Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, History, The New School

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Joint Program in History and Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University (NYU)
Finance in the Fields: Egypt, Agricultural Credit, and the Age of Global Comparison

In 1882, the British military invaded Egypt to forestall the Egyptian state’s potential default on its debts to private banks in London and Paris. The ensuing occupation coincided with a series of major shifts in the structures and practices of imperial finance. In these decades, a massive extension of international financial networks sought to transform remote rural environments into vital frontiers for the direct investment of metropolitan capital. While the great banks of Europe had once restricted their dealings to government loans and local money-lenders had held a virtual monopoly on agricultural credit, a host of institutional and infrastructural innovations provided new means to channel sources of international finance directly into the fields. My dissertation seeks to situate the socio-economic shifts that occurred during the British occupation within this trans-regional and imperial context of linked transformations that rendered Egypt a key site for both agricultural and financial experimentation. Drawing on an array of little-used sources—agricultural journals, family papers, bank records, court registers, and state archives in Egypt, India, and England—my dissertation will attempt to reconstruct the tangled and shifting webs of credit that enmeshed the Egyptian countryside between the British invasion and the onset of the First World War. I believe the changing system of agrarian finance provides a key vantage from which to reconsider two common features of existing scholarship on modern Egypt. First, rather than treat the occupation merely as the continuation of trends spanning “the long nineteenth century”, I hope to show that this period witnessed eventful transformations in Egypt’s agrarian political economy that cannot simply be deduced from the country’s earlier “peripheralization” as a producer of raw cotton for British mills. Second, departing from traditions of scholarship that either isolate relations between Egypt and the metropole or that treat British rule as the reproduction of existing colonial practices and institutions, I am interested in understanding how Egypt’s incorporation into the British Empire contributed to an ongoing elaboration of financial, discursive, and administrative networks with other colonial territories, most notably northern India.