culture has made a big impact on modern Egypt. From 1805 to 1848, Egypt was ruled by Ottoman pasha Muhammad Ali. Muhammad Ali created the education system that still exists in Egypt today, the dual education system. When Muhammad Ali first inherited the throne, Egypt had the Islamic educational system; however, Ali had different plans for Egypt. He created a parallel secular system that would be funded by the government. He first created a higher education intuition that would help build and develop military elite to become leaders.
Over time he created primary and secondary systems as well. Ali’s plan was to develop balanced citizens that would support the growth of Egypt, which was a threat to Britain and the Ottoman Empire. Over time Egypt’s economic dominance in the world began to decline, and that was when Ali created the second educational system. After that, Ali’s influence decreased and leaders after Ali did not support his plan for education the way he did. When Egypt was under the influence of Britain, Britain had plans for education. They helped build strong military leaders to join the British army.
In 1950, Egypt’s first blind minister of education, Taha Hussein, fought for education for all Egyptians. He believed education should be given to everyone. Taha Hussein once said, “Education is like the water we drink and the air we breathe. ” Egypt went through many major changes since the age of the pharaohs. Something in common with all the changes was that European countries had a major role in the modernization of Egypt. The history of modern Egypt shows that not only their countries, but foreign countries can make a change in the lifestyle of a nation.