There is a surprising link between Andre Raymond and Youssef Chahine. In 1947, having completed his agregation, Raymond headed for Tunisia to take up a post as a secondary school teacher. He had lived through the Second World War and had been part of the French resistance to the German occupation. Because of the holocaust he felt an instinctive sympathy for the in-gathering of Jews in Palestine, but also, as a member of the French Communist party, he felt a deep antipathy for French colonial ventures in North Africa and Indochina. In an interview some years ago, Raymond recalled that in Tunisia he immediately affiliated himself with the Tunisian Communist Party. At the same time he notes, Cinema had always been my great passion, and remained so until I was obliged to replace it with my passion for history I had purchased a camera it was very expensive at that time and made an anti colonialist film on Tunisia. If I had not been a communist in Tunisia I would have filmed very interesting things; for instance, the national movement at its beginnings. But because I was a communist, I filmed the congress of the Communist Party and communist demonstrations which were of no interest and were without future. The Tunisian reality was elsewhere.
By 1951 Raymond had decided to pursue an academic career and registered for a doctorat d'etat with the renowned Charles Andre Julien at the Sorbonne. With the help of Julien he received a scholarship to go to St. Antony's College at Oxford, where the equally renowned H.A.R. Gibb and Albert Hourani taught history. He became Hourani?s student. Under his supervision, he prepared his D.Phil: British Politics in Tunisia from 1830 to 1881. Raymond gradually dissociated himself from Communism, but, as he notes in retrospect, not entirely from Marxism. Until now I think that a certain number of fundamental ideas of Marxism are valuable and that in the domain of history, for instance, historical materialism is an important tool. In 1954, Raymond was affiliated for a year to the French Institute in Damascus and took courses at Damascus University. In 1956 he was off to the French Institute of Cairo. There, in consultation with Gaston Wiet, he decided that the primary and secondary theses required for the doctorat d'etat would be on Tunisia in the 18th century and on the guilds of Cairo. During the period 1959 to 1966, Raymond taught at the University of Bordeaux and was exposed to the Annales school of history and indirectly influenced by it. His method, he recalls, was based on the liaison between archival work and the study of urban archaeology. I think that the study of the city, the study of monuments, the study of urban structures, supplement the information given by written sources... When I was in Cairo, I devoted, let us say, half my time to the archives of the religious tribunals and the other half to visits in the old city so that I could make a very detailed survey of Ottoman Cairo.
From 1966 to 1975, Andre Raymond was director of the Institut Francais de Damas, and over those years he found time to complete his seminal study Artisans et commer?ants au Caire au XVIIIeme siecle, an economic and social history of Cairo in the second half of the Ottoman period of rule.
From 1975 and until his formal but somewhat fictitious retirement in 1988, Andre Raymond was a pillar of Middle Eastern, Ottoman, and North African studies at the University of Aix-en-Provence. In those same years he was one of the founders of the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris as well as being the founder and first director of the Institut de Recherches et d'Etudes sur le Monde Arabe et Musulman. Professor Raymond has produced a vast opus of articles and books on the major cities of the Ottoman Arab world. His work on the merchants of Cairo has already been mentioned. To cite only a few others of his major works, we should note: Grandes villes arabes al'epoque ottomane, in 1984; La ville arabe, Alep, al'epoque ottomane (XVIe-XVIIIe siecles), 1998, and a volume that he was kind enough to give me a few days ago, Tunis sous les Mouradites, 2006. In reflecting on Edward Said's Orientalism, Raymond had this personal observation, which strikes a familiar chord with many of us who have spent decades studying the Middle East: I, myself, am an historian dedicated to the modern history of Arab cities. I could have just as well dedicated myself to the history of the United States. I am much less concerned by a debate which I find demode than by the fact that my government has never consulted me on the policies it ought to adopt in the Arab world. In one of the few French expressions most Americans know but almost always mispronounce, it is deja vu all over again.