Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Little Italy in Egypt

17 November 1869
"The Suez Canal at Ismailia", c 1863, albumen print.
Library of Congress LC-DIG-ppmsca-04470

The construction of the Suez Canal required large numbers of Italian workers before being completed on 17 November 1869. That anarchism first appeared in Egypt among these Italian immigrant labourers is not surprising, given the established tradition of Egypt as a place of refuge for political exiles from Italy and the historical role played by Italians like Errico Malatesta in the development of the anarchist movement. The combination of labour and political radicalism proved potent in Egypt. In the early 1860s, the Società Operaio Italiana (Italian Workers Society) in Alexandria was the first in a series of Italian workers'organizations. As of 1876 official sections of the First International were founded in Alexandria, Cairo, Port Said and Ismailia. Although strongly Italian in  character, the movement was seeking to expand its activities beyond the boundaries of this ethnic community.

Read more? Anthony Gorman, 'The Anarchist Movement in Egypt 1860-1940' in: Anarchism and Syndicalism in the Colonial and Postcolonial World, 1870-1940 (Leiden 2010)