This book provides a concise overview of Egyptian history from 642 C.E., in its political, institutional and religious aspects. Its “medieval” part (up to the 19th century) corresponds to the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mamluk eras and, finally, three centuries of Ottoman rule. In the contemporary age, Egypt has witnessed perhaps the most successful modernization attempt in the Arab world, via anti-colonial nationalism. Above all, under Nasser’s guide Egypt emerged as the cornerstone of third-worldism and Arab-Islamic socialism. Under Sadat’s and then al-Sisi’s leadership, this hegemonic capacity was slowly depleted, as the country experienced a spiral of weakness and authoritarian drift, not overcome by Egypt's participation in the "Arab spring" and the ensuing transition to the age of terrorism. Although the country can still play a decisive role in Middle East and world politics, its prospects remain uncertain.
Massimo Campanini teaches History of Islamic Countries at the University of Trento.