ismail was the grandson of muhammad 'ali. under his rule the modernization begun by muhammad 'ali moved forward with new dynasism. ismail sought to transform egypt into a country that europe would respect in european terms. in 1867 by payments to the sultan and increase in tribute he obtained the persian title of khedive, borne by his heirs down to 1914. and two years later the suez canal was opened. it increased egypt's strategic importance to europe dramatically. however the greatest transformation of egypt led to the international bankruptcy. the national debt became so great that he was forced to abdicate in 1879.
the debt and abdication brought greater british control over egyptian affairs. with pressure from the british, ismail's son tawfiq reorganised egypt's finances, and british and french controllers installed themselves in the government. the egyptians felt that they bore an unfari in egypt went practically unscathed. most people could do nothing more than grumble, but the army officers had the power and organization to protest more effectively. the essential grievance of the egyptian officers was that their advancement was being blocked by ismail and under tawfiq's austerity budget, they were being pensioned off of assigned to undesirable posts. an administrative struggle between turco-circassian officers and native egyptians had ended with the latter in control. their chief spokesman, a senior officer named ahmad 'urabi, was appointed minister of war and thus found himself at the forefront of egyptian resistance to further european intrusion. this cause had nothing to do with ismail's forgotten dream of an independent egypt, but it temporarily united nearly all social classes, from 'ulamas, intellectuals and landowners to peasants, and made 'urabi the only permanent figure throughout a series of changing goverments.
an egyptian liberal cabinet drew up a constitution and held elctions as egypt's debts rose further. in january 1882 britain and france sent a joint note, threatening to intervene to support tawfiq(they really meant to restore the dual control). the nationalists called their bluff, declaring that egypt's new assembly, not the british and french debt commissioners, would control the state budget. this situation provided the final excuse for intervention. british warships bombarded alexandria on july 11, 1882. british marines landed to restore order. 'urabi declared war on britain, but tawfiq declared him a traitor and threw in his lot with the british in alexandria. other british troops entered the canal and landed at ismailia. defeating 'urabi's army was easy, and the british occupied cairo in september 1882. the egyptian cabinet was dismissed, 'urabi was exiled, the constitution was suspended, the nationalist newspapers were banded. the early nationalists had proved a weak force.