Wars of Modern Egypt
Wars of Modern Egypt—While the basic story of Ancient Egypt is well known: images of pyramids, mummies, and the stories of the Old Testament/Torah, tales of Pharaohs, Moses, plagues and such, in popular culture, and the stories of Antony and Cleopatra have captivated Western audiences for decades. That is an Egypt which has not existed for thousands of years. The rule of Egyptian monarchs ended with Cleopatra. What followed were centuries of rule by foreigners: The Romans, The Greeks and Byzantines, Muslim conquerors from Arabia, the Turks, the French, and lastly, the British.
Egypt: Battle of the Pyramids
This page on the Wars of Modern Egypt begins with the French conquest by Napoleon in 1798. Please see the list of wars of modern Egypt below. This list is up to date with information on the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and the 2013 coup and violence.
Wars of Egypt (1798-Present)
Napoleon’s Conquest of Egypt (1798-1801)-- Part of the French Revolutionary Wars, a French army, led by Napoleon, defeated the Turks and conquered Egypt.
Egyptian Revolution (1803-1805)-- Political violence engulfed Egypt, leading to the rise of Muhammed Ali as Pasha of Egypt.
Anglo-Egyptian War (1807)-- Seeking to replace Muhammed Ali with a puppet ruler favorable to British interests, Britain invaded with nearly 5,000 troops on March 17, 1807. British forces led by General A. Mackenzie Fraser seized the city of Alexandria. British forces suffered several military defeats before retreating and evacuating Egypt on September 14.
Ali’s Massacre of the Mamelukes (1811)-- In order to consolidate his power as the ruler of Egypt, Muhammed Ali killed the Mameluke leaders and massacred the Mameluke soldiers, replacing them with an army of Albanian mercenaries.
Wahabi War (1811-1818)-- After recognizing Ottoman suzerainty over Egypt (a formality which left Ali in charge, but created a peace between Egypt and the Turks), Ali engaged in a war against the Wahabi Muslim sect in Arabia. The Wahabis had conquered the Muslim Holy cities of Mecca and Medina from Turkish rule, and in heavy fighting, the Egyptians retook these Holy areas from the Wahabis and then occupied them in the name of the Ottoman Empire.
Albanian Mercenary Mutiny (1815)-- Brief mutiny by Ali’s Albanian mercenaries in Cairo.
Egyptian Conquest of the Sudan (1820-1839)-- Led by Ali’s son Hussein, Egyptian forces conquered the Sudan, extending Egyptian control along the Red Sea coast, and as far south along the Nile as modern Uganda, then known as Gondokoro.
Greek War of Independence (1821-1832)-- Egypt’s part in the war came about when the Ottoman Turks requested Egyptian aid in fighting the rebellious Greeks. The Pasha of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, sent his son Ibrahim to Greece with a powerful Egyptian army. The British, French, and Russians intervened to save the Greeks, defeating a combined Turko-Egyptian fleet at the Battle of Navarino in 1827. French troops expelled the Egyptian land forces. The Egyptian portion of the war lasted from 1825-1832. This war led directly to the First Turko-Egyptian War. (see below) See also: Greco-Turkish Wars
First Turko-Egyptian War (1832-1833)--Upset by the Ottoman Empire’s refusal to give him control of Syria as payment for his participation in the ill-fated Greek War, Pasha Ali declared war on the Turks in 1832. Invading Ottoman Palestine, Syria, and Turkey itself, the Egyptians advanced nearly to the Ottoman capital of Constantinople. Russia sent troops and a fleet to stop the advance, causing the British and French to negotiate a peace, awarding Syria to Egypt..
Second Turko-Egyptian War (1839-1841)--This conflict can be considered the second half of the Turko-Egyptian War which began in 1832. Egypt declared independence from official Ottoman rule, and defeated Turkish forces sent to subdue the Pasha’s rebellion. Eventually, Britain sided with the Ottomans to bring Egypt back into the Ottoman fold.
Egyptian-Ethiopian War (1875-1877)--Ethiopia retaliated against Egyptian forces attempting to colonize the Red Sea coast. Egypt gave up its attempt to colonize that area.
Urabi Revolt/British Conquest of Egypt (1881-1882)-- Muslim rebels opposed to Turkish, Western, and Christian influence in Egypt (Britain and France had gained a large degree of control due to the Suez Canal project), rebelled on February 1, 1881 in Alexandria. On July 11, 1882, in response to a massacre of Christians in Alexandria, the British fleet bombarded Alexandria, followed up by the landing of 25,000 troops at Ismailia. In the Battle of Tel al-Kebir, the British defeated Urabi’s army. From this point on, Britain retained an army in the countryand effectively controlled Egypt, which remained technically an Ottoman (yet recognized as independent in all but name), vassal.
Sudanese War (1881-1885)--The Sudanese “Mahdi”, a religious leader, began a rebellion against Egyptian control of the Sudan. At this time, Egypt was effectively a protectorate of the British, who sent forces to aid the Egyptians. By 1885, after suffering several bloody defeats, the Anglo-Egyptian forces withdrew from the Sudan.
Sudanese War (1896-1899)--Following their defeat in the previous Sudan War, Anglo-Egyptian forces returned to the Sudan and defeated the forces of the Mahdi’s successor, known as the Khalifa.
The First World War (1914-1918)--Though not technically a participant in this war, several battles betweent the British and the Ottoman Turks were fought on Egyptian soil. Though legally a vassal of the Ottomans, in reality, Egypt was actually under the control of the British, while also technically an independent nation with its own ruler. That ruler was overthrown by the British at the beginning of the war due to his pro-German sympathies.
Sanusi Revolt in Egypt (1915-1917)--The Sanusis were a Muslim sect (the Sanusiyah Brotherhood; a Sufi mystical branch of Islam), and opposed European colonization of North Africa. They fought both the French and the Italians before engaging in combat with the British in Egypt during World War I as allies of the Ottoman Turks. Most fighting took place in Egypt’s western desert, with the British finally driving the Sanusis into Italian-controlled Libya in 1917.
The Second World War (1940-1943)-While Egypt did not actually engage in combat in this war, significant campaigns took place in western Egypt as the Germans and Italians invaded with the intent of driving the British out and seizing the Suez Canal.
Arab-Israeli War of 1948 (1948-1949)--The First Arab-Israeli War, in which Egypt acquired the Gaza Strip. See Arab-Israeli Wars
Anglo-Egyptian War of 1951-1952 (1951-1952)--Egyptian guerrillas, aided by the governement of Egypt, carried out a campaign against British forces stationed at the Suez Canal and against other British and Western symbols and targets. On January 25, 1952, British troops retaliated against Egypt by attacking an Egyptian police station, killing 50 and wounding 100. The conflict ended with a change in the Egyptian government and the eventual withdrawal of British troops. This conflict led to Britain’s involvment in the 1956 Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Egypt in 1956. (see below)
Israeli Raid on Gaza (Feb. 28, 1955)—Israeli forces conducted a raid, a response to repeated guerrilla attacks and the seizure of an Israeli ship by Egypt, which resulted in the deaths of 51 Egyptian soldiers and 8 Israeli troops. This raid was the largest of its kind against Arab forces since the end of the First Arab-
Suez/Sinai War (1956)--See also Arab-Israeli Wars
Yemen Civil War (1962-1970)-- Egypt sent troops to support the Yemeni Republican government against Royalist rebels supported by Saudi Arabia.
Arab-Israeli War of 1967 (1967)--See Arab-Israeli Wars
The War of Attrition (1968-1970)--See Arab-Israeli Wars
Arab-Israeli War of 1973 (1973)--See Arab-Israeli Wars
Libyan-Egyptian War (1977)--A brief four-day border war between Libya and Egypt.
The Second Persian Gulf War (1990-1991)--Egypt sent troops to join the UN-backed Coalition which liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation.
Muslim Brotherhood Rebellion (1990s- Present)--A rebel group calling itself the Muslim Brotherhood carries on a violent guerrilla campaign to topple the pro-Western government of Egypt.
Political Unrest in Egypt (2011)--Massive protests against the 30-year regime of President Hosni Mubarak sweep across Egypt.
Egyptian Security Campaign in Sinai (2011-13)--In response to attacks by Salafist Islamist forces believed tied to al-Qaida, over 1,000 security forces backed by armored personnel carriers launched a campaign to defeat the Islamist guerrillas. Despite the increased Egyptian military presence in Sinai, the militant forces continued to attack both Egyptian and Israeli targets, prompting an increase in Egyptian deployment as well as a least one (presumed) Israeli airs strike or drone strike on a militant rocket team inside Egyptian territory in August, 2013. Since the military coup in July, 2013, the Egyptian military offensive against the rebels increased in intensity.
Military Coup and Violence (2013)--Massive protests erupted in July, 2013, calling for the ouster of President Muhammed Morsi. The Egyptian military then overthrew Morsi in a coup, ending Egypt’s only freely elected democratic government. Following the coup, Morsi supporters staged huge protests, many of which were crushed by police and military forces, causing nearly a thousand deaths.
Sources and Links on the History of Egypt:
1. Kohn, George C. Dictionary of Wars. New York: Facts On File Publications. 1999.
2. Dupuy, R. Ernest and Trevor N. Dupey. The Harper Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 B.C. to the Present New York, New York: Harper & Row. 1993.