Gamal Abdel Nasser on the Nationalization of the Suez Canal

(1956)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

The Order concerning the Issuance of Law No. 285 of 1956 on the Nationalization of the Universal Company of the Suez Maritime Canal is a brief document that announces that “in the name of the nation” the president (Nasser) is seizing control of the ownership and operation of the Suez Canal. The document begins with a preamble that makes reference to various laws over the years that had vested control of the canal in the hands of private stockholders. The document uses the word firmans, which means “royal decrees” and refers to laws that were promulgated when Egypt was a monarchy. At the time construction of the canal began in 1859, the Egyptian viceroy was Sa'id Pasha, who ruled from 1854 to 1863; his successor, Ismail Pasha, presided over the opening of the canal, and it was his policy of westernizing Egypt that nearly bankrupted the nation, forcing him to sell his shares to the British. The preamble also makes reference to later...

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The Red Sea at the entrance to the Suez Canal (Library of Congress)

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