Egypt’s status is currently ambiguous. Britain operates a clear leadership role in the country, yet it has not been formally incorporated into the British Empire. Egypt has its own Sultan and government, but these both operate under British control.
Many in Egypt find this situation vexing and long for real independence. The Wafd political party is emerging as the leader of the nationalist struggle and is organising throughout the country. Seeing the Paris Conference as an opportunity, Wafd leaders petition the authorities to be allowed attend the conference and state Egypt’s case. The British response is however heavy-handed. Saad Zaghloul and other Wafd leaders are arrested and deported to Malta.
The British may have hoped that Zaghloul’s removal would decapitate and neutralise Egyptian nationalism. However students in Cairo immediately demonstrate to demand his release and unrest begins to build in the countryside. Disturbingly, it looks like the British have lit a fuse that will cause Egypt to explode.
Saad Zaghloul (Wikipedia: Saad Zaghloul)
Demonstrators (Revolution 1919: The first and last public revolution in Egypt (Flickr))