Egypt and the Modern World

Authored by: Andrew Bednarski

The Egyptian World

Print publication date:  September  2007
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415427265
eBook ISBN: 9780203820933
Adobe ISBN: 9781136753770


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The early nineteenth century is viewed as the age of ancient Egypt’s rediscovery by Europeans. This period witnessed the unearthing of ancient mysteries as well as a growing European obsession with a land whose history extended back into obscurity. The driving impetus behind this nineteenth-century fascination is usually credited to an event that took place in 1798, an event that forced Europe to focus its attention on Egypt in an unprecedented military and political manner. It was in this year that Napoleon led his French army across the Mediterranean in an effort to colonize the land of the Nile. In so doing, Egypt was opened up to Europeans as never before. Yet European interest in Egypt significantly predates Napoleon’s failed military adventure. Similarly, the impact that the invasion, and its Egyptological by-products, had on the study of the country, across the continent, is far from understood. The goal of this chapter is, therefore, to question the primacy given to certain events in the study of ancient Egypt in the early nineteenth century, as found in many historical accounts of the discipline. It will begin with a brief survey of texts and events recognized as significant to the study of ancient Egypt, from the classical period up to the 1800s. After discussing aspects of early nineteenth-century, British Egyptology, it will then resume this survey, covering phenomena up to the twentieth century. The chapter will then conclude with a discussion of current aspects of, and problems within, the study of ancient Egypt.

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