Funded by French businessmen and excavated by more than 30,000 semi-slaves between 1860 and 1869, the Suez Canal was instrumental in consolidating the UK’s dominance over the Indian Ocean and the Indian subcontinent. , threatened by the rise of Russia and its European rivals. .
This alliance between industrial capitalism and imperial expansion has led to an unprecedented acceleration in the circulation of capital and technology. Innovations such as the telegraph and the steamboat arose from the development of ports and sea routes. To this day, the history of Suez, with Napoleonic roots, feeds the mythology of French industry.
At the start of the 20th century, the oil industry was organized around the Suez Canal. It was to maximize the use of infrastructure that Shell developed the first modern tankers. Between 1910 and 1960, these ships represented 82% of the chain’s circulation, a new commercial axis between Europe and the Middle East.
When Egyptian ruler Gamal Abdel Nasser moved forward to nationalize the road in 1956, he unwittingly caused a change of guard between the world powers. Led by Prime Minister Anthony Eden, a WWII hero who became the empire’s gravedigger, the process brought London to Suez to shame.
The United States used the moment of weakness to lock in an IMF loan and add to the British military crisis a financial collapse. Ironically, the Suez Canal celebrated its centenary with the collapse of Europe’s geopolitical influence.
The blockade almost eight years after the Six Day War (1967), which turned Suez into a battlefield, led to the withdrawal of European actors. Industrialists modernized oil companies and postcolonial powers invested in oil reserves in North and West Africa to emancipate themselves from the region, considered chronically unstable.
Reopened in 1975, the channel began a new process of transition for the global economy. Suez has seen ships from the East flood the UK with goods that have contributed so much to the obsolescence of its industrial fabric.
In 2016, the year of Brexit, the manufacturing industry represented only 9% of the British workforce against 32% in 1973. The Suez Canal has become the symbol of European dependence vis-à-vis the ‘Asia.
This explains why, last week, when the global equivalent of the truck that falls on the marginal Tietê shut down the internet, analysts hailed the vulnerability of international trade.
From parts of the Rolls Royce turbines to the pictorial plaque of Prince Harry standing out in the hall of the newly vaccinated elderly woman of Chestershire, everything – and its opposite – runs through Suez, the eternal pillar of modern capitalism.
In these times of euphoria in the face of a new, greener and greener industrial era, the stalemate caused by the Ever Given jam serves to warn us that our societies will continue to rely on incredibly archaic structures for much longer than wish.
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