We often regard print as a motor of social change, leaving revolutions in its wake. For historians of the Middle East, this line of thought leads to the (predictable) question: why didn’t Muslims or Ottomans or Arabs adopt print? In a new episode of the series "History of Science, Ottoman or Otherwise," a feature of the Ottoman History Podcast, CMES alumna Kathryn Schwartz (PhD '15) and host Nir Shafir discuss why this question is often poorly posed, and take an in-depth look at how and why people used print in one particular historical context: nineteenth-century Cairo.
Touching upon topics such as Napoleon, Mehmed Ali, and the Bulaq press, the episode explores how print slowly and haphazardly embedded itself into various aspects of Egyptian learned life. This fresh history casts nineteenth-century Egypt in a new light by examining the technological adaptation of print not as an act of unstoppable and transformative modernity, but as a slow and incremental expansion of already existing practices of book production.