Date of Completion
Archaeology, British Empire, British Museum, Decolonization, Egypt, Egyptology, Imperialism
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
Existing scholarship on decolonization and the British Empire has tended to focus on the period after the Second World War, with Egypt’s "conditional independence" after 1922 dismissed as effectively preserving its status within the structure of the empire until the revolutionary changes of the 1950s. However, an examination of the relationship between Egypt and the United Kingdom from the perspective of Egyptology challenges this portrayal. Since they depended on access to archaeological sites and artifacts in Egypt, British Egyptologists were uniquely sensitive to shifts in the political landscape during the mid-twentieth century.
The papers of leading Egyptologists, of institutions such as the Egypt Exploration Society and the British Museum, and of various government ministries reveal complex and dynamic ties between Egyptology and British officialdom. In 1914, Britain’s assertion of protectorate status in Egypt inspired British Egyptologists to seek official support for their own professional goals. The achievement of Egyptian independence in 1922 was a severe setback for this effort, and the interwar years saw the diminishment of Britain’s cultural influence as officials prioritized matters more directly related to imperial defense. British Egyptologists were driven to define their field as a science that held its practitioners to strict standards of professional conduct. During the turmoil of the 1950s and 1960s, their work continued to serve as a useful unofficial connection between the two states. By the time of the British Museum’s Treasures of Tutankhamun exhibition in 1972, the relationship between Britain and Egypt could be recast as a productive partnership.
Hill, Adam Christopher, "The Virtues of Dead Kings: Egyptology and Empire in Twentieth-Century Britain" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. 2328.
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