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Overview

Egypt and Sudan, the subjects of Volumes 1-10, were of major strategic importance to Britain after it acquired the Suez Canal in 1875. Both were also increasingly valuable sources of raw cotton. When the Ottoman Empire sided with Germany in World War I, Britain made Egypt its protectorate and the Sudan a joint Anglo-Egyptian protectorate. Documentation in the Confidential Print of the debates surrounding the establishment of the protectorate is ample. Starting in 1919, coverage of domestic issues becomes quite full as rising nationalist movements make the cities more difficult to manage. In 1922 the protectorate was abandoned, to be replaced by a constitutional monarchy that would be limited by both the elected Chamber of Deputies and by the British High Commissioner, who represented the interests Britain had reserved: defense, the Suez Canal, foreign businesses, and effective control of the Sudan. Thus i ndependence was only partial. Egyptian political life in the next 15 years was frequently in deadlock among the king, the parliament (typically more nationalistic), and the British. King Faud ruled without parliament through most of 1931 through 1933, and when politics resumed, it was largely limited to debates among landowners over their shares of state patronage. On the death of Faud in 1936, the kingship devolved on his feckless teenage son, Farouk. Meanwhile the worldwide depression discouraged business there as elsewhere. Britain made minor concessions to nationalist demands in a 1936 treaty prompted by the threat of Italian aggression from Ethiopia or Libya. But Sudan, which bordered Ethiopia, was kept in the determined control of Britain after the assassination of the governor general in 1924. Since the Nile River flows into Egypt from Sudan, no Egyptian government could willingly accept exclusion from Sudanese affairs in this area. Volumes 11-20 carry the Egyptian and Sudanese stories from 1929 through 1939. In the late 1930s, economic depression and growing nationalism led to internal dissention, aggravated by the misrule of the playboy king. With British help, however, the Egyptian army was reorganized and strengthened, first against the Italian threat, then against revolutionaries, and finally in readiness for German aggression.

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