The Fate of Colonial Elites in Post-Colonial Regimes: Evidence from the 1952 Egyptian Revolution


Neil Ketchley is Associate Professor in Politics in the Department of Politics and International Relations, the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, and a Fellow of St Antony’s College. He is a political scientist of the Arabic-speaking Middle East and North Africa working at the intersections of political sociology and comparative politics. Neil’s book, Egypt in a Time of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2017), won the Charles Tilly Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award. His current research interests include episodes of mass protest in the MENA, the rise of political Islam in interwar Egypt, and the changing profiles of regional political elites.


The post-WWII era saw coups and “revolutions from above” break out across the Middle East and North Africa. How did these events transform colonial-era state elites? We theorize that post-colonial regimes had to choose between purging perceived opponents and delivering key state functions, leading to important variation in individual turnover and survival. To illustrate our argument, we trace the careers of 674 colonial-era ministers and civil servants in Egypt following the 1952 Revolution. Our analysis shows that individuals connected to Egypt’s deposed monarch, very senior officials, and those with military backgrounds were more likely to be purged. Experienced officials and those with advanced university degrees were more likely to be retained. Residual workplace effects suggest that the logics of purging threats and retaining experienced officials also operated at the institutional level. The findings point to important instances of elite-level continuity during episodes of radical political change.