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The Egyptian Labor Corps

The Egyptian Labor Corps
Race, Space, and Place in the First World War

This history sheds new light on Egypt’s involvement in World War I by telling the story of the Egyptian Labor Corps and how the treatment of these primarily rural workers influenced the 1919 Egyptian Revolution.

December 2021
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288 pages | 6 x 9 |

During World War I, the British Empire enlisted half a million young men, predominantly from the countryside of Egypt, in the Egyptian Labor Corps (ELC) and put them to work handling military logistics in Europe and the Middle East. British authorities reneged on their promise not to draw Egyptians into the war, and, as Kyle Anderson shows, the ELC was seen by many in Egypt as a form of slavery. The Egyptian Labor Corps tells the forgotten story of these young men, culminating in the essential part they came to play in the 1919 Egyptian Revolution.

Combining sources from archives in four countries, Anderson explores Britain’s role in Egypt during this period and how the ELC came to be, as well as the experiences and hardships these men endured. As he examines the ways they coped—through music, theater, drugs, religion, strikes, and mutiny—he illustrates how Egyptian nationalists, seeing their countrymen in a state akin to slavery, began to grasp that they had been racialized as “people of color.” Documenting the history of the ELC and its work during the First World War, The Egyptian Labor Corps also provides a fascinating reinterpretation of the 1919 revolution through the lens of critical race theory.


Kyle J. Anderson is an assistant professor of history at SUNY Old Westbury.


“In this creatively researched, innovatively argued book, Kyle Anderson makes a signal contribution to the histories of the First World War, colonialism, race, and the development of modern nationalism. In the best tradition of the “global turn” in contemporary First World War studies, The Egyptian Labor Corps compels a truly worldwide perspective and forces a reckoning with the complexities of diverse lived experiences, while situating these experiences in the broadest contexts of some of the most important events in twentieth-century Egypt, the Middle East, Europe, and the world.  Readers will come away from this groundbreaking study with a firm conviction that race, space, and place are as integral to understanding this period as soldiers, battles, and war.”
Richard S. Fogarty, author of Race and War in France: Colonial Subjects in the French Army, 1914-1918

The Egyptian Labor Corps is a deeply researched, carefully crafted, riveting history of the forgotten role of a vast army of Egyptian workers in the victorious campaigns of the Allied Powers in the First World War. Kyle Anderson upends what we thought we knew about the war, Egypt’s 1919 revolution, nationalism, and the lived experience of racism in a key part of Great Britain’s Middle Eastern empire.”
Robert Vitalis, author of Oilcraft: The Myths of Scarcity and Security that Haunt U.S. Energy Policy