As an Egyptology and History PhD fellow of the Excellency Research Lab Hastec, I am currently enrolled in the third year of my PhD at l’Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris Sciences & Lettres University). My research, supervised by Laurent Coulon (Ifao/EPHE) and Anne-Claire Bonneville (Inalco), focuses on the History of Egyptology, more specifically on the Service of Antiquities of Egypt under the directorship of Pierre Lacau between 1914 and 1936. It aims at understanding the diplomatic stakes of managing archaeology in Egypt in the early 20th century. The Service des Antiquités was created and directed by French Egyptologists who worked as civil servants for Egypt. This department was indeed part of the Egyptian government, and in charge of managing excavations on the Egyptian territory. During the British occupation, it therefore found itself deeply entangled in the colonial tensions between France, the United Kingdom and Egypt. Since it was also the institution connecting foreign Egyptologists with the Egyptian administration, my aim is to assess the impact of these political agendas on the development of archaeology in Egypt - whether in the granting of the concessions or in the evolution of the division of the finds.
Could you please tell us a bit more about your scholarship/exchange programme?
I was awarded a two-month scholarship thanks to a partnership between the Maison Française d’Oxford and PSL University, to which I am affiliated. This research stay allows me to study various archives that are kept here in the UK. Despite its French Director, the Service of Antiquities was a department of the Egyptian Ministry of Public Works, and was thus part of the Egyptian government. In that respect, it depended on the authority of the British Foreign Office until 1952. The Service also employed a large number of British men, whether Egyptologists or officials, whose archives can be found in Oxford, namely at the Griffith Institute and the Middle East Center Archives. Additionally, the proximity of London enables me to access the National Archives, where the Foreign Office papers are kept, as well as the Egypt Exploration Society Archives. Of course, it is also an opportunity to benefit from the Bodleian Libraries endless resources, including the Sackler Library, which is a world-renowned Egyptology research library.
First impressions of Oxford/the University?
Oxford seems to be made exclusively of libraries, research facilities, museums and beautiful architecture : in other words, an ideal place for any researcher ! The MFO and the city provide both a peaceful and stimulating environment for academic work, as well as a great place to meet other researchers and students. I’m very grateful to have the chance to get a taste of the unique experience of studying in this age-old university.