In This Review

Whose Pharaohs? Archeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I
Whose Pharaohs? Archeology, Museums, and Egyptian National Identity from Napoleon to World War I
By Donald Malcolm Reid
University of California Press, 2002, 409 pp
Purchase

Reid traces the impact of a Western scholarly endeavor -- recovering the history and the artifacts of ancient Egypt -- on modern Egypt and the diverse Egyptian responses to it. The latter include not just the emergence of native Egyptologists but the even more important incorporation of ancient Egypt into modern Egyptian nationalism. This historical development left in its wake a new theme in Egyptian political life: the repudiation of Egypt's pre-Islamic past. (This repudiation was perhaps best expressed in 1981 when Anwar Sadat's assassin shouted that he had "killed pharaoh.") The book's subject, interesting in its own right, illuminates such larger themes as the shaping of national ideologies, the political relevance of transnational scholarship and the Orientalism debate, and the role of tourism in international relations. Reid concentrates on the largely untold Egyptian side of the story, but his is a balanced account with empathy for all. An accomplished narrative historian, Reid manages to make massive detail compelling reading. And the 46 illustrations, from cartoons to paintings to photos, serve splendidly to buttress the text.