Middle East Studies

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Britain’s Imperial Position in Egypt, 1942–1947

The Politics of National Aspirations and the Emergence of the Post-War Order

Dr. Eran Lerman is a lecturer at Shalem College, Jerusalem, and Vice President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. He served as Israel’s Deputy National Security Advisor (2006–2015) and prior as Director for the American Jewish Committee’s Israel and Middle East Office. A long-serving military intelligence officer, he holds a PH.D. from the London School of Economics and a Masters from Harvard University. He has long served as an analyst and commentator on regional and international affairs.

In 1942, the British Empire won a great military victory – Al-’Alamayn, “the end of the beginning” – on Egyptian soil. Yet five years later, in an ugly, forgotten debate at the Security Council, the United States led Britain and Egypt to an inconclusive draw.

How did this Imperial weakening come about? The roots lie in the interaction of British policy, Egyptian politics, and the post-war international order. Imperial control had rested upon the practice of intervention – using the rivalry between the Palace and the majority political party, the Wafd. In 1942, and again in 1943 and 1944, British Ambassador Miles Lampson forced Faruq, the King of Egypt, to put, and keep, Prime Minister Mustaffa Nahhas in power. But this came at the cost of “national aspirations” – al-Gala’ (evacuation of all British forces) and sovereignty over Sudan – being raised as the rallying cries of a frustrated political opposition. Meanwhile, American (and Soviet) influence grew; and Egypt’s new diplomatic instrument, the Arab League, became part of the political game.

Nahhas was dismissed in September 1944. His successor, Ahmad Mahir, who had been on the Embassy’s payroll, was assassinated in 1945. Lampson thus lost control of the game. In London, Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin recognized the need for a new ambassador and a conciliatory negotiator (Lord Stansgate), offering full evacuation to Prime Minister Ismail Sidqi. And yet this compromise also broke down as a result of the unresolved Sudan question. Intervention was weighed in London, but rejected. The Egyptians insisted on the 1947 UN debate, which merely produced a prolonged stalemate indicating Britain’s Imperial decline. This set the stage for the Suez debacle of the 1950s, calling an end to Britain's authority at multiple levels.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-78976-135-1
Hardback Price: £85.00 / $110
Release Date: October 2021
Page Extent / Format: 360 pp. 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: Yes







The End of the Beginning: Al-'Alamayn and the Egyptian Question


1          The Price of Wartime Stability: The Wafd, The Palace, and the

the Embassy, 1942-1944


2          The "Stool" Collapses: Portents of Change, 1944-1945


3          National Aspirations and British Responses, 1942-1945


4          More Than "A Small Nation": Egypt's Quest for a Post-War Role


5          Lampson Loses the "Local Peace": Nuqrashi and the Decision on Non-Intervention


6          A Change of Technique: Stansgate's Mission and the Offer of Evacuation


7          The Point of Failure: The Sudan Question and the Collapse of Treaty Negotiations


8          Intervention Reconsidered - And Rejected:  Bevin's Decision, May 1947


9          Indecision in New York: The Security Council Debate



The Beginning of the End: The Post-War Order and the Balance of Power in Egypt





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