In This Review

The Pasha: How Mehemet Ali Defied the West, 1839-1841
The Pasha: How Mehemet Ali Defied the West, 1839-1841
By Letitia W. Ufford
Mc Farland, 2007, 271 pp

Mehemet Ali, who lived from 1767 to 1849, looms large in nineteenth-century Middle Eastern diplomatic history. Although at first simply the governor (pasha) of Ottoman Egypt, he ended up becoming a threat to the entire Ottoman Empire. In the 1830s, he wrested Syria from Ottoman control, and only European intervention stopped his army's march on Istanbul. In 1839, the efforts of the Ottoman sultan, Mahmud II, to redress this loss brought another military defeat and another European intervention, organized by the United Kingdom and opposed by France. After two years of diplomatic maneuvering followed by British-led military action, Mehemet Ali was ousted from Syria and left again as only the pasha of Egypt. The crisis illustrates a pattern of politics by which no major changes would be made in the Middle East unless countenanced by Europe. The Pasha lets the diplomatic crisis unfold from the perspective of the principal actors, giving it the quality of theater. Mehemet Ali occupies center stage, but scarcely less present are his son Ibrahim, Lord Palmerston, and the French politicians François Guizot and Adolphe Thiers, not to mention cameo appearances by such diverse persons as Alexis de Tocqueville, Lebanon's Bashir Shihab II, and the confidante and more of several of the principals, Princess Dorothea Lieven.