Did the Compagnie du canal de Suez assume its tasks to adapt the canal equipment to transit shipping (1900-1956)?
Harsh arguments accompanied the development and the history of the Suez canal company either among nationalist Egyptians (just before, during or just after the nationalisation of the canal in 1956) or among some historians dedicated to find out clues of imperialist powers on key tools and moves of world economy. Whilst some historians (D. Landes, S. Saul, C. Niquet) denounced the financial tutelage exerted by the Suez company on Egypt, a commonplace opinion reproached the Company to have neglected the basic investment to modernize the Suez canal and had accused it of enlivening privileged incomes without managing a broad engineering project to allow the canal to reach standards of modern shipping. Our paper will scrutinise the evolution of the canal after its inception and emerging period, at its apex. It will gauge the financial figures of the investment moves of the company, the equipment of the canal management in Port-Saïd, Ismaïlia and Suez Port, the actual evolution of the canal ability to face transit constraints, and the technical level reached by the piloting entity. It will also raise the question of the Egyptianisation of the staff but will not consider the question of the contribution of the canal developments to Egypt’s development, which will take place elsewhere. Such a paper will be intimately linked to maritime history as it will study a key water-way of international maritime roads and ponder the relationship between the evolution of shipping and transit on one side and the equipment and modernisation of the Suez canal on the other side. Its long-range scope will avoid a too much restrained case study and help consider far-reaching debates and conclusions.
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