From the 18th century through the beginning of the 19th century, European influence was a significant force in various aspects of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Iran. Although the reforms, coined primarily by Gelvin as “defensive developmentalism,” were initially intended to centralize governmental control and strengthen the military, the actual effects were much broader. Based on varying pre-existing conditions and unique approaches to governorship, this process of modernization affected each region differently. This essay will explore the manners in which European influence shaped each territory, the primary areas of civilization, politics and culture that experienced reform, and the degree to which that influence was significant, or in the case of Iran, insignificant.
European influence was most prominent in Egypt, beginning with the dynasty of Muhammad Ali who initiated the reforms that would lay the groundwork for future rulers. Ali sought to achieve a degree of autonomy from the Ottoman Empire and expand the rule of Egypt, both of which required military reform. In order to finance his efforts, he had to expand the Egyptian economy.
Egyptian exports thrived on the back of cotton, which Ali attempted to consolidate into a government monopoly. Egypt’s focus on cotton production made it an export-heavy territory that was dependent upon European manufacturing imports from the West. In order to facilitate its exports, a robust transportation system was necessary. Egypt developed a railway from Cairo to Alexandria as well as ports along the Mediterranean coast because of its dependence upon the European market.
The structure of Egyptian politics and state administration was also redefined during Ali’s rule. As the government centralized, it required individuals specialized in Western forms of education to fill its roles of leadership. Exemplified by Ali Mubarak and Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, “the path to state employment passed through Paris,” as Cleveland notes. Thanks to the rise of Europeans in the Egyptian government, tension was created between native Egyptians and the Europeans, both of whom desired to extend their control and influence to broader reaches.
Following the reign of Sa’id, Isma’il sought a “complete Europeanization of Egypt.” As he developed a Europepean-educated upper-class, he increased the influence of Western concepts in many areas, particularly that of law. Under Isma’il’s rule, two new courts were established: the Mixed Courts and the National Courts. These institutions significantly lessened the role of the ulama.
Isma’il also sought to expand the economy, primarily through the export of cotton, similar to Ali. Unfortunately, his efforts, which were financed by foreign debt, crippled Egypt. During the American Civil War, Europe relied heavily on Egypt as its primary supplier of cotton. In turn, revenues boomed and the economy was flourishing. However, following the conclusion of the war and the onset of...