This chapter zooms in on one particular figure in the highly complex and vast history of labor in rural Ottoman Egypt—the engineer. Local engineers played an integral role in the manipulation of rural environments and helped to maintain and develop constructive relationships between local communities and the imperial administration. A shared interest in the upkeep and functionality of infrastructure such as canals, embankments, roads, bridges, and quays meant that rural peoples and the Ottoman state were in regular communication about complicated matters related to the repair, manipulation, and maintenance of these public works. The figure of the engineer was of particular importance because he was a kind of middleman between peasant interests and imperial concerns. The history of these engineers thus illuminates much of the logic and function of Ottoman governance in rural areas of the empire in the early modern period. This chapter ends with an analysis of the enduring importance of rural engineers as experts in the first half of the nineteenth century.
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