A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5, 1914: Britain and France Declare War on Ottomans, UK Changes Status of Cyprus, Egypt

On this day in 1914, Great Britain and France declared war on the Ottoman Empire, which had a few days earlier joined the Central Powers and gone to war with Russia.

On this day also, the British formally annexed the island of Cyprus, which they had held as a protectorate since 1878, and began moves to eradicate the last formal links between Egypt and the Ottomans.

The Cyprus matter is a reminder of how much Great Power alignments had changed in the previous four decades. In 1878, in exchange for British agreement to protect the Ottoman Empire from defeat in the Russo-Turkish War and in the negotiations at the Congress of Berlin ("The Russians shall not have Constantinople!"). But by 1914, Britain an Russia were on the same side in the new war, and the Committee of Union and Progress (the "Young Turks") were throwing in their lot with the Germans and Austrians.

As part of its declaration of war against the Ottomans, the British ended the protectorate status of Cyprus and annexed the island to their Empire.

Sultan Hussein Kamil
Egypt, however, was a trickier question. Egypt had in effect been under British economic and political control since 1882 and had been under the rule of the Muhammad ‘Ali dynasty of local rulers for a century, but legally it was still an Ottoman province (albeit virtually independent of Constantinople and de facto under British occupation). The Khedive of Egypt, Abbas Hilmi II, was pro-Ottoman and anti-British, so the British, after declaring war on the Ottomans, deposed him. In December they declared Egypt a Protectorate of Great Britain (which it already was in all but name) and named Abbas Hilmi's uncle, Hussein Kamel, the Sultan of the new Sultanate of Egypt. His reign began December 19.

Flag of the Sultanate of Egypt
Hussein Kamel died in 1917 and was succeeded by his brother Sultan Ahmad Fuad I. With nominal Egyptian independence in 1922, he became King Ahmad Fuad I; the modern Egyptian Sultanate had lasted only from 1914 to 1922.

No comments: