Saturday, November 3, 2012

'Abbas I ('Abbas Hilmi)

ʿAbbas I, also called ʿAbbas Ḥilmi I (b. July 12, 1812, Jeddah, Arabia - d.  July 13, 1854, Banhā, Egypt), was the viceroy of Egypt under the Ottomans from 1848 to 1854. Despite his relatively peaceful and prosperous reign as viceroy of Egypt, ʿAbbas was largely vilified as selfish, secretive, cruel, and a reactionary. Nevertheless, some scholars have since noted that ʿAbbas’ much maligned image may have owed a great deal to exaggerated or fabricated accounts put forth by his opponents in light of disputes among the elite and other motivating factors.

Prepared for government service from a young age by his grandfather, Muḥammad ʿAli (viceroy 1805–48), ʿAbbas served in several other administrative and military positions prior to his reign as viceroy, including as a military commander in Syria. As viceroy, ʿAbbas responded unfavorably to the sweeping administrative and economic reforms initiated by Muḥammad ʿAli by closing down or neglecting the public and military schools and factories. He reduced the armed forces, stopped the construction of the Delta Dam, and opposed the construction of the Suez Canal, which had been proposed by the French. Nevertheless, the road from Cairo to Suez was much improved under ʿAbbas’ reign, and he allowed for the construction of the Alexandria-Cairo Railway by the British, who in return assisted him in his dispute with the Ottoman government over the application of the Western-inspired reforms (Tanzimat) in Egypt. Although he was opposed to the Tanzimat, ʿAbbas showed his loyalty by sending an expeditionary force to assist the Ottomans in the Crimean War (1853). He also abolished the state trade monopolies which had defied Ottoman treaties with the European powers.

ʿAbbas’ curtailment of government spending benefited the poorer classes, who received tax remissions and suffered less from compulsory labor and conscription into the army. A private man, ʿAbbas lived in isolation in his palace at Banhā (Benha Palace), where in July 1854 he was found dead. Although the official report listed his cause of death as apoplexy (stroke), he was believed by many to have been strangled by two of his servants (slaves).

'Abbas was succeeded by his uncle (who was actually younger than him), Said Pasha.

Alternative names include:

'Abbas I
'Abbas I of Egypt
'Abbas Hilmi
'Abbas Hilmi I
'Abbas Hilmi I Pasha
Hilmi, 'Abbas

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