Telegraphing Revolt: Protest Diffusion During the 1919 Egyptian Revolution
A Seminar with Dr. Neil Ketchley
It is fashionable to emphasize how the internet has enabled the rapid diffusion of protest. This paper explores to what extent telegraph, postal, railway, and road networks shaped protest diffusion in the early twentieth century. The argument is illustrated with the case of Egypt during the 1919 Revolution, when anti-British protests broke out across the country in just a few days. Matching event data derived from Arabic-language newspapers and colonial security reports with geo-referenced maps, the paper shows how the country's communications infrastructure facilitated the rapid spread of protest in a semi-agrarian context characterized by political disorganization. Protest also diffused faster to areas with more students. These findings point to the enduring role of communications infrastructure in processes of revolutionary mobilization --- and highlight the potential uses of GIS for historical sociology.