Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Between 1869 and 1878, Egypt’s Khedive Ismail employed four-dozen American officers to reform his military in an attempt to achieve Egypt’s independence from the Ottoman Empire and to extend his country’s borders into sub-Saharan Africa. The American officers’ collective story contributes to an understanding of how empires are made, America’s increasing influence abroad, and Americans’ attitudes toward the Near East, Muslims, sub-Saharan Africa, and sub-Saharan Africans.

The American military mission in Egypt is also an early example of the exportation of American secular expertise. Ismail selected officers who had gained military prowess, experience in empire building, and engineering expertise at various military academies, during frontier service, and in the Civil War.

The American officers’ efforts were concentrated in military and civil engineering work because Egyptian officers stymied many of the American officers’ reforms and because the Ottoman Empire forestalled Ismail’s quest for independence. The American martial missionaries engineered defenses as well as surveyed Egypt’s villages and property lines which would allow Ismail to extract revenue more efficiently from his subjects.

Most significantly, the American officers conducted expeditions of newly acquired territories during which they surveyed borders, advised on infrastructure developments, analyzed and cataloged natural resources, and reported on the provinces’ populations. The information they gathered helped Egyptian imperial administrators better govern and extract revenue from recent acquisitions.

The Americans’ personal and published writings portrayed both Egypt and sub-Saharan Africa as unsettled by racial “amalgamation” and the confusion they believed it created. Further, they portrayed Egyptians as superstitious, fatalist Muslims and Egypt as existing between East and West, past and present, and reality and scenes from Arabian Nights. They portrayed sub-Saharan Africa as a hellish land populated by often animalistic heathens who merely mimicked religiosity and whom they often compared to African Americans thus essentializing African-ness.

The American martial mission comprised both former U.S. and Confederate officers; in Egypt they amicably worked, lived, and socialized with one another. The sectional acrimony that unsettled the U.S. during Reconstruction was largely absent from the American Colony in Cairo, and the American mission showed how reconciliation unfolded abroad and its relationship concepts of citizenship



Committee Chair

Foster, Gaines M.



Available for download on Thursday, January 17, 2030