Dr Philip Mansel (author and historian), “Alexandria, from Mohammed Ali to Farouk: the rise and fall of a royal capital”
Dr Philip Mansel considers the modern history of Alexandria between 1805 and 1952 from the point of the dynasty which ruled it, the House of Mohammed Ali, rather than from that of its Egyptian or Greek inhabitants. Governor of Egypt, under the Ottoman Sultan from 1805 to 1849, Mohammed Ali came from Kavalla in what is now Greece and had an international outlook and ambitions. He found Alexandria a depleted port of 5,000 inhabitants and left it an international city of over 100,000. His desire for modernisation and personal interest in agriculture and the wheat and cotton trades led him to welcome Greek, English , French and Italian merchants. He gave the land on which Saint Mark’s Anglican church, and Saint Catherine’s Catholic church , both still functioning today, were built. Thereafter his descendants visited Alexandria for three months or more every summer, with their court and government, to escape the heat of Cairo. Alexandria became a multi-national court city. It is in Alexandria that the Khedive Tewfik joined the forces of the British invaders in August 1882, and from Alexandria in July 1952 that Mohammed Ali’s great-great-grandson King Farouk, having signed his abdication, sailed away to exile in Italy.
Dr Philip Mansel is a historian of France and the Middle East. His books include Constantinople: City of the World’s Desire (1995) and Levant: Splendour and Catastrophe on the Mediterranean, a history of Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut. Both have been translated into Greek. His most recent book is Aleppo: the Rise and Fall of Syria’s Great Merchant City (2016) . He is currently working on a biography of Louis XIV. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Society of Literature, and a co-founder of the Society for Court Studies (www.court studies.org) and the Levantine Heritage Foundation (www.levantineheritage.com), which is holding a conference at the Gennadius Library in Athens on 2-3 November 2018 on ‘The Levantines: Identities and Heirtage’ https://3rd-lhf- conference.eventbrite.co.uk