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The European Struggle for the Nile Valley and the Motives and Factors Behind the British Decision to Invade the Sudan

Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
International Program
Lee, Jaehyun
Research Paper, AP World History Class, Fall 2011

Table of Contents

I. Introduction
II. Historical Context
III. Gordon and the Mahdi
IV. Europe and Sudan 1884-1885
V. The British after Gordon
VI. France, Italy, Germany, and the Congo Free State
VII. Ethiopia
VIII. The Invasion
IX. French Advances
X. After Omdurman
XI. Conclusion
Reference List

I. Introduction
            The wide expanse of the seemingly barren wasteland we call the Sudan and the conflicts surrounding it from 1880 to 1900 reveal the multifaceted drives behind the expansionist policies of European states in the late nineteenth century and highlight the complex nature of colonial enterprises undertaken at the time. Between 1885 when the Sudan was abandoned, and 1896, when orders were given for its conquest, there was a clear shift in the perception of the Sudan by outsiders. What caused this dramatic shift in view within the British political leadership ? What motives played a major role in affecting the decision to retake the land, and how were the situations that led to its making created ?
            Through a comprehensive analysis of British and American newspaper articles, British Parliamentary records, and first hand records of the campaign, this paper seeks to address the questions outlined above by analyzing the various factors behind and causes of the decisions made in London at the time. The change in the perception of the Sudan from a barren wasteland to a strategic area of interest was caused by the increased involvement of other European powers in the Nile area, actions which alarmed and threatened decision-makers in London. Its re-conquest was ordered following the exhaustion of all effective diplomatic means and carried out in a strategic manner to secure both a European alliance and persuade the British public in advance. Although the British Conservative leadership had always recognized the strategic value of the Nile Valley, its relative importance and the stance and action deemed appropriate for the region changed significantly based on the movements of other European powers, and the timing of Britain's actions were carefully measured to gain political support at home and to prevent diplomatic isolation from abroad.

II. Historical Context
            In the late nineteenth century, the powers of Europe were competing for territory in Africa, a process of invasion, occupation, and colonization that historians commonly refer to as the Scramble for Africa. The 1880s and 1890s were times of transition, when indirect rule through military influence and economic dependence was substituted by the direct conquest and administration by European powers, as nine tenths of the African continent was split up among European governments within just sixteen years. (1)
            Of all the powers of Europe, Britain had stood out in its dominance over the global economy and politics through the establishment of the British Empire, a vast dominion of territories that encompassed nearly a quarter of the world's land surface by the late nineteenth century. (2) Trade and commerce among the various dominions supported the British economy, and India was at the heart of this international trade. Consequently, securing passage to India was naturally of vital importance to Britain, an importance well recognized by both the British public and the political leadership. (3) For this very reason, the Suez Canal, the "second lifeline to India," was at the top of Britain's priority list. (4)
            Initially, however, Egypt was not the primary concern of the Cabinet in London; the Ottoman Empire was. (5) The British provided massive aid to the Turks in an effort to build up the Ottomans as a shield against the Russians, whom the British felt could possibly threaten the Suez passage from the north. The British relied on the combined force of the British Navy with allied Turkish troops in the Near East to protect the route to India from potential Russian threats. Egypt, therefore, was of very little concern until the 1880s, as the case went that should Constantinople fall to the Russians, the Suez Canal would be easily accessible to Russian incursion. In fact, the original English strategy was to keep the Sultan and the Khedive as close allies who could act as reliable checks to Russian dreams of expansion. As Benjamin Disraeli (6) remarked in 1876, it was the belief of the British Government that "Constantinople is the key of India, and not Egypt and the Suez Canal." (7)
            Nonetheless, the British were dragged into Egypt. In 1876, the Sultan became bankrupt, as did the Khedive. Europeans began to demand the money the Khedive had borrowed, and the French went so far as to depose Ismail as Khedive. The British too decided to intervene in order to keep the balance of power with France. Yet, the general policy of the British remained non-intervention. (8)
            The decisive turning point was the Urabi Revolt (1879-82), in which Egyptian soldiers against European influence and modernization efforts rose up against the Khedival Government. To preserve its own interests, Britain invaded Alexandria and established a permanent British advisor in the Khedive's court. The Cabinet was prompted by the need to protect the Suez Canal and to preserve the claims of individual British citizens to the Egyptian treasury. Following the Battle of Tel el-Kebir on 13 September 1882, in which the British crushed the Urabi revolt, Egypt became a de-facto protectorate of Britain.

III. Gordon and the Mahdi
            The Egyptian rule over the Sudan began with the initial invasion of 1820. In 1860, the Egyptian Government prohibited the slave trade after continued pressure from Britain. (9) The slave trade was of great economic importance to the Sudanese, and thus dissatisfaction grew from the native population under Egyptian rule. (10
            Furthermore, the prevalent exploitation and corruption of the parasitic bureaucracy of Egyptian-administrated Sudan contributed to the increase in social discontent. (11) Egyptian provincial governors exploited the population to provide for themselves and their men, and little was done to improve the lives of the Sudanese natives. On the whole, the decades of Egyptian rule had generated a deeply-ingrained hatred of foreigners in Sudan, and the mood was ripe for a revolution.
            In 1881, a nationwide revolt with a partly religious motivation broke out under the leadership of Mohammed Ahmed, the self-proclaimed mahdi. (12) Several Egyptian attempts to quell the revolt ended in vain, and the Mahdist movement increased its sphere of influence to dominate most of the Sudan.
            In 1882, the Ansar, (13) armed with spears and swords, overwhelmed a 7,000-man Egyptian force not far from Al Ubayyid and seized their rifles and ammunition. The Mahdi followed up on this victory by laying siege to Al Ubayyid and starving it into submission after four months. The Ansar, now with a force of roughly 30,000 men, then defeated an 8,000-man Egyptian relief force at Sheikan. The Mahdi followed by capturing Darfur and imprisoning Rudolf Slatin, an Austrian in the Khedive's service, who later became the first Egyptian appointed governor of Darfur Province. This defeat signaled the beginning of the loss of Egyptian control of the Sudan, and by January 1884, the Mahdist forces were threatening Khartoum, the capital of Egyptian Sudan.
            In response, the British Government sent Charles Gordon to Khartoum to lead the evacuation of Egyptians and Europeans from the city. Upon his arrival on 18 February 1884, however, Gordon realized that any evacuation would be at great risk of losing many men as the Mahdist troops were nearby and closing in on the city. Thus he resolved to make preparations for a siege of the city and called for reinforcements from Egypt and Britain.
            Gladstone's Cabinet in London was reluctant to involve itself in the Sudan conflict. The Liberals were firmly against colonial expansion, and Gladstone did not want to risk stretching the British Empire to the Sudan. Nonetheless, the public and the Queen put pressure on the Government to take measures to rescue Gordon, the Queen remarking that she was "much aggrieved and annoyed" by the Egyptian situation. (14) The public too did not wish the "brave champion of the English cause" to be allowed to be killed by fanatic barbarians. (15) In May, The New York Times wrote:

            The newspapers, in this country and in England, which approve the abandonment of Gordon, do not represent the feeling of the British people. As we have said before, if calamity befell Gordon it would be directly traceable to the criminal negligence of Mr. Gladstone's Government, and would be the signal for the overwhelming defeat of that Government. (16)

            After much delay, a relief mission was organized, but Khartoum fell to the Mahdist forces on 26 January 1885, days before the British rescue mission finally arrived. The Cabinet immediately ordered General Garnet Wolseley, in charge of the rescue mission, to retreat to the Egyptian border, and ultimately decided to abandon the Sudan to the Mahdists.
            Unhindered by British intervention, the Ansar continued its conquest after Khartoum towards the South, and by the end of 1885, only the areas surrounding Wadi Halfa on the northern frontier, Suakin on the eastern coast, and Equatoria on the southern strip remained free of Mahdist occupation.

IV. Europe and Sudan 1884-1885
            A Mahdist Sudan itself was viewed as no real threat to British interests, and the burden of financing a campaign of re-conquest was perceived to be greater than the potential benefit Britain could gain from a Sudan under British control. Moreover, with regards to the English sentiments which feared the revival of the slave trade, anti-imperialists argued that such concerns were unnecessary as the slave trade cannot function when the Egyptian market is closed, effectively rebutting the humanitarian argument for invasion made at the time.
            The above notwithstanding, the Sudan was recognized as being strategically important to Britain even before the Mahdist rebellion. The preservation of the "Egyptian Highway" (17) which lay at the core of England's Eastern Empire was deemed necessary well before 1884, and the British were making sure that no other European power got itself involved in the Upper Nile Valley. The French had their eyes on Egypt and the Sudan as well, however. The French construction of the Suez Canal well demonstrated the French interest in the region, and The New York Times wrote in 1884 that "France, ostensibly neutral, is watching keenly for any chance of advantageous intervention." (18) Moreover, Italy, a relatively new colonial power, also took interest in the Nile area. Italy wished to send 20,000 troops in to the Sudan and to occupy it in August 1885, a proposal that was never realized. (19)

V. The British after Gordon
            The British were not idle after the Mahdi seized control over the Sudan. Horatio Kitchener played a major role in the preparation for what would make possible the re-conquest of the Sudan. (20) Appointed as Governor of Suakin in 1886, Kitchener was promoted to Sirdar of the Egyptian Army in 1892. (21) He succeeded in raising a local army, as he increased the number of competent native troops and strengthened their training.
            After Gordon was killed by the Ansars in the Battle of Khartoum, most politicians in Britain had shifted their views to favor staying in Egypt. Unlike before, the only major politicians remaining as fervent advocates of withdrawal were Gladstone and his close supporters. Despite continued requests by the French for withdrawal from Egypt, the Government responded by saying that Egypt would collapse without British military presence and continued to wield great influence in the Khedive's court. By 1889, Cairo had become the pivot of the British Mediterranean strategy.
            Having decided to keep Egypt for Britain, Lord Evelyn Baring, the British Consul-General in Cairo, came to the conclusion that Britain could not afford to let any other European power obtain a hold over any part of the Nile Valley. This meant that the Upper Nile would have to be protected from European encroachment, as threats of enemies damming the Upper Nile and starving Egypt were serious concerns to Britain.
            Nonetheless, many were reluctant to engage in a full scale invasion. Baring strongly advised Salisbury against it, as its huge costs came as a significant burden. (22) The Mahdists had no technology to dam up the Upper Nile, and thus presented little threat to the security of Egypt. There was no compelling need to step in.
            In the minds of Englishmen another major factor was in play - British prestige. The belief in the excellence of moral suasion and free partnership of the mid-century was now fading away, as Boers and Irishmen used their rights against the British and as Indians and Burmans went against Britain as well. The British were driven into preferring cold administration and control, and prestige and insurance became important. Policy grew more committed to warding off of hypothetical dangers. Fear of the worst was driving policymaking to a great extent. (23)
            Around late 1890, Baring was more willing to support the re-conquest of the Sudan. He pointed at three main reasons. First, diplomacy could not be relied upon forever to keep foreign powers out of the Nile. Second, the Mahdist forces were quickly losing control, meaning that the military expeditions could succeed quickly and without much difficulty. Lastly, Egyptian finances had improved considerably, making it possible for Egypt to pay for the expedition.
            This led to the conquest of Tokar in February 1891, which not only meant territorial expansion on the Red Sea coast for Britain but also a generally increased military presence in the Sudan. (24) The conquest was seen as a potential first step in the re-conquest of the Sudan, something which was increasingly viewed as inevitable due to Italian advances and Mahdist atrocities. (25)

VI. France, Italy, Germany, and the Congo Free State
            During this period, the French echoed their claims over the Nile River and exerted their power on the international diplomatic stage. In June 1889, Spuller, the French Foreign Minister, tried to get Salisbury to agree on terms for a withdrawal from Egypt, an offer that was declined by London. However, talks with France over African territories were never abandoned by Britain, and with the principle of handing over interests in West Africa to the French for concessions in the East, negotiations continued.
            The continuation of negotiations was virtually unavoidable as Salisbury had forgotten that France had been part of a 1862 treaty regarding the status of Zanzibar and thus had right to be involved in further treaties regarding the state when signing the Anglo-German Agreement on 1 July 1890. The knowledge that Britain and Germany had signed a treaty without any French consultation was badly received in Paris, and the French demanded compensation.
            At first, France demanded recognition of its gains in Tunisia. However, Salisbury was hesitant as there was firm Italian opposition, one which was backed by the Germans. So instead he looked to West Africa. The two countries agreed to a French boundary that gave the French the whole of Upper Niger, central and western Sudan, and a free hand in Madagascar. The agreement was signed on 5 August 1890. (26)
            The French, however, had not abandoned their ambitions on the Nile. The Colonial Party regretted not involving France in the Egyptian affairs when Britain did, and sought to increase France¡¯s presence in East Africa. (27) France continued to challenge the agreements between England and other European powers, and with the Italian conquest of Kassala, French tolerance for what was going on in the Upper Nile was up. (28) Furthermore, France was pushing for Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia to sign a treaty opening up the supply line to Ethiopia, and a channel for constant trade and interaction was opened between French Somaliland and Ethiopia. (29)
            Italy had its own ambitions in East Africa. The Italian public felt that they had gotten too little in Africa, and Signor Francesco Crispi, the Italian Prime Minister, was being heavily criticized for his rather submissive attitudes towards Great Britain. (30) In May 1889, Crispi signed the Treaty of Wuchale with Ethiopia, stripping Ethiopia of its diplomatic powers and proclaiming it an Italian protectorate to the powers of Europe according to the Italian version of the treaty. (31) Article 17 of the Italian version of the treaty required all Ethiopian affaires with foreign states to go through Italy, and this was recognized by Queen Victoria and Kaiser Wilhelm although not France. (32) The Italian Prime Minister also claimed the town of Kassala, a town at the Atbara tributary of the Nile, and expressed Italy¡¯s ambitions for more coastal territory. This was not received well by the British. Soon after the news reached London, Baring advised Salisbury:

            They would soon strike the valley of the Nile ... at Khartoum¡¦the establishment of a civilized power in the Nile Valley would be a calamity to Egypt. Whatever power holds the Upper Nile Valley must, by the mere force of its geographical situation, dominate Egypt. (33)

            The original argument for abandoning the Sudan in 1884 had been based on the premise that Great Britain was closer to Khartoum than any other major power, but now it was becoming uncertain whether this would still hold true in future years. Furthermore, Kassala was a very important location in the East African trade, possibly even bringing in economic motives for Britain to prevent Italian domination of the area. However, Baring was careful not to get Salisbury to stop the Italian advance at the expense of a premature conquest of the Sudan, for he feared this would disorganize Egyptian finances. Instead, he advised Salisbury to maintain a strictly defensive policy.
            Following Baring's advice, Salisbury first resorted to diplomacy. On 7 March 1890, he summoned the Italian ambassador in London and warned the Italians to stay away from the Nile. Later, he also sent Baring to Rome to try to set limits to Italian advances. Despite such efforts, the talks with Crispi were a failure, and the negotiations failed to yield fruitful resolutions. (34) By February 1891, however, Crispi was out of office, and in March and April of that year his successor made agreements with the British which surrendered to Britain the Italian claims to the Nile Valley.
            Nonetheless, with Crispi back in power in 1893, the Italians attacked the Mahdists at the Battle of Kassala on 17 July 1894, taking control over the Kassala region. Around this time, Crispi expressly laid out his wish to remain in amiable relations with England, as Italy needed British assistance in resolving various issues, mostly in areas where France was blocking Italian advances. With the conquest of Kassala and the friendly atmosphere between Italy and Britain, the possibility of a re-conquest of the Sudan led by the British and supported by the Italians was raised, as Kassala could provide a convenient starting point for the march into Khartoum and Omdurman. (35)
            In Germany under Bismarck, the main objective of foreign policy was to prevent other major powers from allying with France. During the Egyptian crisis in 1882, Bismarck was doing his best in exploiting the crisis to drive Britain and France apart. In 1889, the Germans were pushing for a drive into the African interior under the leadership of Wilhelm II who had risen to the throne in the previous year. However, the actions of the emperor were checked by Bismarck, and in January 1889 the Chancellor offered the British an alliance as a way to balance the growing ties between France and Russia.
            The major issue between Germany and Britain was Uganda. Uganda was located at the heart of the Nile basin, and Lord Salisbury had decided that it was essential to get hold of the area to secure the entire Nile Valley and to prepare for a possible attack on Sudan from the south. The problem was the German protectorate over the Zanzibar territories just east of the Nile Basin. The British wanted the Germans out of Uganda, and Salisbury notified the German ambassador in May 1890 that Uganda should be under British influence, a notification which quickly led to the drafting of an Anglo-German agreement regarding the African issue as a whole. Under Caprivi, the new German Chancellor, the Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty was signed on 1 July 1890. The treaty handed Germany the Caprivi Strip in Southern Africa as well as the islands of Heligoland in the North Sea. In return, Britain was given control over the Zanzibar lands and other parts of East Africa as well as a vow from the Germans not to interfere in British affairs regarding the Sultanate of Zanzibar.
            Lastly, the Congo Free State was also involved in the affairs of the Nile. As a result of the 1894 British-Congolese Treaty, the Lado Enclave was leased to King Leopold II of Belgium until his death. The Belgians proceeded to establish posts along the Nile as far north as Lado in the newly-acquired territory, and although the Belgians posed no grave threat to British hegemony in the region, they occupied a significant portion of the White Nile until Leopold¡¯s death in 1910. (36)

VII. Ethiopia
            In February 1893, Menelik announced to both Rome and Paris that he would renounce the Treaty of Wuchale as of 1 May 1894. On 5 May 1894, an Anglo-Italian protocol was issued, which placed the hinterland of France¡¯s Obok colony (37) in Italian hands. Paris quickly understood that the British were trying to close off French access to the Nile Valley from the east, and strove to preserve Ethiopian independence. Leonce Lagarde, the Governor of French Somaliland, (38) continuously supplied the Ethiopians with modern weaponry from Djibouti under the approval of the Quai d¡¯Orsay. (39) On 2 March 1896, the Ethiopians crushed the Italians at the Battle of Adowa, halting Italian expansion and causing the fall of Crispi's Cabinet.
            Salisbury was alarmed by the situation in Ethiopia. Menelik had exchanged messengers with the Khalifa and declared good intentions. The French, who had provided vital help in the war against the Italians, sent Lagarde to offer Menelik a hundred thousand rifles and a large addition of territory for a treaty that delineated Ethiopian support for France in the Nile. On 20 March 1897, Menelik pledged support for France¡¯s aspirations in the Upper Nile and promised to contain the British with French-armed Ethiopian soldiers. (40) Soon after, the contacts between Addis Abeba, Omdurman, and Paris reached the Foreign Office, causing much anxiety in London. (41)
            The British quickly responded by sending a mission to Addis Abeba led by Rennel Rodd in April 1897, leading to the signing of the secret agreement not to ship weapons to Sudan in the Anglo-Ethiopian settlement of 14 May 1897. (42) This, however, was considered a failure in London as Rodd was unable to get a promise of neutrality in the European struggle from Menelik and only a vague assurance of neutrality in a possible British war against the Mahdists. (43)

VIII. The Invasion
            Alarmed by the Abyssinian success and the Mahdist threat to Kassala, the British Government decided to assist Italy by making a demonstration in Northern Sudan. (44) The action was prompted by the Italian call for help, as on 10 March 1896 Ferrero, the Italian ambassador, asked for British help. Upon accepting the Italian request, Salisbury explained his objectives to Lord Cromer : (45)

            The decision¡¦was inspired specially by a desire to help the Italians at Kassala, and to prevent the Dervishes from winning a conspicuous success which might have far-reaching results. In addition, we desired to kill two birds with one stone, and to use the same military effort to plant the foot of Egypt rather farther up the Nile. For this reason we preferred it to any movement from Suakin or in the direction of Kassala, because there would be no ulterior profit in these movements. (46)

            Since 1889, the Foreign Office had striven to shut other European powers out of the Nile, primarily through diplomacy. However, in 1896 Salisbury had realized that surety could only be found in eventually occupying the whole of the Nile Valley, and saw a dire need for fast action as "there are four, if not five, Powers that are steadily advancing towards the upper waters of the Nile." (47) His preparations for an eventual operation took place not only in the North but also in the South through the construction of the Uganda railway, (48) which he pushed for with great speed, going to show his devotion to a mission of re-conquest.
            The Italian disaster provided Salisbury with a pretext for invasion which could be accepted by both the House of Commons and the Triple Alliance. (49) The support of the Triple Alliance was crucial as European support was necessary to finance the operations through Egyptian funds. Before the launch of the mission, an application was made for a grant from the reserve funds of the Caisse de la Dette (50) , a council of European commissioners responsible for managing Egypt's financial state, and it was approved with a 4-2 decision. Germany, Austria, and Italy sided with England while France and Russia voted against the proposal. (51) The road was paved for the march on Dongola.
            To the British public, Salisbury explained that the operation was to prevent the invasion of Egypt. (52) In the House of Commons, Lord Cromer¡¯s reports of active violent activity of the Mahdists and the Khalifa¡¯s proclamation of the Jihad against the Italians were used as the basis for the argument for invasion. (53) The Liberals remained inactive in opposing the invasion of the Sudan, and only few members of Parliament like Morley seriously criticized Salisbury¡¯s policy.
            Nonetheless, despite the weak Liberal opposition and the large Conservative majority, members of the Cabinet were concerned that should the Egyptian army be beaten, a rescue force of British troops would have to be brought in, and in such a case there was fear that the public may abandon the Conservative Government. (54) Considering this, Salisbury¡¯s Cabinet was careful and explained in Parliament that the move towards Dongola would be made, but that the scope of the advance would be determined by the amount of resistance they met. (55)

IX. French Advances
            In 1896, France recognized the Sudan as an independent state under the suzerainty of the Sultan of Turkey. France was, according to the French newspaper L'Eclair, "acting in these regions by the express desire of the Mahdi, and in conformity of the integrity of the Ottoman Empire." (56) France sent Major Jean-Baptist Marchand to the Nile region on 25 June 1896. Furthermore, three French missions were sent to Khartoum in 1897 after the pact between the French and the Khalifa, raising concerns in London. (57)
            Faced with a diplomatic failure in Ethiopia and increasing French encroachments in the Nile Valley, Salisbury was in a difficult position. In November 1897 Kitchener was asking for British reinforcements for the strike on Khartoum, but Cromer was proposing an attack from the south. Other ministers doubted whether public opinion and Parliament would approve of the money and troops being spent to take Khartoum. (58) As the Chancellor of the Exchequer advised Salisbury, there were worries about the repercussions of a military invasion:

            There is, no doubt, a sentiment about Khartoum. But supposed it taken, after a stiff and costly fight, what then? Can we stop there? ¡¦. And are we prepared to undertake the conquest and administration of all the country that used to be dependent on the Khedive in Ismail's time? Egypt certainly could not afford to do it now; possibly later she might¡¦.I don't want to add a Khartoum expedition to our present engagements; to which, by the way, the soldiers would add the abnormal demands, at present in Crete and South Africa. (59)

            By 1898, French actions in the Sudan had become much more manifest. Missions sent by the French Government had penetrated into Bahr-El-Ghazel, a province located in the southwest. Military tension was also to be found in the region, as the possibility of a French-Abyssinian-Russian alliance was quickly becoming a reality. (60)
            Meanwhile, on January 1898, most of the Egyptian army had made its way south to a point where the Nile met the Atbara. Kitchener telegraphed again for British troops on 1 January 1898, and at last Salisbury was forced to take a direct part in the re-conquest. The settlement of the Sudan problem had become a more pressing concern than ever, and direct British military commitment was the strongest card Salisbury could play.
            With British reinforcements, Kitchener was able to accelerate his march on Khartoum. On September 2nd, he had 8,200 British and 17,000 Egyptian and Sudanese men assembled only seven miles north of Omdurman. (61) Later that day, the Battle of Omdurman, which killed 10,000 Ansars and destroyed Mahdist Soudan, was fought and won by the British and Egyptian forces. The Union Jack and the Egyptian flag were now hoisted at Khartoum.

X. After Omdurman
            While Kitchener was fighting in Omdurman, French military presence in Fashoda, a town 400 miles south of Sudan, had become a reality. L'Echo de Paris, a French newspaper, declared that "The Sirdar's forces dare not fire upon Major Marchand, for France is behind him. England must now consent to a European conference, unless she wants war." (62) In response to the situation, Britain ordered Kitchener to head to Fashoda where the French troops were positioned. The mood for war was growing. In November, Britain was making preparations for war at an extraordinary scale "never seen since Napoleon's time." (63)
            Furthermore, possibility of a strengthened French-Russian alliance, one that had begun in 1892, was brought up in the British and American papers around then. (64) As it turns out, Russia had offered to join France in a war against Great Britain at the time, an offer that was declined by the French. (65)
            With all these possibilities, Major Marchand's actions in Fashoda greatly alarmed London. Kitchener¡¯s troops made it down to Fashoda to confront Marchand, and negotiations took place between Britain and France at the Foreign Office and the Quai d¡¯Orsay. Britain repeated its position that the Nile Valley was absolutely unnegotiable.
            After months of negotiation without much progress, on 4 November 1898, Delcasse, the French Foreign Minister, gave in to British pressure and ordered Marchand to withdraw from Fashoda, primarily for two main reasons. (66) France's relative weakness in naval force reduced its chances for victory, and France needed England¡¯s support in case of a German aggression, as the fear of a second Franco-Prussian war was always on the minds of the French. However, Delcasse did continue to push for a string of smaller posts that would have allowed the French to control a corridor to the White Nile. Lord Salisbury rejected France's idea of occupying forts, as he sought to fully control the headwaters of the Nile. A few months later, on 21 March 1899, the disputes between France and England over Upper Nile Valley were resolved by an agreement signed by Lord Salisbury and Paul Cambon. (67) France had renounced all claims to Fashoda, and the Nile Valley was secured for Britain.

XI. Conclusion
            British foreign policy in the late nineteenth century followed the extreme pragmatism of realpolitik, where decisions were made based strictly on preserving national interest. In regards to Britain¡¯s foreign policy, the protection of its international trade network took priority. The lifeline at the heart of this trans-oceanic trade, the Suez Canal, was so important to British interests, both commercial and strategic, that by the 1880s, its safety was generally accepted as a vital national interest. Britain¡¯s policy in the Near East focused on securing passage to India and the East, and through this came about the necessity of protecting Egypt from foreign powers. The importance of the Sudan arose in this very context.
            In terms of the resources it had to offer or the commercial benefits the land could provide, the Sudan was a loss-making possession. However, due to Sudan¡¯s strategic location along the Upper Nile, control over the Sudan meant that the flow of the Nile could be interrupted, and Egypt could be threatened with starvation, flooding, and direct military incursions. This strategic nature of Sudan¡¯s location made it a key British interest to keep the Sudan off any power which could realize such possible threats. London did not view the Mahdist regime as having the ability to actualize such threats, and thus saw no need to deplete Egyptian and British resources to conquer a vast expanse of the desert. With other European powers, however, the situation was quite different. On a broad level, Britain used diplomacy to block off potential threats to the Nile Valley, as the pacts with Germany, Italy, and Abyssinia demonstrate. The only major European power which was unwilling to accept the placement of the entire Nile Valley under the British sphere of influence was France, and France was why Salisbury saw the need to conquer the Sudan.
            Salisbury hoped to avoid a scenario where the joint forces of the French from the south and the Russians from the north threatened to cut off the highway to the East. In addition to the Franco-Russian military alliance, the frequent French diplomatic activities with the Khalifa and Abyssinia alarmed London, and the military actualization of the beginning of such a plan was the decisive factor that persuaded Salisbury that Britain could no longer leave the Upper Nile Valley unguarded.
            Nonetheless, the actions undertaken by the numerous European powers were clearly not the only factor considered by Salisbury's Cabinet in the making of its decisions. It must be understood that even Salisbury did not have an entirely consistent approach to handling the Sudan. That the Nile Valley had to remain under British control was a principle London stuck with throughout the late nineteenth century, but as to how that was to be done and to what degree sacrifices could be justified under the name of upholding that belief were up to much contention even within the Government, Parliament, and the many advisors and military officers serving Britain. Ultimately, it was Salisbury's Cabinet that decided to push for a full-scale re-conquest of the Sudan with British army regiments fighting in the campaign, but until that decision was made in January 1898, various alternatives were looked for and quite often preferred. Direct British military commitment was the last option for Salisbury, and as evinced by his delays between 1896 and 1898, it was not his initial wish but the dire circumstances that led to that decision.
            This very fact that direct military action was the last resort goes to show how even with a large Conservative majority in Parliament and a formidable navy Britain could not simply engage in military campaigns wherever it wished. The members of Parliament, even with the Conservatives' leanings towards imperialist policies, had to be persuaded that the mission was easily winnable and worthwhile. The fact that the Liberals were rather silent in their opposition went to help Salisbury. Public opinion also had to be considered. The memories of Gordon had created a nostalgic sentiment favorable to restoring British pride and serving Gordon's cause by reintroducing European civilization to Sudan, but the costs involved and the financial burden a military campaign would entail could easily direct public opinion against the Government. This is why Salisbury tried to persuade the public that there was a real and tangible threat against Egypt in his advocacy of the mission to Dongola, since a mere desire for the re-conquest of the Sudan was not going to be enough to justify military invasion to the public. These domestic factors, directly linked to whether Salisbury could remain in power and get the funds to finance the operation, were critical players in the decision-making process.
            On the international level, the conflicts over the Nile demonstrate the rivalries among the various European powers and Britain's need to form alliances before taking serious action at the time. Despite our common knowledge of the British dominance at the time, Salisbury made sure he secured the support of the Triple Alliance before launching the Sudan campaign, effectively demonstrating the crucial and perpetual role of international alliances in Britain's foreign policy.
            To conclude, the conflict over the Nile Valley was not a mere diplomatic chess game between Britain and France. It was the clashing point where the European powers raced against each other at full speed, forming tight alliances and trying to persuade the public at home to support the cause. We must also note that the perception of the Sudan was not uniform throughout the late nineteenth century: its strategic worth increased as a direct result of the heated fight over its control by the powers of Europe. Without the French, the Italians, and the Belgians, (68) the Sudan would have remained a barren wasteland not worth the money to conquer. With all these nations racing for control, the land became a strategic point to secure at all costs.
            All in all, the British conquest of the Sudan was a victory for Salisbury. He was able to lay out his plans without losing public support, and the missions in the Nile Valley did not result in the fall of his Government. Furthermore, through securing the support of Germany and Italy and encouraging the Ethiopians to remain uninvolved, Salisbury was able to attain a diplomatic victory by weakening France's position in the area. In the end, Britain's naval superiority and France's acknowledgement of its prospects in a military clash with Britain led to the fruition of a decisive diplomatic victory for Britain in March 1899. The Sudan was conquered, the Nile was safe, and Britain had secured its lifeline to India.

(1)      Ronald Edward Robinson and John Gallagher, Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism. London: Macmillan, 1965 p.17
(2)      Encyclopedia Britannica Online, British Empire, (Historical State, United Kingdom).
(3)      Robinson p.119
(4)      ibid. p.16
(5)      ibid.p.77
(6)      Benjamin Disraeli was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 20 February 1874 to 21 April 1880
(7)      ibid. p.82
(8)      ibid. p.94
(9)      Mohammad Hassan Fadlalla, Short History of Sudan. (New York: iUniverse, 2004.) p. 26
(10)      Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria's Little Wars. (New York: Norton, 1985) p. 270
(11)      Fadlalla, p.24
(12)      "Mahdi" is Arabic for "The Expected One."
(13)      "Ansar" is the Arabic term for "helpers" and in the context of nineteenth century Sudan refers to the followers of Muhammad Ahmad (The Mahdi) and his descendants.
(14)      Farwell, p.280
(15)      "England and the Soudan," The New York Times, 1 May 1884
(16)      ibid.
(17)      "England and the Soudan," The New York Times, 16 March 1896.
(18)      ibid.
(19)      "The Affairs of England: Italy's Proposal to Occupy the Soudan," The New York Times, 18 August 1885
(20)      Horatio Kitchener was a British soldier and administrator who was appointed commander of the Egyptian Army in 1892 and led the Anglo-Egyptian re-conquest of the Sudan.
(21)      Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, Richard A. Lobban Jr. and John Obert Voll, Historical Dictionary of the Sudan. (2nd ed. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1992) p.114
(22)      Robinson p.284
(23)      ibid. p.288
(24)      Tokar is a small town near the Red Sea located approximately 100 kilometers Southeast of Suakin.
(25)      "Egypt and the Soudan," The Times, 17 March 1891
(26)      "Sudan" in this context refers to the vast stretch of land south of the Sahara from the Atlantic to the Pacific, not the former territories of the Egyptian Sudan
(27)      The Colonial Party, also called the French Colonial Union (Union Coloniale Française), was an influential group of French Merchants established for the purpose of promoting continued French colonialism.
(28)      Kassala is a town located about 400 kilometers East of Khartoum, located just west of Italian Eritrea, a colony established in 1890 as a part of Italian East Africa.
(29)      Menelik II was emperor of Ethiopia from 1889 to 1913.
(30)      "England and Italy in Africa," The Times, 23 August 1890.
(31)      The Treaty of Wuchale was a treaty signed by Ethiopian King Menelik II of Shewa with Count Pietro Antonelli of Italy on 2 May 1889. The treaty ceded Ethopian territories to Italy in return for financial assistance and military supplies. Disputes over Article 17 of the treaty caused the First Italo-Ethiopian War. The Italian version of the article stated that Ethiopia was obliged to conduct all foreign affairs through Italy, declaring Ethiopia a de-facto Italian protectorate. However, the Amharic (Ethiopian) version of the treaty merely gave Ethiopia the option of communicating with other foreign powers through Italy.
(32)      Harold G. Marcus, A History of Ethiopia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994 p.92
(33)      Robinson p.285
(34)      Francesco Crispi was the Prime Minister of Italy from 29 July 1887 to 6 February 1891 and from 15 December 1893 to 10 March 1896.
(35)      "England and Italy in the Soudan," The Times, 6 September 1894.
(36)      Henry Wellington Wack. The Story of the Congo Free State. New York and London: G.P. Putnam's sons, 1905 p.210
(37)      Obok is a small port town in Djibouti, in what used to be French Somaliland. Here the Obok Colony can be interpreted as French Somaliland.
(38)      Marcus p.95
(39)      Quai d'Orsay is a wharf in Paris, and the site of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs since the mid nineteenth century. Here Quai d'Orsay is synonymous with the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(40)      ibid. p.102
(41)      Addis Abeba became the capital of Ethiopia with the rise of Menelik II as Emperor of Ethopia.
(42)      Wack p 103
(43)      Robinson p.361
(44)      Winston Churchill. The River War. (1899) Doylestown, Pa.: Wildside Press, 2002 p.83
(45)      Lord Evelyn Baring, the British Controller-general in Egypt, was the 1st Earl of Cromer and thus commonly referred to as Lord Cromer.
(46)      Robinson p.348
(47)      ibid. p.350
(48)      ibid.
(49)      The Triple Alliance was a military alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Italy from 1882 to the start of World War I
(50)      Caisse de la Dette (French for Commission of the Public Debt) was an international commission established by Khedival decree on 2 May 1876 to supervise the Egyptian payment of the loans to the European governments following the construction of the Suez Canal.
(51)      Churchill p.85
(52)      Robinson p.352
(53)      "Military Expedition to Dongola," Hansard 1803-2005, 17 March 1896.
(54)      Robinson p.352
(55)      ibid. p.353
(56)      "French Help for the Mahdi," The New York Times, 29 October 1897.
(57)      ibid.
(58)      Robinson p.363
(59)      ibid. p.364
(60)      "Situation in Africa Serious," The New York Times, 16 January 1898
(61)      Farwell p.35
(62)      "Britain's Advance in Africa," The New York Times, 18 September 1898.
(63)      "France and England: War Preparations Pushed with the Greatest Energy," The New York Times, 6 November 1898.
(64)      "Avalon Project - The Franco-Russian Alliance Military Convention - August 18, 1892." Avalon Project - Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. (accessed August 25, 2011).
(65)      "Wanted To Fight Britain: Russia Offered to Aid France at the Time of the Fashoda Affair," The New York Times, 19 February 1904.
(66)      Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, "Theophile Delcasse (French Statesman)."
(67)      Paul Camdon was the French ambassador to Britain from 1898 to 1920.
(68)      Although the Congo Free State was not an official Belgian colony, under the leadership of Leopold of Belgium, Belgians ruled and administered the Congo Free State.

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