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An Overview of Archives and Other Resources in Cairo

Page history last edited by Paul Keenan 14 years, 4 months ago

Date of tip: May 2006

Source: John Dunn, jdunn@valdosta.edu



The American University in Cairo’s Library has a rare book room with many valuable works, and is open from 9:00 am to 7:30 pm.  Access is offered to non-students, but requires a letter of introduction and a charge of 50 pounds for three months.  Although more oriented to the needs of undergraduates, your card also allows use of the main library.  Its reference section has runs of Egyptian government publications from the 1920's to the present, and it is open until 10:00 pm.  Photocopies are available at 10 piasters per page.


Another first rate private institution is the Collège de Sainte Famille.  The library of this Jesuit organization has one of the world's largest collections of Egyptian travel literature.  Like the Institut d'Egypte, it also has some manuscripts bound and shelved like books.  Strong periodical and pamphlet collections are another plus.  The venerable and extremely friendly Père Martin assisted me in using this collection.  Keep in mind that he speaks very little English.  Hours are 9:30 to 2:00 and 4:00 to 7:00; being closed on Sundays.  The Collège is about a five minute walk from Ramses railway/ metro station. 


The Egyptian Geographical Society, next door to the Institut d'Egypte, is far less useful.  Founded by Khedive Ismail, it sponsored exploration and cartographical work in North East Africa.  Unfortunately, its manuscript collection is "lost," and the library has never been put back into order since the earthquake of the early 1990s.


In sharp contrast, the writer found the library of the American Research Centre in Cairo (AREC) well organized.  While centered around the society's primary focus of Egyptology, it contains long runs of Middle East scholarly journals, as well as a strong collection of Nineteenth Century documentary reprints sponsored by Kings Fuad and Farouk.  In addition, there is a valuable Arabic language collection, with a specialist available to assist in its use.  Photocopy service is available at 25 piasters per page.  The hours here are 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, but the extremely friendly staff has been known to keep open a few hours extra if one is facing a deadline. Website: http://www.arce.org/


In closing, the writer feels obliged to note that one should not always expect levels of efficiency as found in the U.S. National Archives, or the Public Record Office.  Most Egyptian institutions have neither the financial support, nor the trained staff needed for such.  This can lead to frustration, but unless your wasta-level is high, just grin and bear it.  The staff you deal with do not make the rules, and will probably try their hardest, within the limitations of their meagre resources.


In my own case, despite small problems, most of which were overcome in a mutually satisfactory way, the overall impression of research in Egypt was very favourable.  From the Minister of Education down to the Baladi ladies who carried my cartons on their heads, everybody went out of their way to help.  I leave feeling that Egypt has offered me valuable information, both on its Nineteenth Century history, and the generous and friendly people of today.



Berque, Jacques and Chevallier, Dominique (eds.)  Les Arabes par Leur Archives, XVIe-XXe Siècles.  Paris:  Editions du Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique, 1975.

Several valuable entries on Egypt and the Sudan.


Cattaui Bey, Rene.  "L'importance des Documents Russes Pour la Connaissance du Règne de Mohamed Aly" Bulletin de L'Institute d'Egypte.  Vol. XVIII, fasc. 2 (1936):  pp. 177-189.

Based on his lecture of 6 April 1936.  Explains how Czarist reports sometimes present a more critical view than that of the more readily obtainable French documents.  Many of these Russian documents can be found in the DAWAQ.


Choueiri, Youssef M.  Arab History and the Nation State.  London:  Routledge, 1989.

Excellent chapter on interplay of nationalism and the historiography of Nineteenth Century Egypt.


Crabbs, Jr., Jack.  "Politics, History and Culture in Nasser's Egypt."  International Journal of Middle East Studies.  Vol. 6 (1975):  pp. 386-420.

Looks at archival politics, press freedom and course of nationalist history.

____________.  The Writing of History in Nineteenth-Century Egypt.  Cairo:  American University in Cairo Press, 1984.

Excellent and detailed study of native historians and their work.


Crecelius, Daniel.  "The Organization of Waqf Documents in Cairo."  International Journal of Middle East Studies.  Vol. 2 (1971):  pp. 266-277.


Deny, J.  Sommaire des Archives Turques du Caire.  Caire:  Société Royale de Géographie d'Egypte, 1930.

Much has been re-catalogued, or lost, since 1930, but still of  value.


Gran, Peter.  "The Writing of Egyptian History:  A  Contribution to Today's Problem?"  Newsletter of the A.R.C.E., No. 160 (Winter 1993):  1-6.

Considers broad themes in the Muhammad Ali to Ismail eras of Nineteenth Century Egyptian history.


Guemard, Gabriel.  Histoire et Bibliographie Critique de la Commission des Sciences et Arts et de l'Institute d'Egypte.  Le Caire:  Paul Barbey, 1936.

An invaluable work which reveals the author's intense knowledge of his subject and its sources.


Hoskins, Halford L.  "Some Recent Works on Mohamed Ali and Modern Egypt."  Journal of Modern History.  Vol. IV (March 1932):  93-103.


Hunter, F. Robert.  "The Cairo Archives for the Study of Elites in Modern Egypt."  International Journal of Middle East Studies.  Vol. 4 (1973):  pp. 476-488.


Lawson, Fred.  "Remarks for a New History of Muhammad Ali's Egypt,"  Newsletter of the A.R.C.E., No. III (Spring 1980):  pp. 27-31.

Looks at sources available in Cairo.


Marsot, Afaf Lufti al-Sayyid.  "Egyptian Historical Research and Writing on Egypt in the Twentieth Century,"  Middle East Studies Association Bulletin.  Vol. VII/ No. 2 (May 1973):  1-15.


____________.  "The History of Muhammad Ali:  Fact or Fiction?"  Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt.  Vol. 15 (1978), pp. 107-112.

Brings up some interesting questions as to the objective nature of European "primary" sources on Muhammad Ali.  Place his actions in the context of early Nineteenth Century power politics.

____________.  "Muhammad Ali and the National Archives,"  Newsletter of the A.R.C.E., No. 97/98 (Summer/ Fall 1976):  26-28.


Mayer, Thomas.  The Changing Past.  Egyptian Historiography of the Urabi Revolt, 1882-1983.  Gainesville, Fla.:  University of Florida Press, 1988.


Reid, Donald M.  "Biographical Dictionaries as a Source for Modern Egyptian History."  Newsletter of the A.R.C.E..  No. 81 (April 1972):  18-21.


____________.  "The Egyptian Geographical Society."  Poetics Today.  Vol. 14/ No. 3 (Fall 1993):  539-572.


Rivlin, Helen Anne B.  The Dar al-Watha'iq in 'Abdin Palace at  Cairo as a Source for the Study of Modernization of Egypt in the Nineteenth Century.  Leiden:  E. J. Brill, 1970.

The best rundown you will find in English.  Do note that much has changed since its publication, and Rivlin's listings can but serve as a introduction to what one might find in Cairo.


Ruedig, David B.  "Research Experiences in Cairo, Alexandria and Beirut."  Newsletter of the A.R.C.E..  No. 104 (Spring 1978):  4-9.

Dated, but still useful for several Cairo locations.


el-Shayyal, Gamal el-Din.  A History of Egyptian Historiography in the Nineteenth Century.  Alexandria:  Alexandria University Press, 1962.


Tagher, Jacques.  "Bibliographie Analytique et Critique des Publications Françaises et Anglaises Relatives à l'Histoire du Règne de Mohammad Ali."   Cahiers d'Histoire Egyptienne.  Vol. 2 (1 Dec. 1949):  pp. 128-135.

Covers some items I was unable to find, maybe only in Europe.


Tignor, Robert L.  "Some Materials for a History of the `Arabi Revolution.  A Bibliographical Survey."  Middle East Journal.  Vol. 16, No. 2 (Spring 1962):  pp. 239-248.

First rate and very useful.  Covers archival and printed sources in English, Arabic and French.


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