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Progress Outside of Europe, as Reflected in 19th Century Encyclopedias : Egypt and Persia

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Lee, Joo Hyung
Term Paper, AP European History Class, June 2009

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Egypt
II.1 Chronological Overview
II.2 Economic Progress
II.3 Social Progress
II.4 Progress in Politics and Administration
III Persia
III.1 Chronological Overview
III.2 Economic Progress
III.3 Social Progress
III.4 Progress in Politics and Administration
III.5 Military Progress
IV. Encyclopedic Descriptions
IV.1 Egypt
IV.2 Persia
IV.3 Analysis
V. Conclusion

I. Introduction
            This paper will discuss the progress of Egypt and Persia mainly within the boundaries of the 19th century. 'Progress' will be defined and discussed as aspects of modernization ? including not only industrial but also economic, socio-political and cultural development; such a distinction has been chosen due to the fact that the 19th century was most significantly characterized by the beginnings of modernization in both countries. The events of the period were to leave lasting consequences that remain observable even today, laying foundations for the heavy industrialization of the early 20th century.
            It must be regretfully noted however, that most of the available sources are of European origin, and much of the 'modernization' would inevitably be measured on the extent of Westernization. Acknowledging that the issue remains especially debatable on the matter of culture ? for example, whether the adoption of Western cultural/social norms (or the rejection of them, such as in the Iranian Revolution) would always constitute 'progress' ? this paper seeks to be as impartial as possible. It must also be noted that much of the earlier encyclopedias used as sources do not discuss the matter of economic progress; some do not even treat the concept of development through time, and simply state what is observable at the time they were first published; at times they are closer to a collection of anecdotes and narratives than what more modern encyclopedias offer. Thus it seems a rather difficult task to even begin establishing an analysis on the topic of 'progress' using 19th century encyclopedias as a primary source. On the other hand, most encyclopedias seem to agree on established historical facts, and there is little difficulty in discussing this aspect.
            Therefore, the primary issue to be addressed is how judgment comes into these encyclopedic articles: most importantly between the British-based encyclopedias and those from more neutral countries. A question personally wished to be addressed, separate from the encyclopedias, is how despite the fact that both Egypt and Persia underwent modernization at a similar period and from similar beginnings of a pre-industrial society, the end-result ? as can be seen today ? greatly differs, from economic status to foreign relations. This paper aims at comparing and contrasting the history of modernization in both 19th century Egypt and Persia, and analyzing its significance from both a posterior and contemporary point of view.

II. Egypt

II.1 Chronological Overview
            The modernization of Egypt during the 19th century can be divided into two large categories: the initial period beginning with 1805 under the rule of the Muhammad Ali and his dynasty, and the second period under British rule from 1882 and onwards. Both periods were characterized by a state-driven top-down realization of modernization ? which, although effective, had its share of long-term harmful effects (which will be discussed later).
            Muhammad Ali first came to power in Egypt when he became its Wali in 1805, profiting from the conflict between local Mamluks and Ottoman forces from which he emerged as a popular figure. Egypt was still under Ottoman rule during that time, but following Muhammad Ali's economic and military reforms, it would grow to such an extent in a very short period as to pose a threat to the Ottoman Empire itself. Yet British interference on behalf of the Ottomans would curb Muhammad Ali¡¯s ambitions, and Egypt would remain (at least nominally) a vassal state of the Ottoman Empire. Egypt would then see a succession of both able and incompetent rulers; Muhammad Ali's successor Abbas I, for example, would not show his predecessor¡¯s eagerness for reforms, and actually halted much of the construction projects that were put in place during Muhammad Ali's reign. He was assassinated in 1854, replaced by his uncle, Sa¡¯id Pasha. This latter would implement a series of effective administrative reorganizations, creating new governmental departments that focused on internal reform projects. The construction of the Suez Canal, as well as that of diverse infrastructure, would begin during his reign. Yet Egypt would not be able to free itself from growing European influences which would continuously mar its progress, eventually leading to the British occupation. Yet Sa¡¯id Pasha's successor, Ismail Pasha, would turn out to be an even more effective ruler. The administrative system, including the national tax system, was further transformed for efficiency, and the Egyptian postal service was first established in 1865. Foreign capital was drawn to fund various internal projects, and the economy experienced a second boom thanks to the American Civil war, which greatly increased cotton prices. Yet such ambitious reforms proved too costly, while not much directly improving the lives of the lower-class. Egypt would eventually face bankruptcy, and the British would intervene to take control of the country.

II.2 Economic Progress
            Much of Muhammad Ali¡¯s initial military reforms created the need for increased funds. For this reason he would implement a nation-wide agricultural/economic reform, re-shaping Egyptian agriculture to center around cotton as a cash crop. British textile manufacturers were willing to pay high prices for Egyptian cotton, and Muhammad Ali ordered the majority of peasants to exclusively cultivate the crop. His administration also set on nationalizing most of the privately owned lands in Egypt from 1805. This system well demonstrates to what extent Muhammad Ali maintained a totalitarian grasp on the Egyptian economy ? after harvest, Muhammad Ali bought the entire crop himself, which he then sold at a higher price to textile manufacturers; he thus transformed the whole of Egypt's cotton production into his personal monopoly. While this was indeed a profitable trade, this led to Egypt being forced to rely too much on the European market.
            The needs of the military likewise led to other projects and reforms, such as state educational institutions, a teaching hospital, roads and canals, factories (to produce uniforms and munitions), and a shipbuilding foundry at Alexandria. As he had before forcefully conscripted peasants into the army, he often drew upon them to supply his factories and industrial projects with labor. One example would be the Mahmoudiya canal that began construction in 1818. It was designed to allow cargo ships to pass from Upper Egypt all the way to Alexandria without passing the dangerous waterway situated at the mouth of the river, the canal itself extending over 80 kilometers in length. The entire construction process was carried out by corv?e labor, with an estimate of more than 300,000 workers having been conscripted to service (1). There was of course much dissention from the lower classes, and many fled from their villages. Some even crippled themselves (or their children) to escape military service; for example, some would blind an eye, or cut off their trigger finger (2). (Unfortunately, Muhammad Ali would later create a special division for disabled soldiers, on the basis that 'one eye and a finger were enough to make a soldier.')
            Muhammad Ali's interest and eagerness to adopt European knowledge is well shown in how during his reign he invited engineers, advisors, and military officers from European countries (mainly France), and imported Western technology and know-how in order to industrialize the nation. Muhammad Ali's successors would continue his projects of modernization, and Egypt had become an industrialized nation by the time of the British occupation. Public construction projects such as canals, railways and irrigation systems, as well as the establishment of hospitals and schools established the infrastructure upon which modernization took place. Riverbanks were strengthened to protect crops from floods, canals were improved, and dams were constructed along the Nile ? one particularly ambitious project, the construction of two large dams over the Rosetta and Damietta branches of the Nile, allowed the entire Nile Delta to switch from basin irrigation to perennial irrigation, extending the agricultural growing season and output to much greater levels after it was finished in 1862. The statistics below show the change in cotton output after the construction of the dam:

Table 1 : Egyptian cotton exports in 1000s of Egyptian Pounds (3)
Year Cotton Exports
1835 1,068
1836 894
1837 757
1838 717
1839 468
1854 765
1856 1,298
1857 1,227
1858 1,091
1882 7,386
1883 7,466
1884 8,238

            It can be observed how, during the years prior to the dam¡¯s construction in 1862, cotton exports (directly related to cotton production, as much of the demand and consumption was from overseas) would only show a nominal growth-and-decline rate. Yet while the export level only increased by 159 thousand Egyptian pounds from 1835 to 1858, (this may not even be a true 'increase,' but simply an economic fluctuation) it would increase by a staggering 3,694 thousand Egyptian pounds in only four years after 1858 (a 300% growth, coinciding with the completion of the dam) and then by another 4,435 thousand pounds in just one year after 1862. The growth would continue by another approximately 4,000 pounds during the next year as well. The increase in output during just two years after the dam was completed (excluding 1862) alone was nearly seven times the total production height in 1857. The fact that Egypt's length of railway open had reached 1184 kilometers by 1869 also serves as proof of its industrial surge; this length far surpasses that of other African countries at the time: none at all in countries such as Angola, Benin, Ghana, etc and only 106 kilometers in Mauritius, and 197 km in Algeria. (4)
            For the initial period following the transition to British rule, the situation would not change significantly, as the British had already been establishing its influence for a long period. What would matter most is that the Egyptian economy would from that point on overtly and lastingly be redirected into a fashion that would financially benefit the British. For example, by 1914, 90% of Egypt¡¯s exports were cotton ? the British reaped huge benefits from maintaining the lopsided system, (as Muhammad Ali had once done). The fact that the economy was no longer a nationalized one but a capitalistic one led to virtual foreign dominance of the Egyptian market, as native producers could not match the prices of products from more industrialized nations. Lord Cromer, one the British officials who were in Egypt at the time, wrote in his annual report :

            "The difference must be apparent to any one whose recollection of Egypt goes back for some ten or fifteen years. Quarters that were formerly hives of busy workmen ? spinning, weaving, braiding, tassle-making, dyeing, (...) have shrunk to attenuated proportions, or have been entirely obliterated. Cafes and small shops are now to be found where productive workshops formally existed." (5)

            Thus originally established native trades were pushed out by foreign enterprises, and saw the transition to shops that catered to the tastes and needs of foreigners. The aforementioned British regulation against the creation of any protective tariffs stunted Egyptian industrial growth, save in sectors which the British saw fit to expand (ex. Cotton). Yet little by little change would occur in Egyptian society with the appearance of the middle class during the early 20th century, who received wages working in factories. Workers' rights were still not protected by the state at the time, and the government did not tolerate union activity.

II.3 Social Progress
            As previously mentioned, the initial reforms took a top-down structure ? thus the national infrastructure rapidly changed, while the lives of the lower class would remain practically unchanged. In this respect, there was little social progress during the reign of Muhammad Ali. However, during the reigns of successive rulers, the changing economy would give birth to the middle class, who came to harness new ideologies and beliefs. The most important social change to be covered in this period would undoubtedly be the resurgence of nationalism under British rule. Under Muhammad Ali, peasants and workers were little interested in the notion of an Egyptian 'nation'. Excessive corv?e labor, drafts, and taxes only served to antagonize the lower class from the administration's ambitious reforms. Yet local sentiments had already been far from favorable against foreign powers, at least as early as the construction of the Suez Canal. The fact that Egypt could not exercise an independent right over the Canal (because of its debts) was a source of national indignation, especially as Egypt had paid for most of the cost. The thousands of displaced workers who lost their jobs to European competitors did not take up on the matter lightly either. Anti-foreign sentiments would come to culminate in the Dinshawi (also known as "Danishway") Incident of 1906 (6). A party of British soldiers had been shooting at pigeons in a field near the town of Dinshawi, despite local requests to stop. The local imam's wife was wounded by a shot, and a fight broke out between the villagers and the soldiers, who would open fire on the locals; two officers were wounded. One of them died of a heat stroke on the way back to his base, and other British soldiers who found the body killed an Egyptian peasant who was trying to help the fallen officer. A trial was held with mostly British judges, where four villagers out of a convicted 52 Egyptians were sentenced to death, and others were either sentenced to life sentence in a labor gang, or public flogging. These events would eventually lead to the creation of two Egyptian political parties, both strongly nationalistic in character ? the Kamil's National Party, and the Umma Party. Both would make strong use of newspapers. While both called for an end to British rule, the Umma Party was more radical in demanding an outright expulsion, and the Umma Party rather focused on encouraging an autonomous reform.

II.4 Progress in Politics and Administration
            Sa'id Pasha, one of Muhammad Ali's sons, would come to power following Abbas I's death in 1854. He would embark on a series of wider reforms concerning the administrative structure of Egypt, contrasting with his father¡¯s strongly military/industrial programs. The Department of Public Works, created by Muhammad Ali in 1836, was transformed into the Ministry of Public Works in 1869. ? it was a comprehensive organization, overseeing smaller departments that concerned themselves with railroads, sewage systems, irrigation, agriculture, building construction, surveying, telegraphs, and so on. In 1858, works on the Suez Canal would begin. The project was supervised by the French Universal Suez Ship Company, worked by an estimate of 20,000 workers drafted each month on works (7). An important aspect of this project to be noted is how the bulk of the expensive construction costs were paid by the Egyptians, while foreign powers would come to claim joint authority in controlling the canal on the basis of unpaid debts. In fact, the massive amount of money the Egyptian government borrowed from European lenders seriously indebted the country, which it would spend decades to repay even after the canal was finished ? thus Egypt could not claim its singular authority over the Suez Canal, which the Europeans came to hold as virtual collateral until the debts were paid.
            Ismail Pasha initially reigned over a period of revival and reform. He re-transformed the administrative system, along with the national tax system. The Egyptian postal service was first established in 1865. Ismail encouraged the creation of new military academies, supported education, and brought in foreign investors and companies to work on telegraphs, harbors, railroads and lighthouses The Suez Canal was completed during this period in 1869, and the Egyptian economy once again boomed thanks to the greatly inflated cotton prices which were dropping prior to the American Civil War (8). Yet the country being heavily indebted to foreign interests, Ismail drew labor and capital from his own people; according to Lady Duff Gordon in 1867 :

            "I cannot describe the misery here now, every day some new tax. Every beast, camel, cow, sheep, donkey and horse is made to pay. The fellaheen can no longer eat bread; they are living on barley-meal mixed with water, and raw green stuff, vetches, &c. The taxation makes life almost impossible: a tax on every crop, on every animal first, and again when it is sold in the market; on every man, on charcoal, on butter, on salt. ... The people in Upper Egypt are running away by wholesale, utterly unable to pay the new taxes and do the work exacted. Even here (Cairo) the beating for the year¡¯s taxes is awful." (9)

            Eventually Egypt will face an economic crisis; the overly ambitious reforms, together with Ismail Pasha's taste for extravagance, had caused a practical national bankruptcy; For one thing, the government could no longer rely on foreign loans, having defaulted on repayment multiple times. In the interior the nation was in a morbid state, depleted of resources. Excessive cultivation had also severely impoverished the land, and cotton crops were declining. Ismail finally is forced to sell the control of the Suez canal over to the British for 400,000 pounds sterling (10). More out of necessity than voluntary change, Ismail accepts the adoption of a constitutional monarchy ? whose minister of finance and public works were, respectively, an Englishman and a Frenchman. Yet this system would not be so well accepted by Ismail, who secretly disposed of his cabinet members. The British would decide to act with the sultan in ousting Ismail and putting his son (r. 1863 ? 1867) in his place.

III. Persia

III.1 Chronological Overview
            The progress and reforms in Persia during the 19th century were initially different in character from those in Egypt during the same period. While Egypt's reforms were mostly instigated by the ambitions of a single ruler (Muhammad Ali), Persia's reforms were more a reaction than affirmative action ? the war against Russia under Catherine the Great awoke its rulers to the need for reform. Yet the government was not centralized like that of Egypt, and most efforts were not as effective.
            Persia was ruled by the Qajar dynasty from 1794 ? 1925. The Russo-Persian wars began during the reign of Fath Ali Shah (r. 1797 ? 1834), who ruled during a period of increased contact with European nations. The war broke out in 1804 when Persia invaded Georgia, which Russia had formerly taken control of from Persia. The lack of modernized weapons and artillery led to Persia¡¯s defeat and the Treaty of Turkmenchay, which further crippled Persia¡¯s economy by posing heavy indemnities. Persia¡¯s modernizing reforms would truly begin with Abbas Mirza, one of Fath Ali Shah's younger sons. He would have a hand in seriously modernizing the army (of course, during Fath Ali Shah¡¯s reign ? Abbas Mirza died in 1833; his eldest son would become the next king in 1834) which grew strong enough to challenge the Ottoman empire¡¯s military strength itself. Although Fath Ali Shah was also interested in European culture (he is known to have read the Encyclopaedia Britannica's 3rd edition from beginning to end, after which he added "Most Formidable Lord and Master of the Encyclopaedia Britannica" to his formal title.) it was Abbas Mirza who actively sent young scholars to European nations. Persia would definitively fall under foreign influence under Mohammad Shah, Abbas Mirza's son. In fact, even Mohammad Shah's ascendance to the throne had been decided by the Russians and the British. Thus his power and prestige were severely limited, and the already decentralized Persia faced increasing internal unrest. The national treasury was virtually bankrupt (mostly because of Russia's enforcement of the Treaty of Turkmenchay) and Russia would slowly overpower Britain's influence in Persia.
            Yet in 1848, the kingship would be passed on to Nasser-al-Din Shah, the most able and successful of Qajar rulers. Western science, technology, and education would flow into Persia thanks to Nasser-al-Din's progressive stance, and he was blessed with the presence of yet another able and like-minded reformer Amir Kabir, (also known as Mirza Taghi) who served as his prime minister and advisor. The Dar ol-Fonoon (Dar ul-Funun), the first modern university in the Middle East, was founded during this period and virtually all sectors were touched by reform. Government spending was cut, foreign influence curbed, bureaucracy reorganized, etc. but Amir Kabir was assassinated by various notables who had been excluded from the government following the reforms. Persia would then take a downhill path, until the Iranian Constitutional Revolution of 1905 ? 1911 under Mozzafar-al-din Shah.

III.2 Economic Progress
            The government did not fare well financially during the early 19th century, due to the Russo-Persian wars. Lack of government funds mandated that much of the industrial projects were implemented with foreign aid. Mines, foundries, weaving mills, and such were built according to European models, and by European funds. Persia did not undertake major construction projects (unlike Egypt in a similar period) under Abbas Mirza ? according to Sir Ker Porter, a British explorer of the time, ¡°"he prince does not aim as much at adorning the city, as to strengthen it." One important aspect of the Persian economy to be noted is that it did not seem to have such a conspicuous source of income as the Egyptians did. Although Amir Kabir made some progress in reducing governmental spending and increased foreign exports, this obviously was not enough ? the financial burden of the reforms themselves would eventually cripple Persia.

III.3 Social Progress
            Abbas Mirza's reforms were much more centered on social and cultural (westernization) aspects, compared to Muhammad Ali's enormous economic and industrial projects. Although he grew up receiving strictly traditional education, Abbas Mirza was eager to let western culture flow into Persia. The city of Tabriz, during his reign, became the seat of western influence, with the French and British embassies. Abbas Mirza initially introduced western culture into Persia from Turkish writings, through which Abbas Mirza could keep in touch with European political events. From then on, he would gradually invite European intellectuals to instigate reforms ? for example L'Ami, a Frenchman, took upon the task of establishing a modern educational system in Persia. Young scholars were also sent to Great Britain, and Abbas Mirza was known to have been greatly interested in English culture ? for one thing, he kept a library full of English books even though he did not understand the language.

III.4 Progress in Politics and Administration
            The cost of the Russo-Persian wars was too great for the Persian administration to handle. Abbas Mirza thus implemented a series of administrative reforms to take care of this difficulty. He instituted a detailed fiscal register, and revived the Persian intelligence service in order to collect information on financial transactions in each province. The trafficking of governmental posts was severely punished, and governmental documents were from then on written using a simplified script (introduced by Mirza Abu'l-Qasem), compared to the excessively eloquent style previously adopted (11).

III.5 Military Progress
            The military might that Persia had accumulated under Nader Shah¡¯s reign was dispersed following a series of ineffective rulers and the eventual collapse of the Afsharid dynasty. The Qajar dynasty therefore took on attempts to reinvigorate the army, as well as modernize it. The Qajar era was also characterized by several foreign invasions, most notably that of Russia under Catherine the Great. The aforementioned Amir Kabir would succeed in establishing a capable modern army. Many Persians were sent overseas to learn Western military technology, and British officers were invited to train the Persian army. The whole attempt was a success, as within just ten years the Persian military would have changed from one that did not even possess modern artillery technology (According to a Persian record of the Russo-Persian wars, Abbas Mirza actually wore a coat of Mongolian mail into war in 1804 against Russia) to one that was strong enough to defeat an Ottoman army (Battle of Erzeroum, 1821).
            Most of the modern military knowledge flowed into Persia through the Ottoman Empire, which itself had reformed its military after its struggles with European powers in the early 18th century. Russian captives or deserters were given the task of implementing this knowledge and training Persian soldiers. Initially, French officers would also form a part of the reformed army, gradually replaced with British officers. Later on, soldiers from Italy and even Poland would come seeking employment. The aforementioned L'Ami would also set up the first military academy in Persia, as well as arsenals, metal-works, and powder mills in Tabriz. In 1808 there were only 6,000 modernized infantry; in 1817, 8,000; in 1831 there were 12,000 infantrymen, with 1,200 artillerymen and one cavalry regiment. Not only was the army reformed, but old fortifications and walls were renovated, and new modern forts were built in the key cities of Tabriz, Ardabil, Koy, Abbasabad, etc.
            Such a series of successes would prompt the Persian administration to further attempts in improving the military, but sadly this would not last long. Internal troubles, along with increased intervention from foreign powers would effectively undermine any future attempts at strengthening Persian military might. Abbas Mirza¡¯s overly ambitious campaign of Russian invasion in 1826 led to a crushing defeat, from which the army would permanently not be able to recover ? mostly due to the burden of the Treaty of Turkmenchay (1828) which imposed an extremely heavy indemnity on Persia.

IV. Encyclopedic Depictions
            Although the encyclopedias seem to agree on statistical or purely historical elements, there is a large difference in area covered, as well as the occasionally inserted judgment. Discussing slight statistical differences seems unnecessary, and the main topic to be covered here is in the inconsistency among encyclopedias in topic coverage and tone.

IV.1 Egypt
            (Articles: "Egypt" in English encyclopedias, "Ägypten" in German encyclopedias, "Egypten" in Swedish encyclopedias, and all related sub-articles)
            The Encyclopedia Britannica (1911 edition) was by far the most detailed, going as far as to provide visual descriptions of sights and everyday life to be seen in contemporary Egypt. It provided extensive background information on geography, towns, and history; it also provided an incomparably comprehensive amount of statistical data, understandable considering how Egypt was under British administration at the time, and census data would have been much easier to obtain. Yet what may be a rather interesting observation is that the Britannica adds observations of its own, (by 'own' ? other encyclopedias either do not agree or do not make such statements) either putting Great Britain in a better light, or depicting Egypt as a lesser nation. An example is shown below:

            "The fellah soldier has been aptly likened to a bicycle, which although incapable of standing up alone, is very useful while under the control of a skilful master."

            Note the expressions "incapable of standing up alone," and "useful under a skillful master". The general tone of the whole article seems to convey that the British did the Egyptians a favor in taking control, and aided in its growth/development. Another excerpt, in which the Britannica describes the economic state of Egypt after 1882:

            "The trade of Egypt has developed enormously since the British occupation in 1882 ensured to all classes of the community the enjoyment of the profit of their labor. The total value of the exterior trade increased in the 20 years 1882 to 1902 from 19,000,000 to 32,400,000."

            Yet according to what has been discussed before, it seems rather apparent that British rule actually led to the decline of native industries ? the purported 'increased wealth' is more likely in the hands of foreign, and mostly British, entrepreneurs (this of course is what led to strong anti-British movements of the 20th century). The Meyers Konversationslexikon (1902 ? 1909 edition) describes the economic growth in a more neutral tone, although still yet incomplete in portraying the whole image:

            "Die ägyptischen Finanzen gestalteten sich unter der englischen Verwaltung günstig. Obwohl 1899 und 1900 die Nilüberschwemmungen ungenügend waren und daher die Grundsteuer einen erheblichen Ausfall aufzuweisen hatte, betrugen d och die Einnahmen 19006 Mill. Pfd. Sterl. mehr als 1899."

            Although a relatively neutral portrayal, it still does not provide enough insight into how the economy was in relation to normal Egyptians ? the Encyclopaedia Britannica might have been the only one capable of providing such insight, yet it failed as it delivered its plethora of information with a biased stance.

            The Catholic Encyclopedia 1907 ? 1914 edition, although published at a similar period, by contrast virtually did not cover contemporary Egypt, let alone describe its economy. Rather, it focused on cultural aspects, discussing traditions such as embalming and Ancient Egyptian religion. A topic heavily covered was religion and Egyptian mysticism. Historical narration does not go further than the thirteenth dynasty except when discussing Christianity in Egypt, which takes up almost a third of the whole article. The Jewish Encyclopedia 1901 ? 1906 edition was much more comprehensive, and dealt with more topics. An interesting characteristic to note, however, is that much of its accounts (as the Catholic Encyclopedia dealt with matters in relation to Catholicism) are depicted in relation to the Jewish community at the time. For example, under the topic of "Egypt ? In the Nineteenth Century," we find:

            "Two Jewish travelers have left an account of the condition of the Jews in Egypt about the middle of the nineteenth century. Benjamin II. found in Alexandria about 500 families of indigenous Jews and 150 of so-called Italians. Each of these communities had its own synagogue (...)"

            "The head of the Egyptian Jews outside of Alexandria was R. Elijah Israel b. Isaac of Jerusalem, whose power over the community was c onsiderable"

            Although the article does contain neutral historical information, there is almost an equal amount which deals primarily with contemporary synagogues, references to the Bible, Jewish ministers of the time, etc.

            The Brockhaus Conversations-Lexikon 1809 ? 1811 edition, despite having been published much earlier, contained much more information, and of course from a purely historical point of view. Topics listed range from climate, fauna, agriculture, to ancient and new (contemporary) history, industry, mentality, and so on. The Herders Conversations-Lexikon 1854 ? 1857 edition seems to favorably depict Muhammad Ali's reign:

            "Mit der Wirksamkeit Mehemed Alis begann ein neues Zeitalter in der Geschichte Ägyptens."

            The coverage on his administration, and successive ones, seems to focus on internal reforms. For example:

            "Durch umfangreiche Damm- und Kanalbauten vermehrte Mehemed Ali den kulturf?higen Boden, sorgte f?r Ordnung und Ruhe im Innern und reformierte die Verwaltung auf Grund einerl 829 mit Notabeln gepflogenen Beratung. (...) Sein Enkel Abbas Pascha, der ihm folgte, verringerte die Marine, setzte die übermässig hohen Gehalte der Beamten herab und beseitigte das Monopolwesen. (...)"

            And so on. In general, the German encyclopedias which had articles on Egypt took a much more neutral tone than the British ones, concentrating more on delivering objective facts that descriptions, anecdotes or opinions. In fact, it was hard to find any use of judgmental tone in the German encyclopedias. The Herders Conversations-Lexikon 1857 ? 1865 edition exemplifies this trend, by simply providing a historical background and several other national characteristics. The Brockhaus Bilder-Conversations-Lexikon 1837 ? 1841 edition, did have an article on Egypt, but was still far shorter compared to the early 20th century articles, and seems more like a summary of the characteristics of Egypt, along with a brief history; such a dearth of material may be contributed to the fact that back then Egypt was still far from an industrialized country, and had yet to merit European attention. It also briefly discusses Mohammed Ali¡¯s establishment of power in Egypt. Although not within scope of this paper, it is interesting to note that articles on Egypt seem to become longer through time, with books from the 18th century describing the country in one paragraph. The Brockhaus Konversationslexikon 1894 ? 1896 edition covered a much larger category of subjects, ranging from climate, population and administration to agriculture, industry, and art.

            The Nordisk Familjebok 1876 ? 1899 edition, surprisingly contained a lot of information (29 pages) for an article that was written in 1881. Yet it seems more favorable towards the foreign powers that took over Egypt than the German encyclopedias. For example :

            "I Nov. 1875 måste khediven för 4 mill. p. st. sälja sina 176,602 Suez-kanal-aktier till England och anförtro skötandet af statens affärer åt en skicklig engelsk finansman (Cave)."

            "Frankrike och England sökte derefter en längre tid gemensamt ordna de egyptiska finanserna. Utledsen vid dessa makters förmynderskap, afskedade khediven, i April 1879, sin kosmopolitiska minist?r (engelsmannen Wilson var finansminister och fransmannen Blignieres arbets-minister) (...)"

            Note the use of words such as "skicklig" (dexterous) and "förmynderskap' (guardianship) in depicting what was virtually a European economic takeover of Egypt. By using such words, the event is portrayed as if Egypt was placed in good, benevolent hands. It does not discuss the possible ulterior motives of the Western powers. Yet it is still a very comprehensive account ? for example, the entry in page 234 on Muhammad Ali's ascension to power and domestic reform programs is as detailed as much of what one can find online in modern times. The Nordisk Familjebok 1904 ? 1926 edition showed even more coverage, with 37 articles (though not all pertaining to Egyptian history) over more than 50 pages. Although still far below what the Britannica provides, it is still comparable to none of the other encyclopedias at hand. It provides much contemporary statistical information as well; for example, page 1469 - 1479 is a detailed account of the Egyptian administrative budget, a topic rarely even discussed in other encyclopedias used here.

IV.2 Persia
            (Articles: "Persia" in English encyclopedias, "Persien" in German encyclopedias, in Swedish encyclopedias, and all related sub-articles)

            The Meyers Konversationslexikon 1885-1892 edition does not talk much about 19th century Persia in terms of history. Little is to be noted of judgment. In contrast, the discussion of Persia¡¯s contemporary military organization is much in detail. For example:

            "Das Heer, für welches seit 1875 die allgemeine Wehrpflicht mit zwölfjähriger Dienstzeit vom 20. Lebensjahr an eingeführt ist, ist teilweise von europäischen Offizieren eingeübt und besteht aus Fussvolk (Serbaz), Reiterei (Savareh) und Artillerie (Toptschi). Zu Anfang 1879 zählte es nominell 77 Regimenter Infanterie zu 800-1000 Köpfen, zusammen ca. 70,000 Mann; 79 Regimenter Kavallerie zu etwa je 400 Pferden, zusammen ca. 30,000 Pferde; 20 Regimenter Artillerie von 13 Batterien zu 48 Geschützen, zusammen 5000 Mann mit 200 Geschützen; ein Pionierregiment zu 500 Mann. Neben diesen regulären 105,000 Mann, von denen aber kaum die Hälfte wirklich unter Waffen steht, gibt es noch 24 Bataillone Miliz von 250-500 Köpfen für den Gendarmerie- und Polizeidienst, zusammen ca. 10,000 Mann."

            The Meyers Konversationslexikon 1902 - 1909 edition did not differ much from its earlier edition. The Brockhaus Conversations-Lexikon 1809 -1811 edition did not seem to have a significant article on Persia. The Brockhaus Bilder-Conversations-Lexikon 1837-1841 edition, by contrast, has a lengthier article but with the same subjects covered.

            The Brockhaus Konversationslexikon 1894 ? 1896 edition had a longer entry, but again compared to its Egyptian article, it is far shorter. It deals with basic information on Persia¡¯s trade, military, history, climate, population and administration. The Herders Conversations-Lexikon 1854-1857 also only provides a perfunctory discussion of Persia. Pierer's Universal-Lexikon 4th ed. 1857-1865, on the other hand, had a much longer article, especially in depicting its history. Persia under the Qajar dynasty is also particularly detailed.

            Compared to the article on Egypt, the Catholic Encyclopedia 1907 ? 1914 edition¡¯s article on Persia was much more comprehensive, dealing with events up to 1911. Yet as before, a third of the whole article was concerned with "Christianity in Persia", dealing with related Christian missions, kings, and so on. Again, the Jewish Encyclopedia 1901 ? 1906 edition¡¯s entry on Persia is not too detailed. It only briefly describes its history up to Shah Abbas in the early 17th century (even then, not much: "With the rise of Shah Abbas the Great (1585-1628) the last influential Persian rule is reached.") ? and of course, there is the customary discussion of "Jews in Persia", something not handled in other encyclopedias. Note again the reference to the Bible as a source of information:

            "It has been sufficiently shown that there have been Jews in Persia since the earliest times, and that the history of the Jews has been associated with Persia in various ways. The Biblical allusions to Rages (Avestan, "Ragha"; Old Persian, "Raga"), Ecbatana (Old Persian, "Hagmatana"; Modern Persian, "Hamadan"), and Susa might be added to others that prove the fact"

            As with the articles in Egypt, the Nordisk Familje-Bok 1st and 2nd editions displayed long, comprehensive accounts of Persia. Yet still the Encylopedia Britannica 1911 edition provided the lengthiest one by far. It still showed signs of excessive narratives, which could even seem like a form of digression; an example below, where it describes Nader Shah:

            "tall, well-proportioned, of robust make and constitution; inclined to be fat, but prevented by the fatigue he underwent; with fine, large black eyes and eyebrows; of sanguine complexion, made more manly by the influence of sun and weather; a loud, strong voice; a moderate wine-drinker; fond of simple diet, such as pilaos and plain dishes, but often neglectful of meals altogether, and satisfied, if occasion required, with parched peas and water (...)"

            However, whatever the amount it filled up with such narratives, it also made up for with comprehensive statistics and details:

            "While the value of the trade between Great Britain and Persia in1906-1907was almost the same as in 1897, that of the trade with Russia had increased from 31/2 millions to 83/4 or i37%. The average yearly value of the trade between Great Britain and Persia during the six years was 2,952,185 (imports 2,435,016, exports 517,169); between Russia and Persia 6,475,866 (imports 3,350,072, exports 3,125,794). The average values of the trade with other countries were: France 666,000, Austria 246,000, Germany 124,000, Italy 79,ooo, United States of America 52,000,Netherlands ao,000. The principal imports into Persia in approximate order of value are cottons, sugar, tea, woollens, cotton yarn, petroleum, stuffs of wool and cotton mixed, wool, hardware, ironmongery, matches, iron and steel, dyes, rice, spices and glass-wdre. The principal exports are fruits (dried and fresh), carpets, cotton, fish, rice, gums, wool, opium, silk cocoons, skins, live animals, silks, cottons, wheat, barley, drugs and tobacco (...)"

IV.3 Analysis
            The initial hypothesis was that 19th century (and early 20th century) encyclopedias would cover Persia to a greater extent than Egypt. In the end, it turned out to be exactly the opposite. The original assumption was based on the thought that Persia seemed at least initially a larger and more powerful state than Egypt ? yet ironically, this might have been the reason behind its lesser encyclopedic depictions. Perhaps because Egypt was a smaller state, it garnered more interest on behalf of Western nations ? as it was a better candidate for exploitation under their sphere of control. Persia, on the other hand, while not as powerful as the Ottoman Empire to inspire a sense of respect and interest, (Although the Ottoman Empire itself had already been on a long slope of decline) it was a nuisance enough to pose difficulties in subjugation by European powers. In this respect, Egypt would have provided much more interest. It has been noted that encyclopedic coverage on both countries increased in proportion with European influence in each country. Furthermore, Persia¡¯s initial contact with Europeans occurred with Russia ? access to Russian encyclopedias published in the early 19th century might have been able to provide more information on Persia.
            As a general trend, the Encyclopaedia Britannica showed the most ¡®secular¡¯ biases. It was evident that the Jewish and Catholic Encyclopedias were inclined to discuss their religion in relation with the topic on a strongly disproportionate level ? besides this, the Britannica was the source which showed the least neutrality. As previously mentioned, despite its extremely thorough exploration of both Egypt and Persia in its articles, it attempted on multiple accounts to portray Great Britain as a benevolent entity that aided the nations it subjugated. As historical evidence points out that this was not always necessarily true, such omissions or manipulations in point of view should be duly noted. The Britannica also adopted a relatively familiar tone when discussing history, (contemporary accounts as well) often degenerating into digressions or anecdotes based on hearsay ("it is said that ..."). (The latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica does not seem to display such traits) As the Britannica does not state any other reliable sources that back up such ¡®stories¡¯, they ? although enjoyable ? remain hanging in doubt. However, due to its thorough presentation of many of the aspects of each country, the Encyclopaedia Britannica was the most useful primary source for writing the bulk of the paper. The German encyclopedias were not plagued by the problem of neutrality to such an extent, and provided a more non-judgmental viewpoint on historical matters ? however, its relative directness in turn left much unsaid in some occasions. For example, on the matter of Egypt¡¯s economic rise under British rule: the Encyclopaedia Britannica would state that effective British rule led to such an increase in national exports, which benefited ¡®all classes¡¯ of Egyptians. The German encyclopedias would not commit such an outright biased evaluation, but often stopped the discussion short by simply stating that the economy improved. If the Britannica misguided the reader sometimes, the German encyclopedias posed problems by providing too little guidance ? and the lack of information often tilted favorably towards European powers. The two editions of the Swedish encyclopedia constantly provided a satisfactory amount of information, but exactly how much bias was involved remains a question, as the language barrier posed more problems than for other encyclopedias, and subtle nuances may have escaped attention. There were, however, some examples in which European favoritism seemed to be evident.

V. Conclusion
            As has been noted in the beginning, the amount of ¡®progress¡¯ in either nation was determined (by the encyclopedias) on the amount of westernization. Modernizers such as Muhammad Ali were often praised, described as ¡®energetic¡¯ or ¡®efficient¡¯. Rarely were adjectives such as ¡®ruthless¡¯ or ¡®despotic¡¯ used to describe them. Cultural reforms, on the other hand, were rarely even discussed or put in a positive light. Persian and Egyptian nationalist revival movements were described as obstacles to their respective nation's path to ¡®progress¡¯. From a personal point of view, it seemed that the encyclopedias were too keen on simply stating what these movements tried to stop or prevent, while withholding on the possible reasons they might have acted in such a fashion. It was stated that Muhammad Ali was not entirely popular with the lower class, but the harshest explanation to be seen was ¡®due to Muhammad Ali's strict reform plans (...)¡¯. Nowhere were descriptions of forced labor to be seen. The bias was all too obvious in the British encyclopedia. However, (again, personally) it seemed that German encyclopedias too ? although often maintaining a neutral stance and refraining from using outright judgmental vocabulary ? harbored a similar viewpoint, expressed indirectly through omission and choice of topics. Perhaps it was because Germany too was a monarchy, and authoritarian rulers were viewed with somewhat of an admiration, or greater understanding than today. Modern articles that discuss rulers such as Muhammad Ali almost always seem to include at least a sentence in mentioning the ¡®plight of the commoners¡¯ ? modern emphasis on individual rights and sensitivity against a too-powerful government seems to be the reason for this shift in trend.


Only details that merited separate notification and were drawn from secondary sources have been listed below

(1)      Article: ¡°Mohammed Ali,¡± from
(2)      The Period of Muhammad Ali, from
(3)      B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics, Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000 p.638
(4)      History of Iranian railways
(5)      Badrawi 1996. p.11
(6)      Thompson 2008 p.266 ? 267
(7)      Article: ¡°History,¡± from Egyptian governmental Suez Canal site
(8)      Article: ¡°History of Egyptian Cotton,¡± from
(9)      Thompson 2008 p.382
(11)      Article: ¡°Abbas Mirza¡± from Encyclopedia Iranica


Primary sources (#1 - #12) have been directly referred to in Section IV (¡°Encyclopedic Depictions¡±) due to reasons of efficiency.
Secondary sources without page references have either been: read and referenced as a whole, or referenced as a source of general information and trends.
Note : websites quoted below were visited in June 2009.

Primary Sources
1.      Brockhaus Conversations-Lexikon. 1809 ? 1811 edition, posted by
2.      Brockhaus Bilder-Conversations-Lexikon. 1837 ? 1841 edition, posted by
3.      Herders Conversations-Lexikon. 1854 ? 1857 edition, posted by
4.      Pierer's Universal-Lexikon. 1857 ? 1865 edition, posted by
5.      Geografisk-Statistisk Haandbog ed. by Stefan Anskjaer. 1858 ? 1865 edition, posted by Project Runeberg
6.      Meyers Konversationslexikon. 1885 ? 1892 edition, posted by
7.      Brockhaus Konversationslexikon. 1894 ? 1896 edition, posted by
8.      The Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901 ? 1906 edition, posted in
9.      Meyers Konversationslexikon. 1902 ? 1909 edition, posted by
10.      Nordisk Familje-Bok. 1904 ? 1926 edition, posted by Project Runeberg
11.      The Catholic Encyclopedia. 1907 ? 1914 edition, posted by
12.      Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1911 edition, posted by Online Encyclopedia
13.      Balfour, Edward. "Cyclopedia of India; vol. 4, N ? R" first ed. 1857
14.      Article: ¡°Persien,¡± from R?ll, Enzyklop?die des Eisenbahnwesens 2nd ed. 1912-1923, posted by

Secondary Sources
15.      Thompson, Jason. A History of Egypt: From Earliest Times to the Present. American University in Cairo Press, 2008 pp. 219 ? 267
16.      Article: ¡°History,¡± from Egyptian governmental Suez Canal site
17.      Article: ¡°Mohammed Ali,¡± from
18.      Article: ¡°History of Egyptian Cotton,¡± from
19.      Article: ¡°The Period of Muhammad Ali,¡± from
20.      Gettleman, Marvin.¡°The Middle East and Islamic world reader¡± Grove Press, 2003 p.70 ? 79
21.      Nolan, Cathal J. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of International Relations 2002 : F-L. p. 816
22.      Amanat, Abbas. ¡°Pivot of the Universe¡±. Pivot of the universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy, 1831-1896. University of California Press, 1997
23.      Martin, Vanessa. ¡°The Qajar Pact: bargaining, protest and the state in nineteenth-century Persia¡±. I.B.Tauris, 2005
24.      Goldschmidt, Arthur. ¡°A Brief History of Egypt¡± pp.70 - 79
25.      Country Studies : Egypt, chapter : the Economy,¡± from U.S. Library of Congress,
26.      Hawash, Ronia. ¡°Industrialization in Egypt: Historical Development and Implications for Economic Policy¡± from German University in Cairo (GUC) site
27.      Article: : A Modernizing Regime:?Egypt,¡± from Nipissing University site
28.      Article: ¡°History of Iranian railways,¡± from Iranian Railways,
29.      Population statistics of Egypt and Iran in 19th century, from
30.      Middle East and Islamic Studies Collections site, Durham University Library
31.      Badrawi, Malak. ¡°Isma¡¯il Sidqi¡±. Routledge, 1996. P.11 32.      Encyclopaedia Iranica ( Artices Mohammadshah Qajar, Abbas Mirza, Fath-Alikhan Qajar
33.      Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Edition ( Articles Ancient Iran, Egypt, Mirza Taqi Khan (Amir Kabir)
34.      Ganse, Alexander. WHKMLA (, chapters Persia 1795-1828, 1828-1848, 1848-1883, 1883-1905
35.      Wikipedia (, Articles : Persia, Egypt, Abbas I., Ismail Pasha, Abbas Mirza, Amir Kabir, Iranian Constitutional Revolution, Dar-ul-Funun, Muhammad Ali of Egypt, Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, Sa'id of Egypt 36.      B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics, Africa, Asia & Oceania 1750-2000, London : Pakgrave 2003

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