• Food, Hunger, and Rebellion: Egypt in World War I and its Aftermath

    Christopher S. Rose (see profile)
    History, History of Medicine in the Middle East/North Africa
    Egypt, Food, History, Medicine, War and society
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Food history, History of medicine
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    Over two percent of the Egyptian population perished during World War I due to starvation, malnutrition, and disease. Although technically neutral, Egypt was the staging ground for British and Dominion troops fighting the campaign against the Ottoman Empire. The prioritization of military needs led to government recruitment of civilian labor—mostly from the agricultural sector—and requisitioning of food supplies for the troops. The drop in labor and available supplies for the civilian market caused supply shortages and runaway inflation in the cost of basic provisions. This chapter uses government documents, statistical data, and the press to illustrate anxieties over the cost and availability of food among Egyptian civilians during the war. There are few studies that examine the history of wartime Egypt at all, and even less that focus on the civilian home front. Most work heretofore has focused on political developments that led to a nationwide uprising against British rule in the spring of 1919. I discuss the impact of the war years on the home front, when the colonial government took little action to alleviate suffering or address the needs of the civilian population. Although a tariff regime was introduced to standardize the cost of staples, it was ineffective, and complaints were frequently lodged that goods could not actually be purchased at the official price. The lack of coordination in the cost of raw materials and finished products led to strikes, bread famines, and food riots. The relationship of the Anglo-Egyptian government toward the civilian population was profoundly affected by government and military policies about the requisitioning of food during the war. This is not only an important factor in the historiography of early 20th century Egypt, it is also an important case study to consider the obligations of governments toward civilian populations in war time.
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    Last Updated:
    3 years ago
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