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Strikes, riots and laughter: Al-Himamiyya village's experience of Egypt's 1918 Peasant Insurrection

Mossallam, Alia (2020) Strikes, riots and laughter: Al-Himamiyya village's experience of Egypt's 1918 Peasant Insurrection. LSE Middle East Centre Paper Series (40). LSE Middle East Centre, London, UK.

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When asked to write his personal memoirs, the Marxist intellectual ʿIsmat Saif al-Dawla wrote a history of his Upper Egyptian village, al-Himamiyya, based on the stories that were formative to both the village’s and his own political repertoire. The memoirs tell us of how the waves of World War I rippled through Europe to Egypt, reaching as far as al-Himamiyya. He tells the stories of Younis, the village’s only member taken to the front in Calais, and the strike action the labour corps undertook to negotiate with the French military command; the experiences of Sheikh ʿAbbas, who strove to ‘fight the law with the law’ and petition against the conscription of village youth into the war; and the stories of Fikry and Nuʿman, who plotted an armed insurrection against the village elite and noblemen. In this paper, I present a close reading of the memoirs that provide us with another language with which to understand the momentous peasant revolts of 1918 and the 1919 elite politician-driven revolution. I use official colonial archives to situate the events the memoir describes in their wider political context, while unearthing songs and chants heard during the insurrections that give us a better understanding of how and why people revolt. The paper explores the popular politics that were obscured by the sanitised banner of the nationalist-led 1919 Revolution.

Item Type: Monograph (Discussion Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2020 The Author
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DT Africa
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Date Deposited: 07 Sep 2020 10:57
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 12:19

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