In 1919, a “Revolution” broke out in Egypt; since 1882, Britain had held an outsized role in Egyptian affairs but never directly ruled the country, instead preferring to use local royalty as intermediaries. In the “Wilsonian moment” after 1918, Egyptian nationalists believed that a liberation from British control was at hand. A delegation (Wafd) was formed, under the leadership of Sa’ad Zaghloul (1859-1927), which would travel to the Paris Peace Conference to present Egypt’s demands for self-determination to the world. The refusal of the British governor of Egypt to allow the Wafd’s travel request fomented a series of demonstrations into the following year both in Cairo and elsewhere; the demonstrations became collectively known as the Egyptian Revolution, a key moment in modern Egyptian history and, indeed, the backdrop for perhaps the greatest work of modern Egyptian literature, Naguib Mahfouz’ Cairo Trilogy.
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