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Under Osman's TreeThe Ottoman Empire, Egypt, and Environmental History$
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Alan Mikhail

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226427171

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226427201.001.0001

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Rural Muscle

Rural Muscle

(p.73) 4 Rural Muscle
Under Osman's Tree

Alan Mikhail

University of Chicago Press

From the Ottoman conquest of Egypt in 1517 until the second half of the eighteenth century, Egyptian farmers initiated and oversaw the construction and repair of small-scale irrigation and other infrastructural works in their local environments. They controlled how and when their labor was used. At the end of the eighteenth century, rural labor in Egypt dramatically changed. It became coerced, required the large-scale movement of peasant laborers, resulted in enormous environmental manipulation, and was often deadly. This chapter explains this massive sea change in environmental labor in Egypt. It makes clear how and why forced labor, deleterious environmental exploitation, extractive economics, and population movements emerged at the end of the eighteenth century and how they have come to characterize the relationship between work and the environment in rural Egypt from that period until today.

Keywords:   labor, local control, corvée, Rosetta, Manfalūṭ, Maḥmūdiyya Canal, Mehmet ʿAli, late eighteenth century, infrastructure

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