Tewfik Pasha

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Tewfik Pasha

The khedive of Egypt Tewfik Pasha (1852-1892) was a mild-mannered and unfortunate young ruler during a crucial period in Egyptian history, the time of the British occupation in 1882 and the important first decade of British overrule.

Tewfik Pasha was the eldest son of the khedive Ismail, whose vainglorious ambitions and economic adventures had led to Egyptian bankruptcy in 1876 and his deposition as khedive by the Ottoman sultan in 1879.

Tewfik, only 27 years old, replaced his father as Egyptian ruler. Caught immediately between the Anglo-French demands for financial conservatism and stability and the growing Egyptian nationalist movement insisting on the reduction of foreign influence in Egypt, Tewfik never secured real power. He was young, inexperienced, and indecisive; the British and French financial supervisors, in effect, ruled Egypt.

The pace of events in Egypt moved rapidly following Tewfik's accession as titular khedive in 1879 to confrontation between the Anglo-French supervisors, who refused to grant the Egyptian National Assembly full budgetary control, and the nationalist coalition, which insisted on Egyptian sovereignty. The European refusal to deal reasonably with the moderate constitutionalist group led to the dismissal of that group and the accession in early 1882 of a more rabid nationalist faction with Col. Arabi as the primary leader and minister of war. In particular, native Egyptian army officers such as Arabi resented the strict financial policies of the European debt supervisors because retrenchment directly affected them rather than higher-ranking Turks and other non-native Egyptians.

In May 1882 British and French squadrons anchored off Alexandria, and their consuls demanded the dismissal of Arabi's nationalist ministry. Tewfik first yielded and then recanted under pressure, indicating that Col. Arabi had become the most important individual in Egypt. Fearing the effect of a nationalist, antiforeign, military regime in Cairo, Britain decided on unilateral intervention in bombarding Alexandria, landing troops, and occupying Egypt. It was preventive imperialism, the seizing of a troubled but strategic area before any other state did. Tewfik Pasha fled to British protection during the brief conflict and was restored to his position, if not power, by the British occupation troops in September 1882.

Given this background, it is easy to see why Tewfik Pasha proved to be a mild, passive, and unimaginative ruler. During this first decade of British overrule, Tewfik accepted with little question the conservative policies of Maj. Evelyn Baring (Lord Cromer), the first British consul general and thus the ranking British administrator in Egypt. Lord Cromer's main objective was to pay off the debt and its interest, and he ignored social and economic issues. Tewfik offered little opposition. He was succeeded upon his death by his son Abbas Hilmi.

Further Reading

There is no biographical study of Tewfik Pasha, but see Mary Rowlatt, Founders of Modern Egypt (1962), and the classic exposé by Wilfrid S. Blunt, Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt (1922), for the nationalist movement and the early years of his rule. For the first decade of British overrule see Evelyn B. Cromer, Modern Egypt (1908). An excellent interpretation by an Egyptian is Afaf Lufti al-Sayyid, Egypt and Cromer: A Study in Anglo-Egyptian Relations (1968). A good recent monograph is Robert L. Tignor, Modernization and British Colonial Rule in Egypt, 1882-1914 (1966). □

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Tewfik Pasha

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