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Striking Cabbies of Cairo and Other Stories, The

Crafts and Guilds in Egypt, 1863-1914

John T. Chalcraft

Publication Year: 2004

This book charts new directions in Egyptian social history, providing the first systematic account of adaptation and protest among crafts and service workers in Egypt in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using a wealth of new sources, John T. Chalcraft challenges conventional notions of craft stagnation and decline by recovering the largely unknown histories of crafts workers’ restructuring in the face of world economic integration, and their petitions, demonstrations, and strike-action at a time of state-building and colonial rule. Chalcraft demonstrates the economic importance of petty producers and service providers, and tells the story of widespread collective assertion couched in new discourses of citizenship and nationalism. He also gives a new interpretation of the end of the guilds in Egypt and addresses larger debates about unevenness under capitalism.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Series: SUNY series in the Social and Economic History of the Middle East (discontinued)


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Front Matter

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-ix


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p. xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

John Chalcraft has written a wonderful book that substantially raises the level of discourse in Middle East labor, social, and political history. His study examines popular action, labor, and state formation and is important on a number of counts. He rebuilds the bridge between nineteenth century Egyptian history and the larger field of Ottoman history. As his work demonstrates over and over again, political...

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pp. xv-xvi

It is a pleasure to acknowledge and thank those whose assistance and example made this book possible. Michael Gilsenan led me from Oxford to New York University, where I completed the dissertation that formed the basis for this book. His generosity, friendship, practical help, and analytical guidance, and the inspiration of his intellect have all contributed immensely to this project...

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pp. 1-14

This book is about crafts and service workers in Egypt between the cotton boom of the early 1860s and the outbreak of the First World War. It seeks to explore and understand the ways in which those working in small-scale, unmechanized industries survived, adapted, evaded unwanted state intervention, and engaged in collective action during years of rapid world economic integration, state building, and colonial rule. Using numerous new....

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1. Crafts and Guilds before 1863

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pp. 15-35

The patterns of restructuring and collective action in which I am interested had their origins in the first half of the nineteenth century. During these decades, the projection of European power overseas, state building, and unequal world economic integration started to alter the conditions under which crafts and service workers pursued their livelihoods in Egypt’s towns and cities. Market relations...

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2. Restructuring after the Cotton Boom

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pp. 37-65

In the wake of the cotton boom of the early 1860s, and after the accession of Khedive Ismail Pasha (1863–1879), the forms of restructuring and collective action among crafts and service workers under study here started to take definite shape. World economic integration was deepened and transformed by rapid commercial expansion and the galloping increases in Egypt’s foreign debt. After the...

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3. Petitions and Protests under Isma’il

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pp. 67-103

Restructuring of productive relations was only the economic dimension of crafts and service workers’ response to the pressures of the 1860s and 1870s. Urban workers also reorganized and engaged in new forms of collective action in defense of their interests. Where guilds were becoming increasingly incapable of defending members collectively against higher taxes, economic change, and local exploitation, crafts and service workers sought alternatives. In...

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4. Restructuring under Colonial Rule

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pp. 105-143

Ismail’s regime was plunged into crisis between 1876 and 1879 because it could no longer meet all interest payments on the debt to European financiers. Egypt’s economy had not been able to deliver the resources which could have saved self-strengthening projects, which as a result not only failed to deliver independence, but even acted as a beachhead for European imperialism by plunging Egypt into debt. Ismail was too independent for the European Debt Commission...

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5. Strikes and Protests under Colonial Rule

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pp. 145-190

Crafts and service workers did not engage in the economic processes of restructuring without entering into, affecting, and being impacted by social and political relations. In particular, after 1882, just as during the 1860s and 1870s, they attempted to associate, organize, and act collectively in order to change the terms of restructuring in ways which conformed to their perceived interests. They tried to cooperate with one another and to some degree with...

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pp. 191-201

This book has attempted to give the first systematic treatment of political and economic transformation among crafts and service workers in Egypt during the half-century or so preceding the First World War. In search of a popular history outside the factory gates and in pursuit of puzzles surrounding unevenness under capitalism, the preceding pages have examined restructuring, the disaggregation...

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Appendix. A Boatman’s Petition

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pp. 203-204

A petition (’ardhala) to the Minister of the Interior from Ahmad ’Ali, a senior member of the boatman’s guild in Alexandria (DWQ ND MA, M26, 1295 AH /1878 AD). It is a copy of the original petition, one of the several hundred existing in this box series in the Egyptian National Archives. The writing in the top...


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pp. 205-255


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pp. 257-273


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pp. 275-285

E-ISBN-13: 9780791484814
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791461433
Print-ISBN-10: 0791461432

Page Count: 302
Illustrations: 8 b/w photographs
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: SUNY series in the Social and Economic History of the Middle East (discontinued)
Series Editor Byline: Donald Quataert See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 62386254
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Striking Cabbies of Cairo and Other Stories, The

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Subject Headings

  • Strikes and lockouts -- Egypt -- History.
  • Handicraft -- Egypt -- History.
  • Guilds -- Egypt -- History.
  • Egypt -- Economic conditions.
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