Trading in power: Merchants and the state in 19th-century Egypt

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History Department

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Research Article

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International Journal of Middle East Studies

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In this article, I argue that commercial legislation promulgated and implemented in Egypt during the first half of the 19th century was one of several factors that diminished the effect of merchants' social networks, reduced merchants' identity to a purely professional dimension, and made profit dependent upon association with the state. The transformation of merchants' social roles was not part of a natural evolution toward modernization and the specialized division of labor. Rather, it resulted from interactions between state-building endeavors, pressures from established merchants who sought to parry threats to their position while profiting from new business opportunities, and an influx of merchants from outside the Ottoman sultanate, who could draw neither on personal connections nor on knowledge of local markets but instead had to depend on the protection of the European consulates and the influence of the growing Egyptian state apparatus. © 2013 Cambridge University Press.

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