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Purging to Transform the Post-Colonial State: Evidence from the 1952 Egyptian Revolution

The post-WWII era saw junior military officers launch “revolutionary coups” in a number of post-colonial states. How did these events transform colonial-era state elites? We theorize that the inexperienced leaders of revolutionary coups had to choose between purging threats and delivering radical policies, leading to important variation in elite turnover and survival.

Event details

To illustrate our argument, we trace the careers of 674 officials in Egypt following the Free Officers' seizure of power in July 1952. A multilevel survival analysis shows that officials connected to Egypt's deposed monarch and very senior figures were most vulnerable to being purged. Experienced officials and those with university education were more likely to be retained. Residual workplace effects suggest that a threat-competence calculation also operated at the ministry level. Triangulation with biographies, memoirs, and speeches corroborates the mechanism. The findings show why radical state-led change often requires a degree of elite-level continuity.



Professor Neil Ketchley is Associate Professor in Politics and Fellow of St Antony’s College, University of Oxford. His research focuses on the dynamics of protest and revolution in the Arabic-speaking Middle East and North Africa. Neil’s first book, Egypt in a Time of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2017), won the Charles Tilly Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship Award from the American Sociological Association.


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