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Egypt's Occupation
Colonial Economism and the Crises of Capitalism
Aaron G. Jakes

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September 2020
376 pages.
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Hardcover ISBN: 9781503607194
Paperback ISBN: 9781503612617

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The history of capitalism in Egypt has long been synonymous with cotton cultivation and dependent development. From this perspective, the British occupation of 1882 merely sealed the country's fate as a vast plantation for European textile mills. All but obscured in such accounts, however, is Egypt's emergence as a colonial laboratory for financial investment and experimentation. Egypt's Occupation tells for the first time the story of that financial expansion and the devastating crises that followed.

Aaron Jakes offers a sweeping reinterpretation of both the historical geography of capitalism in Egypt and the role of political-economic thought in the struggles that raged over the occupation. He traces the complex ramifications and the contested legacy of colonial economism, the animating theory of British imperial rule that held Egyptians to be capable of only a recognition of their own bare economic interests. Even as British officials claimed that "economic development" and the multiplication of new financial institutions would be crucial to the political legitimacy of the occupation, Egypt's early nationalists elaborated their own critical accounts of boom and bust. As Jakes shows, these Egyptian thinkers offered a set of sophisticated and troubling meditations on the deeper contradictions of capitalism and the very meaning of freedom in a capitalist world.

About the author

Aaron G. Jakes is Assistant Professor of History at The New School.

"Egypt's Occupation offers a richly researched study of finance, racism, and popular politics and an insightful account of the fraught relationship between capitalism and democracy in the colonial and post-colonial world. With this book, Aaron Jakes makes an important intervention in our understanding of the history of capitalism."

—Andrew Zimmerman, George Washington University

"Aaron Jakes gives us a masterpiece of historical interpretation. Weaving together stories of global finance, imperial rule, the devastations of cash-crop agriculture, and anti-colonial politics, Egypt's Occupation is a rare synthesis: a finely crafted regional study that grasps the worldwide movements of capital and empire at every turn. With elegant prose and extraordinary narrative power, Jakes's insights on modernity's webs of power, capital, and life left me reeling. We will be debating and synthesizing these arguments for many years to come."

—Jason W. Moore, Binghamton University, author of Capitalism in the Web of Life

"An important and engaging rereading of the history of British colonialism in Egypt through the revealing lens of 'colonial economism.' The voices of classic figures, both British and Egyptian, are heard anew as Aaron Jakes guides us smoothly through a forest of thoughts and policies about matters economic and political in British-occupied Egypt."

—Judith E. Tucker, Georgetown University