Fragments: Dominant Historiography

“A dominant trend in scholarship has tended to associate modernity with reforming rulers, colonialist policies, or Europeanized elites in the nineteenth century. I attempt to find some answers to this question [of Egypt’s passage to modernity] by looking both back in time to the eighteenth century and earlier and lower down in the social strata to artisans involved in production. I do not give artisans the exclusive role or exclude any other group from this process. The members of the military ruling class and merchants were important actors in some of the transformations of the period. Rather, I ask where artisans should be placed in this process. . . . One needs to look for the impact from below from social forces that may have either helped to bring about some of these changes or influenced the direction that they took.”—Nelly Hanna, Artisan Entrepreneurs: In Cairo and Early-modern Capitalism (1600–1800), p. 4, emphasis added.

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