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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern Studies
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa'id Professor of Modern Arabic Studies
Email address: 
+44 (0)1223 335122
Fellow of: 
King's College
Director of Studies at: 
King's College

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. Prof. Fahmy was elected to a Fellowship of the British Academy in 2020.


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.

Teaching responsibilities: 

Professor Fahmy teaches undergraduate courses in modern Middle Eastern history

Supervision information: 

Professor Fahmy is NOT accepting any new PhD students

Research interests: 

Prof 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.

Prof 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 latest 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.

Current PhD students

Ahmed Ezzat: History and politics of modern law in Egypt
Calum Humphreys: Petitioning in Nineteenth-Century Egypt
Theo Rossi: The transformation of mental healthcare institutions and conceptions of mental illness in 19th-century Egypt
Samir Saad: Arabism, Islamism and legislative politics in Jordan, 1950-1978
Andreas Nabil Younan: Codification of Sharīʿa in Modern Egypt

Research Projects

Articles, Book Chapters etc

The perils of conducting academic research in Sisi’s Egypt Lorenzo Casini (ed.) & Daniela Melfa (ed.) Minnena 2 Repressione, disinformazione e ricerca tra Egitto e Italia (2022)
Mehmed Ali Pasha and Ibrahim through the eyes of an Egyptian historians LiFO Magazine (2021)
Rudolph Peters and the History of Modern Egyptian Law Legal Documents as Sources for the History of Muslim Societies: Studies in Honour of Professor Rudolph Peters (ed.) Legal Documents as Sources for the History of Muslim Societies: Studies in Honour of Professor Rudolph Peters pp. 12-35 (2017)
The crisis of the humanities in Egypt Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 37:1 pp. 142-148 (2017)
‘Inab wa Basal: ‘Abd al-Hakim ‘Amir wa Qarar Insihab al-Jaysh al-Misri min Sina’ fi Harb Huzairan 1967 (in Arabic) Majallat al-Dirasat al-Falastiniyya, 28:110 (2017)
The defeat of the Egyptian army in 67 (in Arabic) Bidayat, no. 17 (2017)
1967: a structural and continuing defeat (in Arabic) Khaled Mansour (ed.) Tashrih al-Hazima (2017)
Mehmed Ali dynasty John M. MacKenzie (ed.) The Encyclopedia of Empire (2016)
The long revolution Aeon (2015)
Opening politics’ black box: Reflections on the 
past, present and future of the Egyptian 
Revolution Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson (ed.) Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East pp. 69-81 (2015)
Dissecting the modern Egyptian state International Journal of Middle East Studies, 47:3 pp. 559-562 (2015)
The essence of Alexandria, pt. 2 Manifesta Journal, No. 16 pp. 22-27 (2012)
The essence of Alexandria, pt. 1 Manifesta Journal, No. 14 pp. 64-72 (2012)
The birth of the secular individual: medical and legal methods of identification in 19th-century Egypt Keith Breckenridge and Simon Szerter (ed.) Registration and Recognition: Documenting the Person in World History pp. 335-356 (2012)
Muhammad Ali Gerhard Bowering, Patricia Crone, Wadad Kadi, Devin J. Stewart, Muhammad Qasim Zaman (ed.) The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought pp. 376-377 (2012)
Mubarak, Hosni Joel Krieger (ed.) The Oxford Companion to Comparative Politics (2012)
Muhammad ‘Ali et la nation égyptienne Bonaparte et l’Égypte: Feu et lumières pp. 324-329 (2008)
The responsibility of Arab governments in the war on Iraq Müge Gürsoy Sökmen (ed.) World Tribunal on Iraq pp. 108-113 (2008)
Muhammad 'Ali Thomas Benjamin (ed.) The Encylclopedia of Western Colonialism pp. 808-809 (2006)
The army: The cornerstone of Muhammad Ali's project (in Arabic) Muhammad Sabir ‘Arab (ed.) Muhammad Ali and His Age pp. 109-150 (2005)
Modernizing Cairo: A revisionist account Nezar AlSayyad, Irene A. Bierman, and Nasser Rabbat (ed.) Making Cairo Medieval pp. 173-199 (2005)
Justice, law and pain in Khedival Egypt Baudouin Dupret (ed.) Standing Trial: Law and the Person in the Modern Middle East pp. 85-116 (2004)
Towards a social history of modern Alexandria Anthony Hirst and Michael Silk (ed.) Alexandria, Real and Imagined pp. 281-306 (2004)
For Cavafy, with love and squalor: Some critical notes on the history and historiography of modern Alexandria Anthony Hirst and Michael Silk (ed.) Alexandria, Real and Imagined pp. 263-280 (2004)
Justice, law and the modern state in mid-nineteenth-century Egypt al-Ruznâme, v. 1 pp. 397-445 (2003)
An olfactory tale of two cities: Cairo in the nineteenth century Jill Edwards (ed.) Historians in Cairo: Essays in Honor of George Scanlon pp. 155-187 (2002)
Prostitution in nineteenth-century Egypt Eugene Rogan (ed.) Outside In: On the Margins of the Modern Middle East pp. 77-103 (2002)
Mutiny in Mehmed Ali’s New Nizamî Army, April-May 1824 International Journal of Turkish Studies, v. 8, nos. 1-2 pp. 129-138 (2002)
The military and politics in Egypt: An historical overview May Chartouni-Dubarry (ed.) Armée et nation en Egypte: pouvoir civil, pouvoir militaire pp. 21-42 (2001)
The role of the army in Mehmed Ali’s project (in Arabic) Raouf Abbas (ed.) Egypt in the Reign of Mehmed Ali: Reform or Modernization? pp. 165-276 (2000)
Medical Conditions in Egyptian Prisons in the Nineteenth Century Robin Ostle (ed.) Marginal Voices in Literature and Society: Individual and Society in the Mediterranean Muslim World pp. 135-153 (2000)
Medicine and Power: Towards a social history of medicine in nineteenth-century Egypt Cairo Papers in the Social Sciences, Volume 23, No. 2 pp. 1-45 (2000)
The anatomy of Justice: Forensic medicine and criminal law in nineteenth-century Egypt Islamic Law and Society, vol. 6 pp. 224-271 (1999)
The legal history of Ottoman Egypt Islamic Law and Society, vol. 6 pp. 129-135 (1999)
The police and the people in nineteenth-century Egypt Die Welt des Islams, vol. 39, issue 3 pp. 1-38 (1999)
The era of Mehmed Ali Pasha, 1805-1848 Martin Daly (ed.) The Cambridge History of Egypt, vol. 2 pp. 139-180 (1998)
Law, medicine and society in nineteenth-century Egypt Egypte/Monde arabe, no. 34 pp. 17-51 (1998)
Women, medicine and power in nineteenth-century Egypt Lila Abu-Lughod (ed.) Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East pp. 17-51 (1998)
The nation and its deserters: Conscription in Mehmed Ali’s army International Review of Social History, vol. 43 pp. 421-436 (1998)