New Book: “A Revolution Undone — Egypt’s Road Beyond Revolt”

“Amid the turbulence of the 2011 Arab uprisings, the revolutionary uprising that played out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square created high expectations before dashing the hopes of its participants. The upheaval led to a sequence of events in Egypt that scarcely anyone could have predicted, and precious few have understood: five years on, the status of Egypt’s unfinished revolution remains shrouded in confusion. Power shifted hands rapidly, first from protesters to the army leadership, then to the politicians of the Muslim Brotherhood, and then back to the army. The politics of the street has given way to the politics of Islamist-military détentes and the undoing of the democratic experiment. Meanwhile, a burgeoning Islamist insurgency occupies the army in Sinai and compounds the nation’s sense of uncertainty. A Revolution Undone blends analysis and narrative, charting Egypt’s journey from Tahrir to Sisi from the perspective of an author and analyst who lived it all. H.A. Hellyer brings his first-hand experience to bear in his assessment of Egypt’s experiment with protest and democracy. And by scrutinising Egyptian society and public opinion, Islamism and Islam, the military and government, as well as the West’s reaction to events, Hellyer provides a much-needed appraisal of Egypt’s future prospects.”

Published and distributed by Hurst & Company and Oxford University Press USA

Ready for order on and (for non-UK orders) at Hurst Publishers (shipping costs free, worldwide) and Oxford University Press USA 



“H.A. Hellyer’s A Revolution Undone represents the most authoritative, thoughtful, and nuanced account to date of Egypt’s 2011 revolution and its aftermath. The book is replete with the kind of unique insight that emerges only from direct proximity to the events it describes. Hellyer’s is a voice of studious integrity, allowing A Revolution Undone to achieve the near impossible when it comes to analyzing Egyptian politics today: balance and perspective. I can think of no other observer of the country who has managed to remain in the heart of the fray while avoiding being captured by it. A bold, defining, and–ultimately–hopeful statement on the Arab Spring that should be read by anyone interested in the future of the Middle East.” — Peter Mandaville, Professor of International Affairs at George Mason University; author of “Islam and Politics”

 “Egyptians made their own history in 2011 with a revolution that inspired the world. But its story since those momentous 18 days has been both complex and controversial, defying tidy definition. H.A. Hellyer is eminently qualified to inform, and interpret these punishing years, which have polarised Egypt and left many searching for certainties. An Egyptian and an Englishman, he brings both depth and distance. There’s also an academic’s rigour, a pollster’s precision, and a journalist’s compelling anecdotes in his chronicle of Egypt’s “unfinished revolution.” Committed to the principles of that peaceful protest, he doesn’t shirk from holding everyone to account: from the revolutionaries who failed to follow through; the Muslim Brotherhood which fell from grace and power; and a military which played a pivotal role throughout. “History shows that there are some things that endure far beyond one generation,” he writes. Egypt’s story is still being written. But five years on, this book puts down an important marker.” — Lyse Doucet, Chief International Correspondent, the BBC

“Throughout the tumultuous events of the 2011-2015 years in Egypt, H.A. Hellyer has been a lucid but hardly dispassionate analyst.  Now, he has written a book presenting that period that draws on the same assets as his contemporaneous analyses: he writes from the heart but without losing a touch of his clear-headed thinking. Those who remember only a confused tumble of events will find a sure guide, but even those who recall these events well will learn from his book.” — Nathan J Brown, Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University; author of “When Victory is Not an Option: Islamist Movements in Arab Politics”

“It is hard to imagine a better qualified analyst of recent Egyptian history than H.A. Hellyer: a British political scientist of Egyptian heritage, conversant in the modern history of Islamic thought, equipped with the most credible public opinion polling, well-connected with a broad circle of activists and diplomats, and a Cairo resident who personally lived through the upheavals of both 2011 and 2013. Hellyer started out cautious about the first protests in 2011 but he came to identify what he calls Egypt’s ‘revolutionary current’ as it’s best hope, and his honest and probing account of those events will be a great resource for future students of that history.” — David D. Kirkpatrick, correspondent for The New York Times and its Cairo bureau chief from 2011-2015

“H.A. Hellyer has written a deeply knowledgeable and deeply personal set of reflections on the Egyptian revolution and its grim aftermath. It is impossible to read this book and not come away with a sense of the spirit that drove the young people of Tahrir Square in the early days of 2011, and which drives many Egyptians still. Many books have been written with the words “Egypt” and “Revolution” in their titles, but this is the only one worth reading.” — Tarek Masoud, Sultan of Oman Associate Professor of International Relations at Harvard University; author of “Counting Islam: Religion, Class and Elections in Egypt”

“Inside Egypt’s Unfinished Revolution combines in the most revealing of ways both the author’s participatory observations during the last turbulent years in Egypt & his analytical skills in tackling questions of politics, religion, & human rights conditions. This is a fact based narrative of what has gone wrong in Egypt after the January 2011 revolution & a persuasive analysis of the structural realities hindering democratic governance in this most populous country in the Middle East.” –Amr Hamzawy, Associate Professor, Department of Public Policy & Administration at the American University in Cairo; author of “A Margin for Democracy in Egypt: The Story of An Unsuccessful Transition”

“To see Egypt through H.A. Hellyer’s eyes is to observe with rare immediacy the turmoil, excitement, lost hopes, and ultimate uncertainty since the heady days of protest in 2011.   Engagé but never one-sided, affecting but also clear-headed, he powerfully demonstrates how an Islamist right and authoritarian military have each tried to highjack the post-Mubarak order. That this will be a successful revolution in the long term depends, in this eloquent and unflinching analysis, on whether the precipitating search for dignity is not betrayed. “ — James Piscatori, Professor at the University of Durham; co-author, “Muslim Politics” & “Muslim Travellers”

” At a time when many have already written off the Arab world’s ability to transition to pluralistic societies,  “A Revolution Undone” presents a more nuanced analysis about the region that offers balance, empathy, and above all, hope.  Written by a pre-eminent scholar and analyst deeply  embedded in the region, this book is a must read for anyone seeking deep insights into the Egyptian uprising, its aftermath, and its possible trajectory” — Marwan Muasher is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Formerly serving as foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Jordan, he is the author of The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation

“Hellyer combines an engaging personal memoir with insightful and balanced analyses to present a clear portrayal of the Arab Spring revolution in Egypt. His account departs from the all-too-common treatment of the major elements — like the Muslim Brotherhood, the original revolutionaries, and the military — as monolithic, and instead, provides an understanding of the complex mosaic of Arab Spring politics in Egypt. An important part of the strength of Hellyer’s analysis is his coverage of the evolution of the way observers, including himself, viewed the changing political scene. As he shows, these observers played important roles in constructing the various narratives of the revolution. In the growing library of books on the Arab Spring, Hellyer provides a refreshingly intimate perspective that will be of use to all interested in 21st century political developments.” — John Voll, Professor Emeritus of Islamic History, Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University; author of ‘Islam: Continuity and Change in the Muslim World’ and coauthor of ‘Islam and Democracy after the Arab Spring’

“In recent years, attempting to follow the extraordinary tumult in Egypt has often felt like wading through a dense fog: moments of hope, moments of despair, & endless political twists and turns are all mixed up inside one another, and it is hard to make out the beginning or the end. It takes an assured and skilful navigator to plot a constructive path through the gloom and shine a light where it is needed most. Hellyer is just such a navigator: thoughtful, perceptive & above all committed to the promise of revolution, even as he spells out with intellectual honesty & historical nuance where those fighting for a more democratic Egypt have gone wrong. His analysis is an antidote to lazy stereotypes & reductive binaries, & today it is more important than ever.”-Jack Shenker, former Egypt correspondent for The Guardian; author of ‘The Egyptians: A Radical Story’


“Part personal narrative, part contemporary history, H.A. Hellyer’s A Revolution Undone provides a brilliant, gripping account of Egypt’s 2011 revolution and its aftermath. Told by the author in the first person, from the unique perspective of someone who lived through and bore witness to these historic events that continue to reshape the modern Middle East, the book is most notable for its analytical and moral clarity. Ultimately, the author’s conclusion from this sober tale is an uplifting one: the young revolutionaries who flooded Tahrir Square may have failed to change the political order in Egypt, but the idea of the revolution continues to inspire and have resonance in that country and far beyond.”  — Stephen R. Grand, Executive Director, The Middle East Strategy Task Force, The Atlantic Council; author of “Understanding Tahrir Square: What Transitions Elsewhere Can Teach Us about the Prospects for Arab Democracy”; nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy


“H.A. Hellyer has written an inimitable book. Specialists and general readers alike will benefit hugely from the accounts exquisitely related by an insider and a fair observer in one. Hellyer’s organic link to Egypt and consciously impartial perspective produce a unique combination that we should appreciate, as many of the books published on the subject tend to lean towards one view or one side. His writings have long made clear his consistent and balanced insight – and in this book, Hellyer lets no one off the hook, calling all to account.” — Hassan Hassan, Associate Fellow of Chatham House; author of New York Times bestseller “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror”


Printed Reviews

  1. “Europe, Islam and Salafism” – A Revolution Undone discussed in the Economist (24 November 2016)
  2. “Static Revolution” A Revolution Undone reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement (11 January 2017): “Hellyer presents a fresh take on the CNN version of Egypt’s Tahrir revolution, and a candid assessment of its unhappy end. This is the work of an engaged observer who delves into the repeated missed opportunities of the revolutionary movement.”
  3. “A Revolution Undone” – review in Foreign Affairs (14th February 2017): “This book considers Egypt’s recent uprisings and descent into military rule… Hellyer writes engagingly…”
  4. “Take Two: How Author HA Hellyer and Satirist Bassem Youssef frame Tahrir Square” – review in “The National” (23rd February 2017): “Exactly when that hope morphed into something else is a matter of difference. This is perhaps the best aspect of Hellyer’s book. He traces not only his own intellectual reaction to the events around him – his doubts, uncertainties and mistakes – but also the evolving ideas of those around him.”
  5. “Book Review: A Revolution Undone” – review in the Huffington Post (2nd March 2017): “In short, the book was a brilliant read, and at times, painstakingly detailed…Most importantly, the book skillfully provides an emotional insight of what it means to be in an environment of chaos where the realness of “political discourse” and its immediate effect is made clear. This will probably be the closest anyone can get to the reality of how things unfold on a street level in times of civil upheaval without witnessing them or being a part of them first hand.”
  6. “A Revolution Undone by HA Hellyer: life after protest” – review in the Financial Times (27 March 2017): “Hellyer meticulously unpicks the struggle for power that began after Mubarak stepped down, going beyond simplistic depiction of Egypt’s post-revolutionary politics as a battle between a (secular) military and so-called deep state against an Islamist or religious opposition. It is a sorry tale of missed opportunities and bad choices by almost all political players.”

All errata notes: please send to errata AT hahellyer DOT com. I will be updating errata at

Previous book launch events below. Further events will be advertised here as well.

Book Launch Events (will be updated as new information becomes available):

Upcoming Events
1. Oxford University –  16 November – Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies
2. London – Royal United Services Institute hosting – 21 November
3. Cambridge – 23 November
4. London, International Institute of Strategic Studies – 7th December
5. Austin, Texas, USA – 12th March – South By South West
6. Washington DC, USA – 14th March – Atlantic Council
7. New York, NYC, USA – 16th March – The Century Foundation


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