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Prof. Khaled Fahmy

Egyptian legal, medical & military history; Islamic responses to 19th century medical & legal developments; the Six Days War; contemporary Arab politics
Prof. Khaled Fahmy

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa'id Professor of Modern Arabic Studies

Director, HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Centre of Islamic Studies

Fellow of King's College

Office Phone: 01223 335122


Khaled Fahmy is a historian of the modern Middle East, with a specialty in the social and cultural history of nineteenth-century Egypt.

Born and raised in Egypt, Fahmy studied economics for his BA, and then political science for his MA, both degrees he received from the American University in Cairo (AUC). He then went to the University of Oxford where he wrote his DPhil dissertation on the history of the Egyptian army during the first half of the nineteenth century. After receiving his doctorate in 1993, Fahmy moved to the US where he worked first at Princeton University then at New York University. After seventeen years in the US, he returned to his home country in 2010, and joined his alma mater, AUC, as chair of the Department of History. In 2013, Fahmy returned to the US, this time as a visiting fellow at Columbia University, then as a visiting professor at Harvard University. He joined the University of Cambridge in 2017.

Subject groups/Research projects

Arabic & Persian Studies:

Research Interests

Fahmy's research focuses on the social and cultural history of the modern Middle East, with a particular focus on nineteenth-century Egypt. His first book, All the Pasha's Men: Mehmed Ali, His Army, and the Making of Modern Egypt, offered a revisionist account of the army that Mehmed Ali Pasha (r. 1805-1848) founded in Egypt. Rather than being a straightforward account of military history, a history that celebrates the exploits of officers and military planners, the book was an attempt to write the history of that army from the perspective of its soldiers. In addition, All the Pasha's Men offered a critique of Egyptian nationalist historiography according to which Mehmed Ali appears as the "founder of modern Egypt", and the army as the main tool of catapulting Egypt to modernity. Instead, the book argues that Mehmed Ali is best understood by viewing him within a larger Ottoman context, and his army should be seen as an oppressive institution that subjected thousands of Egyptians to unprecedented hardships.

Fahmy's second book, Mehmed Ali: From Ottoman Governor to Ruler of Egypt, appeared in the Makers of the Muslim World series of Oneworld Publications. Examining the unprecedented economic, military, and social policies that Mehmed Ali introduced in Egypt, as well as Mehmed Ali's intricate relationship with his family, the book is a critical biography of this towering nineteenth-century personality.

In 2004 Fahmy published al-Jasad wa-l'Hadatha (The Body and Modernity), a collection of scholarly articles that dealt with the history of the disciplines and practices of medicine and law in nineteenth-century Egypt.

Fahmy's forthcoming book, In Quest of Justice: Islamic Law and Forensic Medicine in Modern Egypt (University of California Press, 2018) seeks to understand how an Arab, Muslim-majority society encountered modernity. Rather than follow intellectual, diplomatic or economic history, In Quest of Justice approaches this question from the perceptive of cultural history. Specifically, it takes the human body as its unit of analysis and checks how the body became the site of contestation, the locus of agency and resistance, and the subject of new medical and legal discourses.

On the fiftieth anniversary of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, Fahmy wrote a series of articles on his blog. This was followed by three scholarly articles (in Arabic) that offered a new, critical account of the military aspect of this conflict.

Other Professional Activities

Following the outbreak of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, Fahmy started writing for, and appearing in, Egyptian, Arab, and international media, both in Arabic and in English. His newspaper articles and media appearances deal with issues pertaining to human rights, academic freedom, free speech, and freedom of information.

Key Publications


In Quest of Justice: Islamic Law and Forensic Medicine in Modern Egypt. (University of California Press, forthcoming, 2018).

Mehmed Ali: From Ottoman Governor to Ruler of Egypt. (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2008).

Muhammad Ali and His Sabil. (Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2004). (With Agnieszka Dobrowolska - An Arabic translation was published by Dar al-Shorouk, 2004).

The Body and Modernity: Essays in the history of medicine and law in Modern Egypt (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub, 2004) (in Arabic).

All the Pasha's Men: Mehmed Ali Pasha, His Army and the Founding of Modern Egypt (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

Articles & book chapters

“1967: a structural and continuing defeat,” in Khaled Mansour, ed., Tashrih al-Hazima (Cairo: al-Maraya, 2017). (In Arabic).

The defeat of the Egyptian army in 67,” Bidayat, no. 17, 2017. (in Arabic).

‘Inab wa Basal: ‘Abd al-Hakim ‘Amir wa Qarar Insihab al-Jaysh al-Misri min Sina’ fi Harb Huzairan 1967,” Majallat al-Dirasat al-Falastiniyya, 28:110 (Spring 2017). (In Arabic).

The crisis of the humanities in Egypt,” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 37:1, May 2017, 142-148.

Rudolph Peters and the history of modern Egyptian law,” in Maaike Van Berkel, Leon Buskens and Petra Sijpesteijn, eds., Legal Documents as Sources for the History of Muslim Societies: Studies in Honour of Professor Rudolph Peters, (Leiden: Brill, 2017), 12-35.

Mehmed Ali dynasty,” an article in The Encyclopedia of Empire, ed. John M. MacKenzie (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016).

Dissecting the modern Egyptian State," International Journal of Middle East Studies, 47:3 (2015), pp. 559-562.

Opening politics’ black box: Reflections on the
past, present and future of the Egyptian Revolution,” in Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson, eds. Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East (London: Profile Books, 2015), pp. 69-81.

Hosni Mubarak”, an article in The Oxford Companion to Comparative Politics, ed. Joel Krieger, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

Muhammad Ali” an article in The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, eds. Gerhard Bowering, Patricia Crone, Wadad Kadi, Devin J. Stewart, Muhammad Qasim Zaman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2012).

The birth of the secular individual: medical and legal methods of identification in 19th-century Egypt”, in Keith Breckenridge and Simon Szerter, eds., Registration and Recognition: Documenting the Person in World History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 335-356.

The essence of Alexandria,” pt. 1, Manifesta Journal, # 14, January 2012, pp. 64-72.

The essence of Alexandria,” pt. 2, Manifesta Journal, 16, December 2012, pp. 22-27.

The responsibility of Arab governments in the war on Iraq,” in World Tribunal on Iraq, ed. Müge Gürsoy Sökmen (Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch Press, 2008), pp. 108-113.

Muhammad ‘Ali et la nation égyptienne,” in Bonaparte et l’Égypte: Feu et lumières (Paris: Institut du Monde Arabe, 2008), pp. 324-329.

Muhammad ‘Ali” in The Encylclopedia of Western Colonialism, ed. Thomas Benjamin, (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2006), v. 2, pp. 808-09.

Modernizing Cairo: A revisionist account,” in Making Cairo Medieval, eds. Nezar AlSayyad, Irene A. Bierman, and Nasser Rabbat. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005, pp. 173-199.

The army: The corenrstone of Muhammad Ali's project” in Muhammad Ali and His Age, ed. Muhammad Sabir ‘Arab (Cairo: Dar al-Kutub, 2005), pp. 109-150. (in Arabic)

 “For Cavafy, with love and squalor: Some critical notes on the history and historiography of modern Alexandria,” in Alexandria, Real and Imagined, ed. Anthony Hirst and Michael Silk. London: Ashgate, 2004, pp. 263-280.

Towards a social history of modern Alexandria,” in Alexandria, Real and Imagined, ed. Anthony Hirst and Michael Silk. London: Ashgate, 2004, pp. 281-306.

Justice, law and pain in Khedival Egypt,” in Standing Trial: Law and the Person in the Modern Middle East, ed. Baudouin Dupret. London: I.B. Tauris, 2004, pp. 85-116.

“Justice, law and the modern state in mid-nineteenth-century Egypt,” al-Ruznâme, v. 1, 2003, pp. 397-445. (in Arabic)

Mutiny in Mehmed Ali’s New Nizamî Army, April-May 1824,International Journal of Turkish Studies, v. 8, nos. 1-2, Spring 2002, pp. 129-138.

Prostitution in nineteenth-century Egypt,” in Outside In: On the Margins of the Modern Middle East, ed. Eugene Rogan. London: I.B. Tauris, 2002.

An olfactory tale of two cities: Cairo in the nineteenth century” in Historians in Cairo: Essays in Honor of George Scanlon, ed. Jill Edwards. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, 2002, pp. 155-187.

“The military and politics in Egypt: An historical overview,” in Armée et nation en Egypte: pouvoir civil, pouvoir militaire, ed. May Chartouni-Dubarry.  Paris: IFRI, 2001, pp. 21-42.

Medicine and Power: Towards a social history of medicine in nineteenth-century Egypt,” Cairo Papers in the Social Sciences, Volume 23, No. 2, Summer 2000, pp. 1-45.

Medical Conditions in Egyptian Prisons in the Nineteenth Century,” in Marginal Voices in Literature and Society: Individual and Society in the Mediterranean Muslim World, ed. Robin Ostle. Strasbourg: European Science Foundation, 2000, pp. 135-153.

The role of the army in Mehmed Ali’s project” in Egypt in the Reign of Mehmed Ali: Reform or Modernization? ed., Raouf Abbas. Cairo: Supreme Council of Culture, 2000, pp.165-276. (in Arabic).

The police and the people in nineteenth-century Egypt”, Die Welt des Islams, 39 (1999),   pp. 1-38.

The legal history of Ottoman Egypt,” Islamic Law and Society, 6 (1999), pp. 129-135. (with Rudolph Peters)

The anatomy of Justice: Forensic medicine and criminal law in nineteenth-century Egypt,” Islamic Law and Society, 6 (1999), pp. 224-271.

The nation and its deserters: Conscription in Mehmed Ali’s army,International Review of Social History, 43 (1998), pp. 421-436.

Women, medicine and power in nineteenth-century Egypt,” in Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East, ed. Lila Abu-Lughod. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998, pp. 35-72.

Law, medicine and society in nineteenth-century Egypt,” Egypte/Monde arabe, no. 34, 2e semestre, 1998, pp. 17-51.

The era of Mehmed Ali Pasha, 1805-1848”, in The Cambridge History of Egypt, vol. 2, ed. Martin Daly. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998, pp. 139-180.

Other Publications

"The Long Revolution," Aeon, 3 November 2015.