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The modernization of Egypt and the dynamics of cultural exchange 1798-1882
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thesisposted on 2017-05-17, 05:47 authored by Gunn, Grazia
Abstract This thesis examines the modernization of Egypt under the rule of the Ottoman governors from the time of General Bonaparte’s military and scientific mission of 1798-1801 to the end of the reign of Khedive Ismail in 1879, focusing principally on changes to streetscapes and architectural style in the capital, Cairo. Starting with the destruction of gated alleyways during the French occupation, the thesis traces the gradual modernization of the city, looking initially at changes in street lay-out, domestic habitat, and the design of mosques, palaces, kiosks, pavilions, hotels, parks and gardens which bear some imprint of the new contacts and exchanges with Europe. It also looks at major engineering projects, such as the national railway system and the Suez Canal, which were undertaken with the help of new technological knowledge and advice from Europe. While many of these changes were clearly attributable to European imperial ambition, the thesis argues that the processes of modernization in Egypt were altogether more complex in their origin and effects, reflecting not only the competitive interests of the French and British powers, but those of the Ottoman rulers both in Constantinople and locally in Cairo. The thesis goes on to trace the emergence in Cairo prior to the British occupation of a new ‘national’ or ‘Neo-Mamluk’ architectural style, introduced by local and foreign architects who, though trained in Europe, were deeply attracted to local, and in particular Mamluk architectural tradition. This new style is encouraged and implemented by a later generation of Viceroys who were less dominated than their predecessors by any wish merely to emulate features of Ottoman or European design. The thesis proceeds through a series of case studies which focus on the work of particular figures who serve as exemplars of intercultural learning and exchange. They include the British engineer, Robert Stephenson; the French architect, Pascal-Xavier Coste; the Welsh architect, Owen Jones; the Egyptian architect, Hussein Fahmi; and Yusuf Hekekyan, a Catholic, Armenian, Ottoman subject from Constantinople who was sent to Britain by the Viceroy, Muhammad Ali Pasha, to learn European technological skills of potential importance to the development of Egypt as a modern industrial power. The factors that led to the modernization of Egypt were many and various: international rivalries, national aspirations, civilizing zeal, local attachments, cross-cultural sympathies all playing, at different moments, a vital role. The diverse architectural styles of nineteenth-century Cairo reflect a similar diversity of social and political pressure and purpose in Egypt throughout this long period. This thesis resists any simple explanatory model, seeking instead to illuminate through particular examples the complex interplay of these sometimes converging and sometimes conflicting forces.