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Full Access Mehmed Ali Paşa and Sultan Mahmud II: the genesis of a conflict

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Mehmed Ali Paşa and Sultan Mahmud II: the genesis of a conflict

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The war that Mehmed Ali Paşa of Egypt waged against his suzerain, Sultan Mahmud II in 1831 is often presented as motivated by the Paşa's intention to annex Syria. This paper argues that it was a war for self defence and for achieving tenure in Egypt for himself and hereditary rights for his descendents. Sultan Mahmud forced the restoration of centralization into the Ottoman system, which entailed the destruction of the ayan and derebeys and the subjugation of their domains to direct government from Istanbul. In order to avoid a similar fate, Mehmed Ali established a modern army which would serve him in due course to achieve his other goal. In this endeavour he enjoyed full cooperation of the Turco-Egyptian elite to whom the survival of the socio-political order which he established in Egypt, was of paramount interest. When Mehmet Ali felt that the sultan was planning to attack Egypt he attacked first. His victorious army was one week away from Istanbul when he ordered it to halt its march following Russian intervention. Only after the death of Sultan Mahmud, did the Porte grant him tenure in Egypt and hereditary rights for his descendents, an offer confirmed by the Protocol of London in July 1840.


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