Law, Expertise and Political Economy in Twentieth Century Egypt

39 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2015

Date Written: January 30, 2015


One of the enduring verities of the study of law and social change in Egypt (and many other parts of North Africa, the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia) is that European legal codes, one of many tools of colonial control, forcibly displaced Islamic law in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In this essay I propose that, at least in Egypt, codification based on Continental European models, had significant support from important indigenous economic and social interests as well as being a project of the colonial or the domestic state. In the context of debates about comparative law in the late 19th and early 20th in which Egyptians took part, Roman or codified law had three important advantages relative to common law or judge-made law which made it progressive. It embodied popular sovereignty and it privileged social-scientific expertise. Its third advantage derived from these first two: it ensured that legal training created a corps of state officials who would impose law rather than advocates who would represent opposing interests in the arena of courtroom.

Keywords: Political Economy, Egypt, Law and Society, Regulation, Comparative Legal Studies, Imperialism

Suggested Citation

Goldberg, Ellis, Law, Expertise and Political Economy in Twentieth Century Egypt (January 30, 2015). Available at SSRN: or

Ellis Goldberg (Contact Author)

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

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