Recent History of Egypt

Recent Egyptian history originates with the revolution of 1952 by the Society of Free Officers. Following the revolution Egypt declared itself a Republic in 1953. In 1952 revolution in which, the Egyptian king, Farouk, was overthrown and a republic declared. Gamal Abdul Nasser took over as premier in 1954 and then voted president in 1956.

His left-wing socialist policies, which became known as Nasserism, also espoused the ideal of Egypt at the intersection of the African, Arab and Islamic worlds, and were promoted in other Arab countries in the 1950s and 1960s, most notably in Syria and North Yemen.

Major events of Nasser's regime included the construction of the Aswan High Dam with Soviet aid; the take- over of the Suez Canal in 1956, which led to the 1956 War and the British-French-Israeli Tripartite Invasion of the Sinai Peninsula (also known as Sinai); and the short-lived Egyptian-Syrian union as the United Arab Republic (1958-61). Egyptian participation in the June 1967 War with Israel resulted in Egypt's loss of the Gaza Strip and Sinai and the so-called War of Attrition along the Suez Canal in 1969-70.

The great leader of modern Egypt died in 1970, without having recovered his popularity after the disastrous defeat of 1967 against Israel in the October war, and was succeeded by his deputy, Anwar Sadat (1970-1981).

Sadat switched Egypt's Cold War allegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972. In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched the October War, a surprise attack against the Israeli forces occupying the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. It was an attempt to liberate the territory Israel had captured 6 years earlier. Both the US and the USSR intervened and a cease-fire was reached.

Despite not being a complete military success, most historians agree that the October War presented Sadat with a political victory that later allowed him to pursue peace with Israel.

Sadat made a historic visit to Israel in 1977, which led to the 1979 peace treaty in exchange for the complete Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. Sadat's initiative sparked enormous controversy in the Arab world and led to Egypt's expulsion from the Arab League, but it was supported by the vast majority of Egyptians. A fundamentalist military soldier assassinated Sadat in Cairo in 1981. He was succeeded by the incumbent Hosni Mubarak.

Until he was assassinated in October 1981, the period of Sadat's premiership was one of rising prosperity - this prosperity is something in which current President Hosni Mubarak has also been trying to deepen.

In 2003, the Egyptian Movement for Change, popularly known as Kefaya, was launched to seek a return to democracy and greater civil liberties.

Mubarak has also begun a process of political and economic reform, which saw contested presidential and parliamentary elections in 2005. The latter also saw gains for the opposition Muslim Brotherhood.

Before the 1952’s Free Officer’s Society revolution European influence in the 19th century gave way to a constitutional monarchy in 1922.

The new Egyptian government drafted and implemented a new constitution in 1923 based on a parliamentary representative system. Saad Zaghlul was popularly-elected as Prime Minister of Egypt in 1924. In 1936 the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty was concluded.

Continued instability in the government due to remaining British control and increasing political involvement by the king led to the ouster of the monarchy and the dissolution of the parliament in a military coup d'état known as the 1952 Revolution. The officers, known as the Free Officers Movement, forced King Farouk to abdicate in support of his son Fuad.

Before Egypt declared as republic in 1953, of these foreign rules, the Arab Muslim conquest, by its Arabization and Islamization, had the greatest impact on Egyptian life and culture, resulting in the rapid conversion of the overwhelming majority of the population to Islam and the spread of Sunni Muslim religious and educational institutions.

Shia Islam, represented by the Fatimid conquest in 969, led to the founding the same year of Al Azhar, later transformed into a Sunni theological school, and in the 1990s still regarded as the outstanding interpreter of Islamic religious law (sharia).

The rule of Muhammad Ali (1805-48), an Albanian officer in the army of the Ottoman sultan, who succeeded in detaching Egypt from Ottoman control, represented another major influence on Egypt's history.

Muhammad Ali encouraged the development of agriculture by expanding Egypt's infrastructure through a network of canals, irrigation systems, and roads; and by promoting secular education.

Last Updated on Friday 13th November 2009