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From Plunder to PreservationBritain and the Heritage of Empire, c.1800–1940$
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Astrid Swenson and Peter Mandler

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265413

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265413.001.0001

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Representing Ancient Egypt at Imperial High Noon (1882–1922)

Representing Ancient Egypt at Imperial High Noon (1882–1922)

Egyptological Careers and Artistic Allegories of Civilization*

(p.187) 9 Representing Ancient Egypt at Imperial High Noon (1882–1922)
From Plunder to Preservation

Donald Malcolm Reid

British Academy

During the height of Western imperialism in Egypt from 1882 to 1922, the British ran the country and the French directed the Antiquities Service. Two contemporary artistic allegories expressed Western appropriation of the pharaonic heritage: the façade of Cairo's Egyptian Museum (1902) and Edwin Blashfield's painting Evolution of civilization in the dome of the Library of Congress (1896). The façade presents modern Egyptology as an exclusively European achievement, and Evolution presents ‘Western civilization’ as beginning in ancient Egypt and climaxing in contemporary America. The illustrated cover of an Arabic school magazine (1899) counters with an Egyptian nationalist claim to the pharaonic heritage. A woman shows children the sphinx and pyramids to inspire modern revival, and Khedive Abbas II and Egyptian educators, not European scholars, frame the scene. The careers of three Egyptologists — Gaston Maspero, E. A. W. Budge, and Ahmad Kamal Pasha — are explored to provide context for the allegories.

Keywords:   pharaonic heritage, Egyptian Museum, Egyptology, Western civilization, Egyptian nationalism, imperialism

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