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Cotton, finance and business networks in a globalised world: the case of Egypt during the first half of the Twentieth Century

Beniamin, A. (2020) Cotton, finance and business networks in a globalised world: the case of Egypt during the first half of the Twentieth Century. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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Abstract/Summary

Firms and entrepreneurs were key drivers of the globalisation of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This thesis investigates commodity networks, foreign banking and business networks, as three manifestations of the first global economy, in Egypt. The country was integrated into the world economy by exporting cotton, importing foreign capital, and hosting a large foreign community. The thesis shows that the Egyptian cotton network was sophisticated as market participants were spatially dispersed. The network was instrumentally coordinated by foreign banks that provided the crucial functions of intermediating the flows of cotton, finance, and information. Departing from the literature that portrays foreign banks in developing countries as manifestations of imperialism and exploitation of host countries, the thesis demonstrates that the history of these banks in Egypt does not conform to this rhetoric. The case of the Ionian Bank reveals that foreign banks in Egypt were businesses that sought profits and faced many risks and challenges. Some risks were uncontrollable and negatively affected banks’ performance, which was shaped by trade-off between opportunity and risk appetite. The analysis of the interlocking directorates of the Egyptian corporate and elite networks demonstrates that these networks, predominantly controlled by local foreigners, served as a basis for coordinating and maintaining collective interests. The structure of the elite network presumably fostered entrepreneurial activities that were funded by foreign capital. The analysis documents the gradual rise of indigenous entrepreneurs at the expense of local foreigners. The study demonstrates how Egypt’s integration into the first modern globalisation was facilitated by foreign firms and entrepreneurs. It points out the need to revise the historiography of foreign capital and foreigners in Egypt during this period. In addition, the thesis contributes to the limited business history scholarship on the Middle East and furthers our understanding of the complex nature of globalisation.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Casson, M.
Thesis/Report Department:Henley Business School
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Henley Business School > International Business and Strategy
ID Code:93435
Date on Title Page:2019

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