Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from K-O

Marsot, Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid (1933–) - Middle Eastern History

egypt university cairo degree

Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot was born on October 29, 1933, in Cairo, Egypt, of Egyptian parents. Her father worked as undersecretary of state for social affairs; her mother was a full-time homemaker. She grew up in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo. During her childhood, Afaf was schooled by an English governess at home; from the ages of six to fifteen she lived at an English mission school. At school, she later recalled in an interview, they studied only one semester of Egyptian history but eight years of English history. “When I went home,” she remembered, “I got another view of the British, so school did not Anglicize me.”

Among Marsot’s early influences were her father, to whom she was very close and who taught her history, and her uncle, a famous philosopher, politician, and writer. She grew up in a wealthy and very political family; they received three newspapers daily, each of which took a different stand on contemporary politics in Egypt. Marsot also grew up with three languages: Arabic, spoken at home, and English and French, which she learned from her governess. She was, she later recalled, “a politically precocious child.”

Marsot hoped to earn a premed degree in college. “I studied the biological sciences, but my father and I had to keep this a secret from my mother. When she found out that her daughter was studying a field that she believed inappropriate for ladies, she made me stop.” Marsot did earn a bachelor’s degree, however, from the American University of Cairo, in 1952. She then attended Stanford University, earning a master’s degree in political science in 1956. After she taught for a time at the American University of Cairo, Marsot decided to pursue a doctorate. She went to Oxford, studied with Albert Hourani, and wrote her dissertation on the British occupation of Egypt from 1882 to 1907. The first Egyptian woman to obtain a Ph.D. from Oxford, Marsot completed the degree in 1963.

Marsot’s work has focused on the roles that gender, class, culture, and religion have played in the history of Egypt since the eighteenth century. She has emphasized comparative studies as well as critical analyses of Western views of the Middle East. The work she is most proud of is her Egypt in the Reign of Muhammad Ali , “because his rule of Egypt in the first half of the nineteenth century has not been appreciated in the West.”

In 1964 Marsot married Alain Marsot, a Frenchman she met at Oxford. Fearing her parents’ disapproval, she married, then wrote them and told them that if they did not accept her husband they would never see her again. She also worked, at that time, on her first book, Egypt and Cromer , about Lord Cromer, whom she saw as an example of the arrogant assumptions of British imperialists in relation to Egypt. Marsot taught at St. Anthony’s College, Oxford, and then accepted a position in 1968 as associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. Promoted to professor in 1977, Marsot remains at UCLA, teaching Near and Middle East history.

Marsot has served as president of the American Research Center in Egypt. She also edited the International Journal of Middle East Studies and was the first woman president of the Middle East Studies Association. She also directed the education abroad program in Cairo for the University of California system.

Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid Marsot is the mother of two daughters, Vanina and Vanessa. Her hobbies include jewelry making, writing, and music, especially opera. She hopes someday to write historical novels.

Martha [next] [back] Marshall, Helen Edith (1898–) - Nursing History

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or