Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Book Review - Americans in Egypt, 1770-1915

Thanks to A K Eyma for forwarding this book review by Su Wolfe:

Cassandra Vivian,  Americans in Egypt, 1770-1915; Explorers,
Consuls, Travelers, Soldiers, Missionaries, Writers and Scientists
(McFarland, 2012).  ISBN: 978-0-7864-6304-6



               The American presence in Egypt before 1900 has
long been dismissed as unimportant and uninformative, limited to
visits by an eclectic few of neither fame nor fortune. In this book,
thanks to Vivian's scrupulous case studies of fifteen men and women
of various occupations and interests, this ignorance has been refuted.
And it was certainly no easy task, as references and sources for
information about these people has been scattered and difficult to
locate and use. Digitization however, and the presence of the
World Wide Web, have changed the manner of research and Vivian
has used them to good advantage, as well as more traditional ways
of information mining.

               Through the use of diaries, letters, personal recollections,
books, original illustrations, newspapers and periodicals, Vivian has
presented a changing view of Egypt in the eighteenth and nineteenth
centuries through the eyes and words of her carefully chosen group of
representatives. Along the way, she has even overturned at least one
Egyptological "fact" concerning John Ledyard. Ledyard had long been
considered to be the first American to visit Egypt, but Vivian's careful
digging has revealed an even earlier traveler, musician John Antes.

             Among the other adventurers, travelers, missionaries, consuls,
soldiers, artists, musicians and soldiers who appear are George Bethune
English, George Gliddon, Bayard Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant and Theodore
Davis. Also included are William Eaton, Francis Bartow Sarah Rogers
Haight, Charles Hale, Charles Chaillé-Long, Fanny Stone, Anna Young
Thompson and Walter Granger.  These various travelers not only
describe the wonders of Egypt but also document its political and social
structure and the changes that occur under different regimes. Yet Vivian
does not analyze any of this, instead she presents it simply and factually,
and leaves such dissections to others. The result is a meticulously
researched and written  account of a cross section of the American
people who made the trip to Egypt and who lived there, and in some
cases, died there, and whose presence there sometimes even changed
the course of history.

S. J. Wolfe

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