Al-Jabartī’s History of Egypt: Edited and with an introduction by Jane Hathaway

Publication Year



The multi-volume chronicle of the Cairo scholar Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti (1753-1825), known in Arabic as caja-’ib al-atha-r fi- al-tara-jim wa-al-akhba-r, which translates roughly as The Most Wondrous Achievements: Biographies and Reports of Events, is the single most important primary source for the history of Egypt over nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule (1517-1882). This text, compiled by editor Jane Hathaway to appeal to the general reader as well as scholars of Egypt and the Ottoman Empire, is a collection of excerpts from al-Jabarti’s history, providing a multifaceted overview of Egyptian society during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The selections cover key political developments, including various power struggles and the French occupation, and offer telling glimpses of Egyptian society at large: the role of the Muslim scholar-officials and their interaction with the political authorities; the activities of merchants, shopkeepers, peasants, and tribespeople; the status of women and non-Muslims; and popular reaction to warfare, plagues, natural disasters, food shortages, and price increases.

A general introduction and a brief introductory passage to each major excerpt help to place this indispensable primary source in its proper historical and social context.

Table of Contents

Note on Transliteration and Editorial Markings

Part I: The Era of Great Household Rivalries
1. How al-Jabarti came to write Aja’ib al-athar
2. The origins of the Faqari and Qasimi factions
3. The “civil war” of 1711
4. The life of Kucuk Muhammed Bas Odabasi (d. 1694)
5. The life of Ibrahim Bey Abu Shanab (d. 1718)
6. The life of Isma’il Bey ibn Iwaz (d. 1724)
7. The life of Cerkes Muammad Bey (d. 1730)
8. The massacre at the daftardar’s house, November 1736
9. The life of Uthman Bey Dhu’l-Faqar (fled Egypt 1743)
10. Attack on a party of Coptic Christians embarking on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, ca. 1754
11. The lives of Ibrahim Katkhuda al-Kazdagli (d. 1754) and Ridwan Katkhuda al-Jalfi (d. 1755)
12. The life of the coffee merchant Khawaja Hajj Ahmad al-Sharaybi (d. ca. 1756)
13. The life of Shaykh Muhammad al-Hifni (d. 1767)
14. The life of Shaykh Humam, chief of the Hawwara Bedouin (d. 1769)
15. The life of Ali Bey al-Kabir (d. 1773)
16. The life of the author’s father, Shaykh Hasan al-Jabarti (d. 1774)
17. Muhammad Bey Abu’l-Dhahab’s victory over Zahir al-Umar and subsequent death (1775)
18. The life of Muhammad Bey Abu’l-Dhahab (d. 1775)
19. The life of Abd al-Rahman Katkhuda al-Kazdagli (d. 1776)
20. The life of the Hanafi scholar Shaykh Abd al-Raman al-Arishi (d. 1779)
21. High prices and shortages caused by Ibrahim and Murad Beys in 1783-84
22. A popular protest triggered by Husayn Beys Cifit’s attack on a Sufi shaykh, 1786
23. The Ottoman naval invasion and occupation of Egypt, 1786-87
24. Ibrahim and Murad Beys return to Cairo, 1791

Part II: The Era of the French Occupation of Egypt
26. The French arrest Murad Bey’s wife, Sitt Nafisa, September 1798
27. The French crush a rebellion, October 1798
28. French architectural and scientific achievements
29. The life of Shaykh Sulayman al-Jawsaqi, executed for his role in the October 1798 rebellion
30. The destruction caused by the French and the Ottomans in Cairo
31. The French investigate the murder of General Kleber, June 1800
32. Life of Murad Bey (d. 1801)
33. Ottoman forces re-enter Cairo, July 1801
34. The just governor Muhammad Khusraw Pasha (term January 1802-April 1803)
35. Frustration with the Ottomans, 1803
36. The destruction of Muhammad Bey al-Alfi’s house, April 1803
37. The incorrigible Albanian soldiers
38. Muhammad Ali’s responsibility for the strife of 1803-04
39. Muhammad Ali arrests Sitt Nafisa, May 1804
40. Shaykh Óasan al-Attar’s eulogy for al-Fil Pond, 1804
41. The life of Ahmad Pasha al-Jazzar (d. 1805), the autonomous governor of Acre and Sidon
42. The Wahhabis

Part III: The Era of Muhammad Ali Pasha
43. The ulema petition the imperial government to have Muhammad Ali’s term as governor extended, July 1806
44. Muhammad Ali petitions the imperial government to have his term as governor extended, September 1806
45. The life of Muhammad Bey al-Alfi (d. 1807)
46. Mustafa Pasha al-Bayraqdar occupies Istanbul after the deposition of Selim III (July-November 1808)
47. The secretary of the governing council criticizes Muhammad Ali, June 1809
48. Ibrahim Bey condemns Muhammad Ali, May 1810
49. The massacre of the Mamluks by Muhammad Ali, March 1811
50. Rampant price increases under Muhammad Ali, 1812-13
51. The life of shaykh al-Azhar Abdallah al-Sharqawi (d. 1812)
52. Muhammad Ali’s measures against the plague, spring 1813
53. The life of Shaykh Shams al-Din Abu’l-Anwar al-Sadat (d. 1813)
54. The charitable acts of Muhammad Ali’s senior wife, October 1813
55. The life of the poet Isma’il al-Kashshab (d. 1815)
56. The state of the last Mamluk amirs in the Sudan, 1816
57. Muhammad Ali’s development projects
58. The life of Ibrahim Bey al-Kabir (d. 1815)
59. The life of Sitt Nafisa (d. 1816)
60. How dates are recorded and recollected
61. Foreigners and rabble in Cairo, September 1817
62. Excavations by European archaeologists, including the body of the Sphinx, late 1817
63. Muhammad Ali’s invasion of Sudan, summer 1820
64. Muhammad Ali’s determination to crush the Greek revolt, August 1821

Suggested Reading


“Jane Hathaway’s compilation of excerpts, however, is a much appreciated selection of al-Jabarti’s key primary sources on Egypt’s rulers, peasants, scholars, servants, merchants, and students. It offers multiple glimpses of many aspects of the social life on the banks of the Nile and can well be advised for the use as a textbook in the realm of higher education.”— Wolfgang G. Schwanitz (Rider University), Sehpunkte: Rezensionsjournal fuer Geschichtswissenschaften

“Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti, born in Cairo in 1753, combined biographies and historical accounts by earlier chroniclers, covering events in Egypt as far back as 1688, with his own observations and research covering the period from roughly 1776 until his death in 1825. Printed in Arabic in 1879-80, The Marvelous Compositions of Biographies and Chronicles has long been regarded as the best primary source about Egypt under Ottoman rule. The present volume is composed of excerpts and brief contextual commentaries and will appeal to general readers. The sections describing the French occupation of Egypt (1798-1801) and its re-occupation by Ottoman forces are particularly interesting.”— Saudi Aramco World

“Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti’s (1753-1822) multi-volume Aja’ib al-athar fi al-tarajim wa-al-akhvar (The Marvelous Compositions of Biographies and Chronicles) is universally hailed as the most accessible and comprehensive primary source for the history of Egypt under Ottoman rule. It was rendered into a superb English translation in 1994 by a team supervised by Thomas Philipp and Moshe Perlmann, and published by Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart. The four volumes are a bit daunting for beginning students and general readers, however, so Hathaway (Ohio State U.), having written her own history of Ottoman Egypt, presents 64 excerpts from the sections on the era of great household rivalries, the era of the French occupation, and the era of Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha. She sets each into the context of the full work and of its historical period.”— Book News

Series Title
Princeton Series on the Middle East
1st Markus Wiener Publishers ed.
xxxiv, 357 p.: ill., maps; 23 cm.
Markus Wiener Publishers
Princeton, NJ
9781558764460, 1558764461, 9781558764477, 155876447X