Marcus Pasha Simaika (1864–1944) was born to a prominent Coptic family on the eve of the inauguration of the Suez Canal and the British occupation of Egypt. From a young age, he developed a passion for Coptic heritage and devoted his life to shedding light on centuries of Christian Egyptian history that had been neglected by ignorance or otherwise belittled and despised. He was not a professional archaeologist, an excavator, or a specialist scholar of Coptic language and literature. Rather, his achievement lies in his role as a visionary administrator who used his status to pursue relentlessly his dream of founding a Coptic Museum and preserving endangered monuments. During his lengthy career, first as a civil servant, then as a legislator and member of the Coptic community council, he maneuvered endlessly between the patriarch and the church hierarchy, the Coptic community council, the British authorities, and the government to bring them together in his fight to save Coptic heritage. This fascinating biography draws upon Simaika’s unpublished memoirs as well as on other documents and photographs from the Simaika family archive to deepen our understanding of several important themes of modern Egyptian history: the development of Coptic archaeology and heritage studies, Egyptian–British interactions during the colonial and semi-colonial eras, shifting balances in the interaction of clergymen and the lay Coptic community, and the ever-sensitive evolution of relations between Copts and their Muslim countrymen.
Father of Coptic Archaeology
Introduction byDonald M. Reid
1 August 2017
13 b/w illus
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Artisan Entrepreneurs in Cairo and Early Modern Capitalism 1600–1800
While historians have mined archives and court documents to create a picture of the commercial activities, networks, and infrastructure of merchants in Egypt prior to its incorporation into the European capitalist economy, few have documented a similar picture of the artisans and craftspeople. Artisans outnumbered merchants and their economic weight was considerable, yet details about their lives, the way they carried out their work, and their role or position in the economy is largely unknown. Nelly Hanna seeks to redress this gap by locating and exploring the role of artisans in the historical process. These artisans developed a variety of capitalist practices, both as individuals and collectively in their guilds. Hanna details how they defied the constraints of the guilds and actively engaged in the markets of Europe, demonstrating how Egyptian artisan production was able to compete and survive in a landscape of growing European trade. Deftly synthesizing a wide range of economic and historical theory, Hanna reinvigorates the current scholarship on early Ottoman history and provides a persuasive challenge to the largely shallow perception of artisans’ role in Egypt’s economy....read more
The City Victorious
The City VictoriousMax Rodenbeck
After 5,000 years of continuous habitation, Cairo remains the greatest metropolis in its quarter of the globe. The seat of pharaohs and sultans, the prize of conquerors from Alexander to Napoleon, the city has never stopped reinventing itself. ‘The Victorious’ is what the Arabs called Cairo, and the indomitable spirit of the place still merits the name. Max Rodenbeck’s richly textured biography combines a sweeping timescale with a keen eye for telling detail. It traces the life of Cairo from birth—the ancient Egyptians believed Creation itself took place there—through the heights of medieval splendor, and on to the present day. Modern Cairo is a place of stark contrasts. Skyscrapers abut ancient tombs and genteel colonial mansions. Pulled between the cultural poles of Paris and Mecca, the city’s population struggles under a double load as they cope with the burden of an incomparably rich past as well as the challenges of the future. Cairo: The City Victorious is a cultural excavation of one of the world’s great cities. Fusing the excitement of travel with the stimulation of history, it is an epic, resonant work....read more
Coptic Identity and Ayyubid Politics in Egypt, 1218–1250
Kurt J. Werthmuller
Using the life and writings of Cyril III Ibn Laqlaq, 75th patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church, along with a variety of Christian and Muslim chroniclers, this study explores the identity and context of the Christian community of Egypt and its relations with the leadership of the Ayyubid dynasty in the early thirteenth century. Kurt Werthmuller introduces new scholarship that illuminates the varied relationships between medieval Christians of Egypt and their Muslim neighbors. Demonstrating that the Coptic community was neither passive nor static, the author discusses the active role played by the Copts in the formation and evolution of their own identity within the wider political and societal context of this period. In particular, he examines the boundaries between Copts and the wider Egyptian society in the Ayyubid period in three “in-between spaces”: patriarchal authority, religious conversion, and monasticism....read more
1 July 2010
8 color illus.
Crowds and Sultans
Urban Protest in Late Medieval Egypt and Syria
Urban Protest in Late Medieval Egypt and SyriaAmina Elbendary
During the fifteenth century, the Mamluk sultanate that had ruled Egypt and Syria since 1249–50 faced a series of sustained economic and political challenges to its rule, from the effects of recurrent plagues to changes in international trade routes. Both these challenges and the policies and behaviors of rulers and subjects in response to them left profound impressions on Mamluk state and society, precipitating a degree of social mobility and resulting in new forms of cultural expression. These transformations were also reflected in the frequent reports of protests during this period, and led to a greater diffusion of power and the opening up of spaces for political participation by Mamluk subjects and negotiations of power between ruler and ruled. Rather than tell the story of this tumultuous century solely from the point of view of the Mamluk dynasty, Crowds and Sultans places the protests within the framework of long-term transformations, arguing for a more nuanced and comprehensive narrative of Mamluk state and society in late medieval Egypt and Syria. Reports of urban protest and the ways in which alliances between different groups in Mamluk society were forged allow us glimpses into how some medieval Arab societies negotiated power, showing that rather than stoically endure autocratic governments, populations often resisted and renegotiated their positions in response to threats to their interests. This rich and thought-provoking study will appeal to specialists in Mamluk history, Islamic studies, and Arab history, as well as to students and scholars of Middle East politics and government and modern history....read more
1 May 2016