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  • Egypt and the Struggle for Power in Sudan: From World War II to Nasserism by Rami Ginat
  • Peter Woodward
Egypt and the Struggle for Power in Sudan: From World War II to Nasserism, by Rami Ginat. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017. 292 pages. $99.99.

This is an in-depth book about a relatively short period of history that saw the unraveling of a complex imperial situation. In theory, the "struggle" was between supposed partners — Egypt and Britain — that had governed the Sudan jointly as a condominium since 1898. In reality, Britain's dominance of Egypt in the late 19th century allowed it to create a condominium that was a deliberate sleight of hand. Egypt had been the imperial power in Sudan for much of the earlier part of the century and, following the Anglo-Egyptian reconquest of Sudan overthrowing the rebellious Mahdist state of 1885–98, sought to regain effective control of what it saw as its southern territory. In contrast, Britain endeavored to minimize Egypt's involvement in Sudan, thus maintaining a strong position in relation to both Egypt and the Nile Valley as a whole.

The story of the conclusion of the condominium has been told before, but this study provides by far the fullest account of Egypt's side of it. The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, attention is focused on the theoretical basis of Egypt's claim for what was generally known as the unity of the Nile Valley. The opening chapter discusses the historical narratives developed in Egypt as the basis for unity, including the overlapping story from the days of the pharaohs onward. That discussion is followed by detailing geographical, economic, and ethnographic links. It is a significant case with regard to the northern and central [End Page 153] areas of what was to become Sudan, but the further south and west one looked the weaker it became, as Britain frequently asserted.

Part II of the book comprises the four main chapters detailing the developments in the period under examination. Egypt emerged after World War II determined to make progress on its claim that Sudan should be directly under the Egyptian crown. Chapter 3 discusses the reasons and processes by which Egypt took the dispute to the Security Council of the new United Nations in 1947. However, once there, it caused some confusion due to the complexity of the case and a lack of sympathy for what many saw then as the reassertion of an outdated imperial claim by a disreputable monarch. The following chapter turns to the British attempt to promote self-government in Sudan, en route, it was hoped, to a long-term path to the country's full independence. Education played an important part in Egypt's effort to counter this, and there is a lengthy outline of its efforts to expand its activities in this field. Following the failure at the UN to resolve the dispute, a new chapter opened as the new Wafd government in Cairo tried a different approach, leading eventually to the unilateral abrogation of the condominium and the reassertion of the claim of the Egyptian crown. After much confused negotiation, abrogation was doomed, as British officials in Sudan and their local Sudanese allies continued to assert the right of the Sudanese people to be consulted on Egypt's claim, and in particular what would happen if they rejected it. Chapter 5 ends with Nasser's coup of 1952, which was to break the poisonous deadlock over abrogation by ending Egypt's monarchy and agreeing to the right of the Sudanese to decide their future. Nasser hoped that would make Egypt an attractive partner in a new partnership of unity; however, Sudan eventually chose full independence at the start of 1956, but that's another story.

The final chapter gives a detailed account of the views of the Right and the Left in Egypt. On the right was the Muslim Brotherhood, which took up the most extreme position backing the cause of the dissolute King Faruq. The general consensus in Egypt in favor of the unity of the Nile Valley was, however, not accepted by the Communists on the...


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