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Department of History     Yoav Di-Capua Assistant Professor, PHD

Nationalism, 1882-1919

1919 Revolution



A nationwide movement of popular resistance, sometimes violent, directed against Britain’s protectorate in the context of the end of World War I and the debate over Egypt’s future. When the British exiled the Wafd’s leader Sa`d Zaghlul and several of his associates, the country reacted in revolt. Students, transport workers, lawyers, Azharites and bureaucrats went on a general strike. Resistance to the British spread from the center to the countryside, cutting telephone, telegraph and railway connections. In response the British government nominated war hero General Edmund Allenby to restore peace. Allenby quickly repressed the revolt but he also entered negotiations with the nationalists, allowing Zaghlul and the Wafd to proceed to Paris. The events of 1919-1920 brought together Copts, Muslims and even women in a united nationalist front. Most Egyptians consider 1919 to be the first nationalist revolution in the modern sense of the word. Despite its success, the leadership of 1919 – mainly the Wafd – focused narrowly on independence from British rule and failed to propose a much-needed socio-economic vision of reform. In hindsight, the revolution was regarded as an “unfinished” one, thus preparing the ground for the 1952 revolution.

The revolution, or the so-called the spirit of 1919, was captured in stone by artist Mahmud Mukhtar who sculptured the famous Nahdat Misr (Egypt’s Awakening).


A 1919 Cairo demonstration against the British. What is the US flag doing there?