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Books Not to miss this book fair - Mohamed AboulGhar's Unique take on 1919 Revolution

With the inauguration of the Cairo International Book Fair (22 January-4 February), Ahram Online offers a series of recommendations for avid readers

Dina Ezzat , Wednesday 22 Jan 2020
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Amrika wathawret 1919 (The US &1919 Revolution – the elusion of Welson’s principles), by: Mohamed Aboulghar, (Cairo: Dar El-Shorouk), 2019.

It is one of the most recent books that had been published on the eve of and throughout 2019 to mark the centenary of the 1919 Revolution. It was put out just a few days before 2019 came to an end and is certainly worth looking for at the ongoing International Cairo Book Fair.

As presented in several book signing and book discussion events, this book, by prominent public figure and renowned medical doctor Mohamed Aboulghar, offers a very unique take on the 1919 Revolution. It looks at a particular part of the endeavour of the Egyptian national movement and its leaders in 1919 to obtain Egyptian independence from the enforced British rule that was initiated in December 1914 upon World War I.

The book examines an ambitious political demarche that started in October 1919 and lasted for about six months to get the US, then assumed as the beacon of liberties, to support Egypt’s demand for independence in the wake of World War I in line with the principles that had been announced by US President Woodrow Wilson that underlined people’s right for self-rule and independence.

It was upon a brief reference that Aboulghar, who had been a dedicated reader of the literature on 1919 Revolution, came across in one of the key references on the event that he put his hand on a line that he decided to trace.

“I was carefully reading the masterpiece of prominent historian AbdelRahman AlRafai’ on the 1919 Revolution and there were a couple of lines there that attracted my attention as they referred to the decision of Saad Zaghloul to send Mohamed Mahmoud to the US to defend the case of Egypt before the US Congress,” Aboulghar wrote in the introduction to his book that came out by Dar AlShorouk.

Curious by nature as he is, Aboulghar decided to dig in the decision of Zaghloul to dispatch Mahmoud while the two were in France lobbying for the independence of Egypt during the Versailles Peace Conference that was held after the end of WWI.

Through a dedicated labour and diligent research, Aboulghar managed to put his hands on the full story from its original source: the library of the Congress.

He extended his research to cover prominent British and American dailies of the time. And he offers the reader in his 200-page, medium size, soft cover book, the full story of a failed attempt to get the US to live up to the pronouncement of the Welson principles.

The story starts in Paris as Mahmoud is dispatched to Washington to hire Joseph Folk, a prominent lawyer to make the case for Egypt’s independence before the Congress, and it ends in Cairo where the leaders of the 1919 Revolution came to realize that in reality the US was not going to side with them against Britain.

The details offered in the book are both fascinating and telling. There is so much about the inter-US battle between the Democrats and Republicans, especially when it comes to foreign policy.

There is a detailed account of the exchange of correspondence between Zaghloul and US politicians and another detailed account of Folk’s defense of the case of Egypt, "as a nation meriting independence from the enforced rule of Britain", and of the media coverage of the story.

Ultimately, there is the story of a visit of the widow of Folk to Egypt to demand what she deemed were overdue fees for her husband who had passed away.

Apart from being a very interesting read, the book is in itself a base of references for researchers who wish to pursue the story further.

Aboulghar’s book, as prominent historian Moahmed ElShalk wrote in an introduction to the manuscript, comes not just to shed light on a previously unexplored part of the history of 1919 Revolution but also to add a previously missed bit to the history of the US association with Egypt in the early decades of the 20th century -- namely its failure to support the call of Egypt for independence.

As Aboulghar himself wrote, in the introduction to the book, the public curiosity about the 1919 Revolution did not start with the centenary celebrations but rather with the January Revolution that prompted many questions about the history of the Egyptian nationalist movement way before the takeover of the Free Officers in 1952. As such, he argued, the search for what this revolution was about and how it brought the nation together would continue way beyond the celebration of the centenary.

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