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The Fiscal and Constitutional Program of Egypt's Traditional Elites in 1879: A Documentary and Contextual Analysis of “al-Lā'iha al-Wataniyya” (“The National Program”)

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This article analyzes “al-Lā'iha al-Wataniyya,” a proposal adopted in April 1879 by Egypt's economic and political elites as an expression of resistance to the fiscal program of European control. The document was a blueprint for a power redistribution that was aimed at confining European influence while confirming the curtailment of Khedivial authority to the benefit of the elites at large. It furthermore enlarged the power of a specific group within those elites, the indigenous Egyptian notables. This article is relevant for the study of the dynamics between local elites and foreign powers not only in Egypt, but also in the wider context of colonial history in the nineteenth century. Cet article détaille al-Lā'iha al-Wataniyya, un projet adopté en avril 1879 par les élites politico-économiques d'Egypte. C'est ainsi qu'elles expriment leur opposition au programme fiscal imposé par les Européens. Il s'agit d'un programme envisageant d'une part la répartition du pouvoir en restreignant l'influence européenne, et d'autre part la réduction le mandat du Khedive au profit des élites dans son ensemble, prévoyant surtout l'accroissement du pouvoir des notables autochtones de l'Egypte. Cette contribution s'avéra utile pour la recherche du dynamisme entre élites locales et puissances étrangères, non seulement en Egypte, mais dans l'histoire coloniale entier.

Affiliations: 1: Professor, Economics Department, and Director, Economic and Business History Research Centre (EBHRC), American University in Cairo, Egypt;, Email:


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