Egypt, once a British possession, gained independence in 1922 and the opportunity to blend a British-style liberal constitution with Egyptian culture beckoned. But President Gamal Abdel Nasser chose another path, which cost Britain’s Prime Minister his job and cost Egypt her freedoms.
IN 1956, Britain and America withdrew an offer to fund the building of the Aswan Dam on the River Nile, as a warning to Egypt over the country’s drift towards communist Russia and China. Egypt’s President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, announced in response that he would nationalise the Suez Canal, hitherto an international partnership.
Nasser immediately closed the canal to Israeli shipping, and made it clear that Britain’s trade with the Middle East was under threat too. Encouraged by trading partners such as Iraq, British Prime Minister Anthony Eden joined with France and Israel in military action to regain control of the canal.
However, Dwight Eisenhower’s America and the UN, fearing that Egypt would ally with the USSR, stood back.
Britain and her allies were left exposed, and Eden saw no alternative but to resign. Emboldened, Nasser began stripping Egypt of cherished civil liberties inherited from British rule, expelling thousands of Jews and seizing their property, and setting the country on the road to dictatorship.