Nowhere in Redefining the Egyptian Nation do the authors state that their book is effectively the second volume in a large and ambitious project to chart the course of Egyptian political thought during the twentieth century -- but that's what it is. The earlier book explains how Egyptians shifted from a more traditional Islamic and Ottoman orientation before World War I to Western-style Egyptian nationalism in the 1920s; and the latter details a second shift, from Egyptian nationalism back to a more modern Islamic and Arab orientation. Gershoni and Jankowski find gold in the periodicals and books of the time; through extensive reading, they succeed in providing, as they call it, "an essay in Egyptian self-understanding."
In tandem, the two volumes inspire several reflections. First, they document the narrowing and then the widening of the Egyptian consciousness; the processes in the two eras go in roughly opposite directions. Second, the period in the middle, the 1920s, stands out as a "unique era in the history of modern Egypt," for it was a time when European ways overpowered Islamic ones. During those few years, the Pharaohs and the Nile drew Egyptians more than the Qur'an and Arabic. Third, the outward-looking nationalism in place by 1945 provided the intellectual and rhetorical ammunition for Gamal Abdel Nasser, who came to power in 1952; all he had to do was add political power and popularize an existing ideology. Fourth, this reviewer hopes Gershoni and Jankowski continue their collaboration into at least two further periods, 1945-1970 (the heyday of Pan-Arab nationalism) and after 1970 (the retreat into nationalism? the growth of fundamentalist Islam?).