During World War I, the British Empire enlisted half a million young men, predominantly from the countryside of Egypt, in the Egyptian Labor Corps (ELC) and put them to work handling military logistics in Europe and the Middle East. British authorities reneged on their promise not to draw Egyptians into the war, and, as Kyle Anderson shows, the ELC was seen by many in Egypt as a form of slavery. The Egyptian Labor Corps tells the forgotten story of these young men, culminating in the essential part they came to play in the 1919 Egyptian Revolution.
Combining sources from archives in four countries, Anderson explores Britain’s role in Egypt during this period and how the ELC came to be, as well as the experiences and hardships these men endured. As he examines the ways they coped—through music, theater, drugs, religion, strikes, and mutiny—he illustrates how Egyptian nationalists, seeing their countrymen in a state akin to slavery, began to grasp that they had been racialized as “people of color.” Documenting the history of the ELC and its work during the First World War, The Egyptian Labor Corps also provides a fascinating reinterpretation of the 1919 revolution through the lens of critical race theory.
“Crossing the Global Color Line: Colonial Racism and the 1919 Revolution,” in The Egyptian Revolution of 1919: Legacies and Consequences of the Fight for Independence, edited by H. A. Hellyer and Robert Springborg.
The 1919 Egyptian revolution was the founding event for modern Egypt’s nation state. So far there has been no text that looks at the causes, consequences and legacies of the 1919 Egyptian Revolution. This book addresses that gap, with Egyptian and non-Egyptian scholars discussing a range of topics that link back to that crucial event in Egyptian history. Across nine chapters, the book analyzes the causes and course of the 1919 revolution; its impacts on subsequent political beliefs, practices and institutions; and its continuing legacy as a means of regime legitimation. The chapters reveal that the 1919 Egyptian Revolution divided the British while uniting Egyptians. However, the “revolutionary moment” was superseded by efforts to restore Britain’s influence in league with a reassertion of monarchical authority. Those efforts enjoyed tactical, but not long-term strategic success, in part because the 1919 revolution had unleashed nationalist forces that could never again be completely contained. The book covers key issues surrounding the 1919 Egyptian Revolution such as the role played by Lord Allenby; internal schisms within the British government struggling to cope with the revolution; Muslim-Christian relations; and divisions among the Egyptians.
Refereed Journal Articles:
Kyle J. Anderson. “The Egyptian Labor Corps: Workers, Peasants, and the State in World War I,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 49 (January 2017).
Kyle J. Anderson. “Lost and Found, then Lost Again? The Social History of Workers and Peasants in the Modern Middle East.” History Compass 14 (December 2016)
Kyle J. Anderson. “War Memory, Commemoration (Ottoman Empire/Middle East),” 1914-1918 Online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War (November 2018)
Kyle J. Anderson. “Husyan Kamil, Sultan of Egypt,” 1914-1918 Online: International Encyclopedia of the First World War (June 2018)
Deborah Starr & Kyle Anderson (Metadata). Waguih Ghali Unpublished Papers, Cornell University Digital Humanities Project (Published 2013)