Seeking Bread and Fortune in Port Said probes migrant labor's role in shaping the history of the Suez Canal and modern Egypt. It maps the everyday life of Port Said's residents between 1859, when the town was founded as the Suez Canal's northern harbor, and 1906, when a railway connected it to the rest of Egypt. Through groundbreaking research, Lucia Carminati provides a ground-level perspective on the key processes touching late nineteenth-century Egypt: heightened domestic mobility and immigration, intensified urbanization, changing urban governance, and growing foreign encroachment. By privileging migrants' prosaic lives, Seeking Bread and Fortune in Port Said shows how unevenness and inequality laid the groundwork for the Suez Canal's making.
Seeking Bread and Fortune in Port Said Labor Migration and the Making of the Suez Canal, 1859–1906
About the Book
"This deeply researched and elegantly written study brings into sustained conversation migration, borderlands, and water studies. Lucia Carminati bids us consider who really built the Suez Canal, how they did it, and what the historical consequences were for a host of social actors from near and far. Carminati advances provocative arguments that transform current paradigms of labor, mobility, technologies of imperialism, and much more. Seeking Bread and Fortune in Port Said is a tour de force that demonstrates in highly original fashion the productivity of transnational history as envisioned by a sophisticated scholar."—Julia Clancy-Smith, author of Mediterraneans: North Africa and Europe in an Age of Migration, c. 1800–1900
"In the best tradition of social history, Carminati weaves together strands from the lives of ordinary workers from around the Mediterranean who answered the call to build the Suez Canal and the new towns and cities servicing it in the isthmus—most notably Port Said. Superbly documented, astutely argued, and incredibly well-written, Seeking Bread and Fortune in Port Said gives us a new understanding of the international effort that went into developing the region."—Beth Baron, author of Egypt as a Woman: Nationalism, Gender, and Politics
"Drawing on extensive archival research, Carminati reanimates the bustling landscape of Port Said and the migrants who flocked there to build and service the Suez Canal. The vivid experiences she documents of everyday people working, hustling, brawling, and becoming immiserated reveal changing and complex patterns of mobility and illuminate a vital and fascinating urban history that took shape outside the region's major cities. A rich and innovative book that restores a human dimension to hydraulic infrastructure."—Nancy Reynolds, author of A City Consumed: Urban Commerce, the Cairo Fire, and the Politics of Decolonization in Egypt