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The Egyptian Revolution of 1919 was a countrywide non-violent revolution against the British occupation of Egyptmarker. It was carried out by Egyptians from different walks of life in the wake of the British-ordered exile of revolutionary leader Saad Zaghlul and other members of the Wafd Party in 1919. The event led to Egyptian independence in 1922 and the implementation of a new constitution in 1923.

The event is considered to be one of the earliest successful implementations of non-violent civil disobedience in the world and has been followed immediately by similar actions in the Indian independence movement led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

Some of the most impressive cases of nonviolent resistance has come in North Africa. The 1919 revolution in Egypt consisted of months of civil disobedience against the British occupation, centered in Cairo and Alexandria, and strikes by students and lawyers, as well as postal, telegraph, tram and railway workers, and, eventually Egyptian government personnel. The result of this nonviolent movement was the British recognition of limited Egyptian independence.


Shortly after the First World War armistice of November 11 was concluded in Europe, a delegation of Egyptian anti-colonial activists led by Saad Zaghlul made a request to High Commissioner Reginald Wingate to end the British Protectorate in Egypt and gain Egyptian representation at the next peace conference in Parismarker. Meanwhile, a mass movement for independence was being organized on the Egyptian street using the tactics of Civil Disobedience. By then, Zaghlul and the Wafd had enjoyed massive support among the Egyptian people. Wafdist emissaries went into towns and villages to collect signatures authorizing the movement's leaders to petition for the complete independence of Egypt.

Seeing the popular support that the Wafd leaders enjoyed among the native population, and fearing social unrest, the British in March 1919 proceeded to arrest Zaghlul and two other movement leaders and exiled them to Maltamarker. "The result was revolution," according to noted professor of Egyptian history James Jankowski.


On March 8, 1919, the first modern Egyptian revolution broke out after the British authorities in Egypt arrested Zaghlul and his associates and exiled them to Malta. For several weeks until April, demonstrations and strikes across Egypt by students, civil servants, merchants, peasants, workers, religious leaders; by Egyptian women; by Copts as well as Muslims became such a daily occurrence that normal life was brought to a halt. The uprising in the Egyptian countryside was more violent, involving attacks on British military installations, civilian facilities and personnel. The revolts forced Londonmarker to issue a unilateral declaration of Egyptian independence on February 22, 1922.

The Wafd Party drafted a new constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary representative system. Egyptian independence at this stage was provisional, as British forces continued to be physically present on Egyptian soil. Saad Zaghlul became the first popularly-elected Prime Minister of Egypt in 1924, and in 1936 the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was concluded. By the end of the actions, 800 Egyptians were dead and 1,600 others were wounded.

In Popular Culture

Aspects of the revolution are depicted in Naguib Mahfouz's novel "Palace Walk".

See also


  1. Zunes, 1999, p. 42
  2. Vatikitotis 1992, p. 267
  3. 2000, p. 112
  4. Jankowski, op cit.
  5. NY Times. 1919

Further reading

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