In 332 BC,MacedonianrulerAlexander the Greatconquered Egypt as he toppled the Achaemenids and established theHellenisticPtolemaic Kingdom, whose first ruler was one of Alexander’s former generals,Ptolemy I Soter. The Ptolemies had to fight native rebellions and were involved in foreign and civil wars that led to the decline of the kingdom and its final annexation byRome. The death ofCleopatraended the nominal independence of Egypt resulting in Egypt’s becoming one of the provinces of the Roman Empire.
The modern Republic ofEgyptwas founded in 1953, and with the complete withdrawal of British forces from theSuez Canalin 1956, it marked the first time in 2500 years that Egypt was both fully independent and ruled by native Egyptians. PresidentGamal Abdel Nasser(president from 1956 to 1970) introduced many reforms and created the short-livedUnited Arab Republic(withSyria). His terms also saw theSix-Day Warand the creation of the internationalNon-Aligned Movement. His successor,Anwar Sadat(president from 1970 to 1981) changed Egypt’s trajectory, departing from many of the political, and economic tenets of Nasserism, re-instituting a multi-party system, and launching theInfitaheconomic policy. He led Egypt in theYom Kippur Warof 1973 to regain Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, which Israel had occupied since the Six-Day War of 1967. This later led to theEgypt–Israel Peace Treaty.
By about 6000 BC, aNeolithicculture rooted in the Nile Valley.During the Neolithic era, several predynastic cultures developed independently inUpper and Lower Egypt. TheBadari cultureand the successorNaqadaseries are generally regarded as precursors todynastic Egypt. The earliest known Lower Egyptian site, Merimda, predates the Badarian by about seven hundred years. Contemporaneous Lower Egyptian communities coexisted with their southern counterparts for more than two thousand years, remaining culturally distinct, but maintaining frequent contact through trade. The earliest known evidence ofEgyptian hieroglyphicinscriptions appeared during the predynastic period on Naqada III pottery vessels, dated to about 3200 BC.
A team led byJohannes Krausemanaged the first reliable sequencing of the genomes of 90 mummified individuals in 2017. Whilst not conclusive, because of the non-exhaustive time frame and restricted location that the mummies represent, their study nevertheless showed that these Ancient Egyptians “closely resembled ancient and modern Near Eastern populations, especially those in the Levant, and had almost no DNA from sub-Saharan Africa. What’s more, the genetics of the mummies remained remarkably consistent even as different powers—including Nubians, Greeks, and Romans—conquered the empire”.
TheThirty-first Dynasty of Egypt, also known as the Second EgyptianSatrapy, was effectively a short-living province of the Achaemenid Empire between 343 BC to 332 BC.After an interval of independence, during which three indigenous dynasties reigned (the28th,29thand30th dynasty),Artaxerxes III(358–338 BC) reconquered the Nile valley for a brief second period (343–332 BC), which is called the Thirty-first Dynasty of Egypt, thus starting another period of pharaohs of Persian origin.
ThePtolemaic Kingdomwas a powerfulHellenistic stateextending from southernSyriain the east, toCyreneto the west, and south to the frontier with Nubia.Alexandriabecame the capital city and a center ofGreekculture and trade. To gain recognition by the native Egyptian populace, they named themselves as the successors to the Pharaohs. The later Ptolemies took on Egyptian traditions, had themselves portrayed on public monuments in Egyptian style and dress, and participated in Egyptian religious life.
The last ruler from thePtolemaic dynastywasCleopatra, who committed suicide following the burial of her loverMark Antony, who had died in her arms (from a self-inflicted stab wound) afterAugustushad captured Alexandria and her mercenary forces had fled.
The Ptolemies faced rebellions of native Egyptians, often caused by an unwanted regime, and were involved in foreign and civil wars that led to the decline of the kingdom and its annexation by Rome. Nevertheless,Hellenistic culturecontinued to thrive in Egypt well after theMuslim conquest. The native Egyptian/Coptic culture continued to exist as well (the Coptic language itself was Egypt’s most widely spoken language until at least the 10th century).
Egypt quickly became the Empire’sbreadbasketsupplying the greater portion of the Empire’s grain in addition to flax, papyrus, glass, and many other finished goods. The city of Alexandria became a key trading outpost for the Roman Empire (by some accounts, the most important for a time). Shipping from Egypt regularly reached India and Ethiopia among other international destinations.It was also a leading (perhapstheleading) scientific and technological center of the Empire. Scholars such asPtolemy,Hypatia, andHeronbroke new ground in astronomy, mathematics, and other disciplines. Culturally, the city of Alexandria at times rivaled Rome in its importance.
The Byzantines were able to regain control of the country after a briefPersianinvasion early in the 7th century, until 639–42, when Egypt was invaded andconquered by the Arab Islamic Empire. The final loss of Egypt was of incalculable significance to the Byzantine Empire, which had relied on Egypt for many agricultural and manufactured goods.
When they defeated the Byzantine Armies in Egypt, the Arabs broughtSunni Islamto the country. Early in this period, Egyptians began to blend their new faith with their Christian traditions as well as other indigenous beliefs and practices, leading to variousSufiorders that have flourished to this day.These earlier rites had survived the period of Coptic Christianity.
Muslim rulers nominated by theIslamic Caliphateremained incontrol of Egyptfor the next six centuries, withCairoas the seat of the Caliphate under theFatimids. With the end of theKurdishAyyubid dynasty, theMamluks, aTurco–Circassianmilitary caste, took control about AD 1250. By the late 13th century, Egypt linked the Red Sea, India, Malaya, and East Indies.The Greek and Coptic languages and cultures went into a steep decline in favor of Arabic culture (though Coptic managed to last as a spoken language until the 17th century and remains a liturgical language today). The Mamluks continued to govern the country until theconquest of Egyptby theOttoman Turksin 1517, after which it became a province of theOttoman Empire. The mid-14th-centuryBlack Deathkilled about 40% of the country’s population.
After the 15th century, the Ottoman invasion pushed the Egyptian system into decline. The defensive militarization damaged its civil society and economic institutions.The weakening of the economic system combined with the effects of plague left Egypt vulnerable to foreign invasion. Portuguese traders took over their trade.Egypt suffered six famines between 1687 and 1731.The 1784faminecost it roughly one-sixth of its population.
The briefFrench invasion of Egyptled byNapoleon Bonapartebegan in 1798. The expulsion of the French in 1801 byOttoman,Mamluk, and British forces was followed by four years of anarchy in which Ottomans, Mamluks, andAlbanians— who were nominally in the service of the Ottomans – wrestled for power. Out of this chaos, the commander of the Albanian regiment,Muhammad Ali(Kavalali Mehmed Ali Pasha) emerged as a dominant figure and in 1805 was acknowledged by theSultaninIstanbulas hisviceroyin Egypt; the title implied subordination to the Sultan but this was in fact a polite fiction: Ottoman power in Egypt was finished and Muhammad Ali, an ambitious and able leader, established adynastythat was to rule Egypt until the revolution of 1952. In later years, the dynasty became a British puppet.
His primary focus was military: he annexedNorthern Sudan(1820–1824),Syria(1833), and parts ofArabiaandAnatolia; but in 1841 the European powers, fearful lest he topple the Ottoman Empire itself, forced him to return most of his conquests to the Ottomans, but he kept the Sudan and his title to Egypt was made hereditary. A more lasting result of his military ambition is that it required him to modernize the country. Eager to adopt the military (and therefore industrial) techniques of the great powers, he sent students to the West and invited training missions to Egypt. He built industries, a system of canals for irrigation and transport, and reformed the civil service.
The introduction in 1820 of long-staple cotton, the Egyptian variety of which became notable, transformed its agriculture into a cash-cropmonoculturebefore the end of the century. The social effects of this were enormous: land ownership became concentrated and many foreigners arrived, shifting production towards international markets.
British indirect rule lasted from 1882, when the British succeeded in defeating the Egyptian Army atTel el-Kebirin September and took control of the country, to the1952 Egyptian revolutionwhich made Egypt a republic and when British advisers were expelled.
Muhammad Ali was succeeded briefly by his sonIbrahim(in September 1848), then by a grandsonAbbas I(in November 1848), then bySaid(in 1854), andIsmail(in 1863). Abbas I was cautious. Said and Ismail were ambitious developers, but they spent beyond their means. TheSuez Canal, built in partnership with the French, was completed in 1869. The cost of this and other projects had two effects: it led to enormous debt to European banks, and caused popular discontent because of the onerous taxation it required. In 1875 Ismail was forced to sell Egypt’s share in the canal to the British Government. Within three years this led to the imposition of British and Frenchcontrollerswho sat in the Egyptian cabinet, and, “with the financial power of the bondholders behind them, were the real power in the Government.”
Local dissatisfaction with Ismail and with European intrusion led to the formation of the first nationalist groupings in 1879, withAhmad Urabia prominent figure. In 1882 he became head of a nationalist-dominated ministry committed to democratic reforms including parliamentary control of the budget. Fearing a reduction of their control, Britain and France intervened militarily, bombarding Alexandria and crushing the Egyptian army at thebattle of Tel el-Kebir.They reinstalled Ismail’s sonTewfikas figurehead of ade factoBritish protectorate.
Nasser assumed power as President in June 1956. British forces completed their withdrawal from the occupied Suez Canal Zone on 13 June 1956. Henationalizedthe Suez Canal on 26 July 1956, prompting the 1956Suez Crisis.
In 1958, Egypt and Syria formed a sovereign union known as theUnited Arab Republic. The union was short-lived, ending in 1961 whenSyriaseceded, thus ending the union. During most of its existence, the United Arab Republic was also in a looseconfederationwithNorth Yemen(formerly the Mutawakkilite Kingdom of Yemen) known as theUnited Arab States.
Sadat switched Egypt’sCold Warallegiance from the Soviet Union to the United States, expelling Soviet advisors in 1972. He launched theInfitaheconomic reform policy, while clamping down on religious and secular opposition.
In 1973, Egypt, along with Syria, launched theOctober War, a surprise attack against the Israeli forces occupying the Sinai Peninsula and theGolan Heights. It was an attempt to regain part of the Sinai territory that Israel had captured six years earlier. Sadat hoped to seize some territory through military force, and then regain the rest of the peninsula by diplomacy. The conflict sparked an international crisis between the US and the USSR, both of whom intervened. The second UN-mandated ceasefire halted military action. While the war ended with a military stalemate, it presented Sadat with a political victory that later allowed him to regain the Sinai in return for peace with Israel.
In 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, terrorist attacks in Egypt became numerous and severe, and began to targetCoptsand foreign tourists as well as government officials.Some scholars and authors have credited Islamist writerSayyid Qutb, who was executed in 1967, as the inspiration for the new wave of attacks.
The 1990s saw anIslamist group,al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, engage in an extended campaign of violence, from the murders and attempted murders of prominent writers and intellectuals, to the repeated targeting of tourists and foreigners. Serious damage was done to the largest sector of Egypt’s economy—tourism—and in turn to the government, but it also devastated the livelihoods of many of the people on whom the group depended for support.
Victims of the campaign against the Egyptian state from 1992–1997 exceeded 1,200and included the head of the counter-terrorism police (Major General Raouf Khayrat), a speaker of parliament (Rifaat el-Mahgoub), dozens of European tourists and Egyptian bystanders, and over 100 Egyptian police.At times, travel by foreigners in parts ofUpper Egyptwas severely restricted and dangerous.On 17 November 1997,62 people, mostly tourists, were killednearLuxor. The assailants trapped the people in theMortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. During this period, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya was given support by the governments of Iran and Sudan, as well asal-Qaeda.The Egyptian government received support during that time from the United States.
On 25 January 2011, widespread protests began against Mubarak’s government. The objective of the protest was the removal of Mubarak from power. These took the form of an intensive campaign ofcivil resistancesupported by a very large number of people and mainly consisting of continuous mass demonstrations. By 29 January, it was becoming clear that Mubarak’s government had lost control when a curfew order was ignored, and the army took a semi-neutral stance on enforcing the curfew decree.
On 11 February 2011, Mubarak resigned and fled Cairo. Vice PresidentOmar Suleimanannounced that Mubarak had stepped down and that theEgyptian militarywould assume control of the nation’s affairs in the short term.Jubilant celebrations broke out inTahrir Squareat the news.Mubarak may have left Cairo forSharm el-Sheikhthe previous night, before or shortly after the airing of a taped speech in which Mubarak vowed he would not step down or leave.
On 13 February 2011, the high level military command of Egypt announced that both the constitution and the parliament of Egypt had been dissolved. The parliamentary election was to be held in September.
Aconstitutional referendumwas held on 19 March 2011. On 28 November 2011, Egypt held itsfirst parliamentary electionsince the previous regime had been in power. Turnout was high and there were no reports of violence, although members of some parties broke the ban on campaigning at polling places by handing out pamphlets and banners.There were however complaints of irregularities.
On 22 November 2012, Morsi issued a declaration immunizing his decrees from challenge and seeking to protect the work of the constituent assembly drafting the new constitution.The declaration also requires a retrial of those accused in the Mubarak-era killings of protesters, who had been acquitted, and extends the mandate of the constituent assembly by two months. Additionally, the declaration authorizes Morsi to take any measures necessary to protect the revolution. Liberal and secular groups previously walked out of the constitutional constituent assembly because they believed that it would impose strict Islamic practices, whileMuslim Brotherhoodbackers threw their support behind Morsi.
The move was criticized byMohamed ElBaradei, the leader of Egypt’s Constitution Party, who stated “Morsi today usurped all state powers & appointed himself Egypt’s new pharaoh” on his Twitter feed.The move led to massive protests and violent action throughout Egypt.On 5 December 2012, Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of Egypt’s president clashed, hurling rocks and Molotov cocktails and brawling in Cairo’s streets, in what was described as the largest violent battle between Islamists and their foes since the country’s revolution.Six senior advisors and three other officials resigned from the government and the country’s leading Islamic institution called on Morsi to stem his powers. Protesters also clamored from coastal cities to desert towns.
Morsi offered a “national dialogue” with opposition leaders but refused to cancel a 15 December vote on a draft constitution written by an Islamist-dominated assembly that has ignited two weeks of political unrest.
A constitutional referendumwas held in two rounds on 15 and 22 December 2012, with 64% support, and 33% against. It was signed into law by a presidential decree issued by Morsi on 26 December 2012. On 3 July 2013, the constitution was suspended by order of theEgyptian army.
On 30 June 2013, on the first anniversary of the election of Morsi, millions of protesters across Egypt took to the streets and demanded the immediate resignation of the president. On 1 July, theEgyptian Armed Forcesissued a 48-hour ultimatum that gave the country’s political parties until 3 July to meet the demands of the Egyptian people. The presidency rejected the Egyptian Army’s 48-hour ultimatum, vowing that the president would pursue his own plans for national reconciliation to resolve the political crisis. On 3 July, GeneralAbdel Fattah el-Sisi, head of the Egyptian Armed Forces, announced that he had removed Morsi from power, suspended the constitution and would be calling new presidential and Shura Council elections and namedSupreme Constitutional Court‘s leader,Adly Mansouras acting president. Mansour was sworn in on 4 July 2013.
In the elections of June 2014 El-Sisi won with a percentage of 96.1%.Under President el-Sisi, Egypt has implemented a rigorous policy of controlling the border to the Gaza Strip, including the dismantling of tunnels between the Gaza strip and Sinai.
Inhabited by the indigenous Arawak and Taíno peoples, the island came underSpanish rule following the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1494. Many of the indigenous people died of disease, and the Spanish imported African slaves as labourers. Named Santiago, the island remained a possession of Spain until 1655, when England (later Great Britain) conquered it and renamed it Jamaica. Under British colonial rule Jamaica became a leading sugar exporter, with its plantation economy highly dependent on slaves imported from Africa. The British fully emancipated all slaves in 1838, and many freedmen chose to havesubsistence farms rather than to work on plantations. Beginning in the 1840s, the British imported Chinese and Indian indentured labour to work on plantations. The island achieved independence from the United Kingdom on 6 August 1962.
With 2.8 million people, Jamaica is the third-most populous Anglophone country in the Americas (after the United States and Canada), and the fourth-most populous country in the Caribbean. Kingston is the country’s capital and largest city, with a population of 937,700.Jamaicans predominately have African ancestry, with significant European, Chinese, Hakka, Indian, and mixed-race minorities. Due to a high rate of emigration for work since the 1960s, Jamaica has a large diaspora around the world, particularly in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The Arawak and Taíno indigenous people, originating in South America, settled on the island between 4000 and 1000 BC. When Christopher Columbusarrived in 1494, there were more than 200 villages ruled by caciques (chiefs of villages). The south coast of Jamaica was the most populated, especially around the area now known as Old Harbour. The Taino still inhabited Jamaica when the English took control of the island in 1655. The Jamaican National Heritage Trust is attempting to locate and document any evidence of the Taino/Arawak.
Christopher Columbus claimed Jamaica for Spain after landing there in 1494. His probable landing point was Dry Harbour, now called Discovery Bay,although there is some debate that it might have been St. Ann’s Bay. St. Ann’s Bay was named “Saint Gloria” by Columbus, as the first sighting of the land. One and a half kilometres west of St. Ann’s Bay is the site of the first Spanish settlement on the island, Sevilla, which was established in 1509 and abandoned around 1524 because it was deemed unhealthy. The capital was moved to Spanish Town, then called St. Jago de la Vega, around 1534 (at present-day St. Catherine).
British rule (1655–1962)
Spanish Town has the oldest cathedral of the British colonies in the Caribbean. The Spanish were forcibly evicted by the English at Ocho Rios in St. Ann. In 1655, the English, led by Sir William Penn and General Robert Venables, took over the last Spanish fort in Jamaica. The name of Montego Bay, the capital of the parish of St. James, was derived from the Spanish namemanteca bahía (or Bay of Lard), alluding to the lard-making industry based on processing the numerous boars in the area.
Henry Morgan was a famousCaribbean pirate and privateer; he had first come to the West Indies as an indentured servant, like most of the early English colonists.
The English continued to import African slaves as labourers.
In 1660, the population of Jamaica was about 4,500 white and 1,500 black.By the early 1670s, as the English developed sugar cane plantations and imported more slaves, black people formed a majority of the population.
The Irish in Jamaica also formed a large part of the island’s early population, making up 2 thirds of the white population on the island in the late 17th century, twice that of the English population. They were brought in as indentured labourers and soldiers after the conquest of Jamaica by Cromwells forces in 1655, The majority of Irish were transported by force as political prisoners of war from Ireland as a result of the ongoing Wars of the Three Kingdoms at the time. Migration of large numbers Irish to the island continued into the 18th century.
Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 and then forcibly converted to Christianity in Portugal, during a period of persecution by the Inquisition. Some Spanish and Portuguese Jewish refugees went to the Netherlands and England, and from there to Jamaica. Others were part of the Iberian colonization of the New World, after overtly converting to Catholicism, as only Catholics were allowed in the Spanish colonies. By 1660, Jamaica had become a refuge for Jews in the New World, also attracting those who had been expelled from Spain and Portugal.
An early group of Jews arrived in 1510, soon after the son of Christopher Columbus settled on the island. Primarily working as merchants and traders, the Jewish community was forced to live a clandestine life, calling themselves “Portugals”. After the British took over rule of Jamaica, the Jews decided the best defense against Spain’s regaining control was to encourage making the colony a base for Caribbean pirates. With the pirates installed in Port Royal, the Spanish would be deterred from attacking. The British leaders agreed with the viability of this strategy to forestall outside aggression.
When the English captured Jamaica in 1655, the Spanish colonists fled after freeing their slaves. The slaves dispersed into the mountains, joining themaroons, those who had previously escaped to live with the Taíno native people. During the centuries of slavery, Maroons established free communities in the mountainous interior of Jamaica, where they maintained their freedom and independence for generations. The Jamaican Maroonsfought the British during the 18th century. Under treaties of 1738 and 1739, the British agreed to stop trying to round them up in exchange for their leaving the colonial settlements alone, but serving if needed for military actions. Some of the communities were broken up and the British deported Maroons to Nova Scotia and, later, Sierra Leone. The name is still used today by modern Maroon descendants, who have certain rights and autonomy at the community ofAccompong.
During its first 200 years of British rule, Jamaica became one of the world’s leading sugar-exporting, slave-dependent colonies, producing more than 77,000 tons of sugar annually between 1820 and 1824. After the abolition of the international slave trade in 1807, the British began to import Indian and Chinese workers as indentured servants to supplement the labour pool. Most were recruited beginning in the 1840s after slavery was abolished, as many freedmen resisted working on the plantations. Many ethnic Southeast Asian and Chinese descendents continue to reside in Jamaica today.
Montpelier Plantation, the property of C. R. Ellis, Esq. M.P., c. 1820
By the beginning of the 19th century, Jamaica’s dependence on slave labour and a plantation economy had resulted in black people outnumbering white people by a ratio of almost 20 to 1. Although the UK had outlawed the importation of slaves, some were still smuggled in from Spanish colonies and directly. While planning the abolition of slavery, the British Parliament passed laws to improve conditions for slaves. They banned the use of whips in the field and flogging of women; informed planters that slaves were to be allowed religious instruction, and required a free day during each week when slaves could sell their produce, prohibiting Sunday markets to enable slaves to attend church.
The House of Assembly in Jamaica resented and resisted the new laws. Members (then restricted to European-Jamaicans) claimed that the slaves were content and objected to Parliament’s interference in island affairs. Slave owners feared possible revolts if conditions were lightened. Following a series of rebellions on the island and changing attitudes in Great Britain, the British government formally abolished slavery by an 1833 act, beginning in 1834, with full emancipation from chattel slavery declared in 1838. The population in 1834 was 371,070, of whom 15,000 were white, 5,000 free black; 40,000 ‘coloured’ orfree people of color (mixed race); and 311,070 were slaves.
Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom. In 1958, it became a province in the Federation of the West Indies, a federation among the British West Indies. Jamaica attained full independence by leaving the federation in 1962.
Strong economic growth, averaging approximately 6% per annum, marked the first ten years of independence under conservative Jamaica Labour Partygovernments; they were led successively by Prime Ministers Alexander Bustamante, Donald Sangster and Hugh Shearer. The growth was fueled by strong private investments in bauxite/alumina, tourism, the manufacturing industry and, to a lesser extent, the agricultural sector.
The optimism of the first decade was accompanied by a growing sense of inequality among many Afro-Jamaicans, and a concern that the benefits of growth were not being shared by the urban poor. Combined with the effects of a slowdown in the global economy in 1970, the voters elected the PNP (People’s National Party) in 1972. They tried to implement more socially equitable policies in education and health, but the economy suffered under their leadership. By 1980, Jamaica’s gross national product had declined to some 25% below the 1972 level. Due to rising foreign and local debt, accompanied by large fiscal deficits, the government sought International Monetary Fund (IMF) financing from the United States and others.
Economic deterioration continued into the mid-1980s, exacerbated by a number of factors. The first and third largest alumina producers, Alpart and Alcoa, closed, and there was a significant reduction in production by the second-largest producer, Alcan. Reynolds Jamaica Mines, Ltd. left the Jamaican industry. There was also a decline in tourism, which was important to the economy.
Independence, however widely celebrated in Jamaica, has been questioned in the early 21st century. In 2011, a survey showed that approximately 60% of Jamaicans would prefer to become a British territory again, citing as problems years of social and fiscal mismanagement in the country