The following review of my book The Struggle for Egypt: From Nasser to Tahrir Square appeared in The Economist on February 25th, 2012. Please click here to read the full text.
THE Arab spring has been one of the most intensely covered upheavals of recent times, with hordes of journalists descending on a succession of countries, notebook and camera in hand. Perhaps no single event in this richly inspiring news season has captured so much attention as Egypt’s revolution, and in particular its culmination in the vast, happy throngs that filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square last winter.
The thrall of Hosni Mubarak’s dramatic exit has dissolved into a lingering, indeterminate and far less telegenic denouement. But at least the breathless eyewitness reporting can now be replaced by a more considered approach. Two highly readable books stand out from the inevitable instant accounts of Egypt’s revolution. They serve not only to fill in enlightening detail, but to place the current turmoil within the broader context of Egypt’s past—and to suggest what may lie in its future.
Much of the early reporting on the unrest framed the surge to oust Mr Mubarak in overly personal terms, as a specific reaction to abuses of power during his three-decade-long reign. Steven Cook, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, takes a usefully corrective view. His book, “The Struggle For Egypt”, is a timely, well-researched and lucid political history that sweeps back to the origins of the praetorian dynasty that has ruled Egypt since the 1952 military coup.
Mr Cook shows that whereas grievances against Mr Mubarak certainly accumulated during his long tenure, and dramatically so towards its end