In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Egypt I have divided the long entry into separate documents, expanded abbreviations for easier reading, and added paragraphing and links to material in the Victorian Web. Unless otherwise noted, charts and illustrations come from the original Gazetteer. — George P. Landow


Mohammed Ali. From the 1843 Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrapbook, where it is accompanied by a poem and biography of Ali. Click on image to enlarge it

The Government of Egypt being in the hands of Turks, is, as might be expected, an unqualified des potismiles Under the first Viceroy, and founder of the present dynasty, Mahommed Ali, it became in practice more en lightened, liberal, and humane: but its simple fundamental principles remain unchanged. He commenced his great re formations in 1808, by abolishing the right of private indi viduals to hold estates in land. Thus he became the pro prietor of the whole kingdom (houses and gardens excepted), and found himself in a position to carry out his schemes of improvement. He then divided and subdivided the whole country, the officers of every grade, down to the Sheikh el Belid or village chief, being not merely magistrates, but over seers of work and tax-gatherers. The Fellahs received wages, sowed their fields as they were ordered by the Government, carried their produce to the Government stores, and were paid for it at the Government price. Thus Mahommed Ali took into his own hands all the agriculture, as well as all the manufactures of the kingdomiles He aimed at developing the resources of Egypt, but he never dreamt of turning to account the mainspring of national prosperity, namely, the untiring energy with which every man labours to promote his own welfare. To foster this spirit, is to make a nation rich. But the prosperity which Mahommed Ali had in view was that of his own treasury, and not that of his people. He aimed at being the sole farmer, manufacturer, and merchant in his dominion; and to his subjects, who were reduced to abject slavery, and heavily taxed, he left but a wretched subsistence. All the reforms effected by Mahommed Ali, his schools, manu factures, canals, plantations, well appointed army, and in creasing navy, all tended towards the organization of a system on which he reckoned for the increase of his financial means and political power; but as to the instruction or well-being of his people in general, nothing could be further from his thoughts. The people were reduced by him to the deepest distress, while he certainly amassed no treasures.

Revenues and Expenses

The revenues of Egypt are derived from various sources, the chief being the miri or land tax, for which the districts are answerable, however individuals may fail, so that the Government is sure to be paid. This yields nearly half of the whole revenue. Next in importance are the proceeds of monopolies, namely, of cotton, indigo, sugar, rice, opium, &c. Then come the capitation, the customs, taxes on grain brought to market, on cattle slaughtered, on date trees, fishing, &c.; in all producing about 2,500,000. The Egyptian army is composed of 130,000 regular troops, 12,000 of whom are cavalry, and of about 40,000 national guards. To these may be added about 40,000 irregular cavalry (Bedouins, chiefly in Arabia). The fleet consists of 10 or 11 ships of the line, six frigates, and a dozen smaller vessels; connected with it and with the arsenals, is a force of 40,000 men. Thus the forces maintained by a prince whose revenues hardly ex ceed two millions and a half, cannot altogether fall much short of 270,000 men. The officers, those of high rank especially, experience liberal treatment; while the men, who have been, for the most part, forced into service by conscription, are miserably paid.


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive. Inline version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 31 July 2020.

Last modified 1 August 2020