Arguing about intervention: a comparison of British and French rhetoric surrounding the 1882 and 1956 invasions of Egypt
The Historical Journal
Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015
This article compares the rhetorical justifications surrounding two landmark instances of Western imperialism. In 1882, the British occupied Egypt, ousting indigenous proto-nationalist forces that supposedly threatened British and other foreign interests. The consequences of this intervention were still being worked out in 1956 when, in the wake of the Cairo regime's nationalization of the Suez Canal, the British again invaded. France participated on this occasion, with serious but differing political consequences for both. We suggest that comparing how the British and French argued about these issues, and also examining how the rhetoric of the later crisis contrasted with the earlier one, offers useful insights into the two nations' respective imperial cultures. Specifically, we suggest that the latter-day imperialists Anthony Eden and Guy Mollet couched their actions in internationalist rhetoric reminiscent both of the Gladstone government's justifications for intervention in 1882 and of French official explanations for their takeover in Tunisia a year earlier. Each claimed their actions were taken both to uphold better standards of governance and to restore regional order, itself a highly loaded concept. The language of imperial domination was eschewed; but the ends of empire were served by the use of this rhetoric of ‘liberal order’.
Vol. 58, Iss. 4, pp. 1081 - 1113