“The ‘Spanish’ Influenza in Egypt”
(for Harvard’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, May 6, 2020)
Abstract: The “Spanish influenza” pandemic that struck Egypt in fall 1918 resulted in the death of eleven out of every one thousand people. The Egyptian public health service was unprepared for a major health crisis because resources were redirected to serve military needs. Rural and poor Egyptians were particularly vulnerable as war food policies failed to meet their stated goal of ensuring a consistent and affordable supply of commodities; by summer 1918 conditions had deteriorated to the point that food riots and wheat famines were reported throughout the country. I conclude by raising questions about the impact that the pandemic had on the political situation in Egypt, arguing that the government’s inability to manage the crisis contributed to pressures underlying the 1919 nationalist uprising.
“Islamic Fundamentalism and American Foreign Policy”
(April 20, 2017; 1 hour 15 minutes )
This is a guest lecture that I gave for HIS 315L “United States History since 1865” in the spring of 2017 while the instructor, Jeremi Suri, was out of town. This is a synchronous online class, wherein the instructors and teaching assistants are in a studio on campus. Students attend the lecture in real time, and have the ability to interact with the instructors and TAs via chat and “Ask the Professor” functions.
The class had begun to explore the U.S. foreign policy response to terrorism, and I was asked to discuss the issues from the perspective of the Middle East in order to give the students–mostly freshmen–background and context.
The lecture covers three major points:
- The Rise of Political Islam.
I primarily look at the birth and evolution of the Muslim Brotherhood within the context of early 20th century Egypt, the rise of the Secret Society, and the eventual ban under Gamal Abd al-Nasir. I also look at Qutbism.
- The Iranian Revolution of 1979.
I look at the US-Iran encounter beginning with the oil nationalization crisis of 1951-53, and the coup d’etat against Mossadegh in 1953; then I examine our relationship with the Shah; the revolution itself; ending with the embassy hostage crisis and the rupture in US-Iran relations.
- Regional Impacts of the Iranian Revolution.
Among other impacts, I look at how the Iranian revolution inspired other Islamist movements in the Middle East, such as al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya in Egypt (responsible for the assassination of Anwar al-Sadat); Iran’s influence in the civil war in Lebanon; the Iran-Iraq war; the Iran-Contra affair; and the U.S. response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. I end by setting up the beginnings of the story of al-Qaeda, which was covered in subsequent classes.