British interest in Egypt stemmed from the Suez Canal as the short route to India. Promises to evacuate the country once order had been restored were broken, and the British army remained in occupation until 1954. Although Tawfik remained on the throne as a figurehead prince, the British consul general was the real ruler of the country. The first and most important consul general was Sir Evelyn Baring (known after 1892 as Lord Cromer).
A nationalist movement led by Mustafa Kamil, a European-educated lawyer, was backed by Tawfik's successor, Abbas II, during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Kamil agitated for self-government and an end to the British occupation but was ignored by British authorities.
In this period Egyptian agriculture was so completely dominated by cotton grown to feed the textile mills of Lancashire, England, that grain had to be imported to feed the rural population. Irrigation projects were carried out to increase the arable land, and in due course the entire debt to Britain was paid.
British promises to evacuate diminished as Egypt and the Suez Canal became an integral part of British Mediterranean defense policy. The illegal occupation was, in fact, internationally sanctioned in 1904, when France recognized British rights in Egypt in return for British acknowledgment of French rights in Morocco.
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