The early-19th century was the heroic age of Egyptology. It was also largely dominated by Napoleon, who had led his ill-considered invasion of Egypt (1798-1799). The eastern Mediterranean was under the control of the ramshackle Ottoman Empire, from whom the Greeks were to win their War of Independence. Apart from its archaeological importance, Egypt was also one of the most important cockpits in the struggle amongst the various European powers and their fight against the Turks. One of the most important figures in Egypt at this time was the Piedmontese soldier and lawyer, Bernardi Drovetti, French consul in Egypt for most of the first 30 years of the century. After an important career in Napoleonic Europe, he went to Egypt in 1803 and was to play a leading role there in diplomacy, politics, archaeology and exploration. He was responsible, more than anyone else, for ensuring the coming to power of Mehemet Ali, founder of the dynasty which ruled the country until 1952. Drovetti also worked unceasingly to counter English attempts to dominate Egyptian politics. He took part in many early explorations, such as those to Abu Simbel and Siwah oasis. He formed fewer than three collections of antiquities, one of which laid the foundation of the Tori Museum, the others making large contributions to the Louvre and the Berlin Museum. This biography is based on a wide range of published and archival sources.
Professor Ronald Ridley holds a personal chair in the Department of History in the University of Melbourne, where he teaches the history of ancient Egypt through to Rome. His other major interests include the history of historiography, of archaeology and of autobiography. This is his tenth book.