Kyle J. AndersonJan 12, 2022
The Egyptian Labor Corps
Race, Space, and Place in the First World War
University of Texas Press 2021
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: Race, Space, and Place in the First World War (U Texas Press, 2021) 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.
Christopher S. Rose is a social historian of medicine focusing on Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean in the 19th and 20th century. He currently teaches History at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas and Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas.