Ch 15 Colonial Expansion

CH.15-COLONIAL EXPANSION

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CHAPTER XV: COLONIAL EXPANSION

SECTION 3: EGYPT

 

WHAT TOOK CENTURIES IN INDIA, TOOK PLACE WITHIN LITTLE MORE THAN A GENERATION. THE REASON FOR THIS IS THE VALLEY OF A SINGLE GREAT RIVER.

THE MOHAMMEDAN CONQUEST BETWEEN THE 7th AND 19th CENTURIES BROUGHT LITTLE CHANGE.

PEASANT CULTURE AND TRADE ROUTES WERE ESTABLISHED. BUT DECLINE SET IN, AND PEOPLE DEPENDED ON THE CYCLE OF THE NILE.

NAPOLEON AND THE TURKISH EMPIRE CAME AND WENT, LEAVING EGYPT AND SUDAN RULED BY THE KHEDIVE.

IN 1850, CAME THE SUEZ CANAL PROJECT ALONG WITH EUROPEAN CAPITALIST INTERESTS. THE CANAL WAS OPENED IN 1869. MUCH OF THE CAPITAL CAME FROM FRANCE AND THE KHEDIVE ISMAIL.

THE WATERWAY BECAME IMPORTANT TO BRITAIN BECAUSE OF THE ROUTE TO INDIA AND BEYOND.

THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR LOSS HAD GIVEN MORE IMPETUS TO COTTON PLANATIONS ALONG THE NILE VALLEY.

90 MILES OF RAILWAYS, BRIDGES, CANALS, TELEGRAPHS AND THE COSTLY DOCKS AT SUEZ AND ALEXANDRIA WERE ALL BUILT.

HUGE PROFITS FOLLOWED THE LOANS GIVEN BETWEEN 1864 AND 1873, BUT THE EGYPTIANS SAW ONLY £35.4 MILLION OF THE £52.5 MILLION RAISED DUE TO LONDON 'COMMISSIONS AND EXPENSES'.

BRITISH CONTRACTORS KEPT £1.1 MILLION PROFIT OF THE £2.5 MILLION PAID BY THE EGYPTIAN GOVERNMENT FOR THE HARBOUR AT ALEXANDRIA.

BY 1876, EGYPT’S DEBT HAD RISEN TO £80 MILLION. AID INTEREST ON THIS SUM WAS £6 MILLION OUT OF ANANNUAL STATE REVENUE OF £10 MILLION.

THIS HAD TO BE SCREWED OUT OF THE PEASANT POPULATION WHO WERE CULTIVATING LESS THAN 5.5 MILLION ACRES OF LAND.

BY 1875, THE KHEDIVE WAS FORCED TO SELL HIS SHARES IN SUEZ, WHICH WERE BOUGHT BY THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT THROUGH ROTHSCHILDS.

THE COUNTRY’S LOANS PILED UP, AND IT BECAME MORE BANKRUPT. ADDED TO THIS, IN 1878 A CATTLE PLAGUE BROUGHT FAMINE, AND THE ENGLISH STATE TOOK OVER BY DECEPTION VIA A PUPPET GOVERNMENT.

BRITAIN AND FRANCE SENT WARSHIPS TO ALEXANDRIA AND STAGED A ‘MASSACRE’ OF CHRISTIANS, MOSTLY GREEKS AND ARMENIANS, BY HIRED BEDOUIN ASSASSINS.

ANTAGONISTS COMPRISED THE EUROPEAN POWERS. A CONFERENCE IN 1882 BY BRITAIN, FRANCE, ITALY, GERMANY, RUSSIA AND AUSTRIA AGREED NOT TO SEEK TERRITORIAL ADVANTAGE, EXCEPT, ACCORDING TO A BRITISH ADDENDUM ‘IN THE CASE OF SPECIAL EMERGENCY’.

ON JULY 11th, THE BRITISH CREATED THAT ‘EMERGENCY’ BY BOMBARDING THE PORT OF ALEXANDRIA ON THE EXCUSE THAT IT WAS BEING REPAIRED BY EGYPTIANS.

AN ARMY WAS LANDED AND DEFEATED ARAB FORCES AT TEL-EL-KEBIR, AND THE BRITISH WERE SOON IN FULL MILITARY CONTROL OF THE WHOLE COUNTRY. THEY RULED FOR THE NEXT 75 YEARS THROUGH A CONSUL GENERAL.

BARING OF BARING BROTHERS REORGANISED EGYPT IN THE INTERESTS OF HIGH FINANCE, EXTENDING THIS TO SUDAN.

FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN TO ALMOST THE EQUATOR, THESE LANDS, WHICH INCLUDED THE FERTILE UPPER NILE, BECAME BRITISH TERRITORY WITH THE HOPE OF EXTENDING THEM ACROSS AFRICA TO THE CAPE.

A RELIGIOUS NATIONALIST GROUP, THE MAHDI, SPREAD AND DESTROYED THE EGYPTIAN GARRISONS IN 1880, AND BY 1883 ONLY KHARTOUM REMAINED. BUT IT WAS THREATENED.

THE BRITISH ABANDONED SUDAN FOR THE TIME BEING, BUT, BEFORE DOING SO, IN 1884 THEY SENT GENERAL GORDON TO ORGANISE A WITHDRAWAL, ALTHOUGH GORDON OBJECTED TO THE IDEA PUBLICLY.

INSTEAD OF PROCEEDING WITH THE EVACUATION, GORDON ALLOWED HIMSELF TO BE BESEIGED, APPARENTLY WITH THE IDEA OF BLACKMAILING THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT TO SEND A RELIEF FORCE TO DEFEAT THE MAHDI AND RECONQUER THE SUDAN.

THE FORCE WAS SENT AFTER MUCH DELAY AND DID NOT ARRIVE UNTIL JANUARY 1885, TWO DAYS AFTER KHARTOUM HAD FALLEN AND GORDON KILLED. THE EXPEDITION WAS ABANDONED AND RETURNED, SINCE THE RECONQUEST OF SUDAN WAS IMPOSSIBLE.

HOWEVER, THE BRITISH HAD GAINED A ‘MARTYR’.

GORDON WAS AN IMPERFECT INSTRUMENT WHEN ALIVE BECAUSE OF HIS INDISCIPLINE, NAÏVE PIETY AND CONTEMPT FOR CONVENTION. THIS MADE HIM SUITABLE FOR CANONISATION’, SINCE THE VEIN OF SENTIMENTALITY RUNNING THROUGH THE BRITISH RULING CLASS WOULD HAVE PREVENTED IT ACCEPTING A SAINT WHO WAS NOT ALSO SOMETHING OF A SIMPLETON.

FOR 12 YEARS, SUDAN WAS ABANDONED, BUT THE SOMALI COAST, ABYSSINIA AND UGANDA WERE ANNEXED BY RHODES’S VISION OF A BRITISH EMPIRE FROM NORTH TO SOUTH, WITH RHODESIA BEING ITS CENTRE.

FRANCE AND ITALY WERE IN ON THIS TOO, BUT ITALY, BRITAIN’S ALLY, WAS DEFEATED AT ADOWA BECAUSE THE FRENCH HAD BEEN SUPPLYING ARMS TO ABYSSINIA. FRANCE WANTED TO OUTFLANK THE BRITISH AND CONQUER SUDAN FOR ITSELF.

BRITAIN SENT GENERAL KITCHENER WITH A POWERFUL ANGLO-EGYPTIAN ARMY AND RETOOK KHARTOUM IN THE NOVEMBER. THE SUDANESE LOST HEAVILY AT OMBUDURMAN.

SOON AFTER, THE VICTORS ENCOUNTERED A HANDFUL OF FRENCH SOLDIERS AND WAR WITH FRANCE LOOKED LIKELY. THE FRENCH GAVE WAY, PARTLY BECAUSE THEIR RIVALS WERE IN MILITARY CONTROL OF SUDAN, BUT DARED NOT RISK A WAR IN WHICH HOSTILE GERMANY MIGHT TAKE ADVANTAGE.

THE FINANCE FOR THE CONQUEST WAS PECULIAR. EGYPT WAS MADE TO PAY TWO THIRDS OF THE £2.5 MILLION BILL, WHILE THE BRITISH KEPT ALL THE PROFITS OF EXPLOITATION OF THE NEW ‘PROVINCE.

COTTON PLANTATION AND IRRIGATION SCHEMES WERE TO BE PAID FOR AT TWO SHILLINGS PER ACRE.

SUDAN BECAME A PRODUCER OF FINE QUALITY COTTON. THE CULTIVATOR WAS ALLOWED 40% AND THE REST WENT TO BRITISH CAPITALISTS, WHO MADE 25% PROFIT.

BESIDES COTTON, SUDAN BECAME A MARKET FOR HEAVY INDUSTRIAL GOODS, AND £30 MILLION IN ANNUAL PROFITS WERE ACHIEVED.

WHILE LAND FOR COTTON INCREASED, MORE FOOD HAD TO BE IMPORTED FOR A POPULATION PREVIOUSLY SELF SUPPORTING. THE PEASANTS THUS PROVIDED TWO SOURCES OF PROFIT.

WHILE EGYPT WAS VIRTUALLY UNDER BRITISH CONTROL, IN 1906 AN EXAMPLE OF MISRULE IN THE JUDICIAL MASSACRE AT DENSHAWAI SPARKED NATIONALIST DISCONTENT.

THIS MOVEMENT SPREAD, AND CONSESSIONS WERE MADE, BUT WITH THE WORLD WAR CAME STRICTER CONTROL, AS EGYPT BECAME MORE STRATEGICALLY IMPORTANT. MARTIAL LAW WAS IMPOSED.

WITH THE TURKISH EMPIRE BROKEN, A RIGID CENSORSHIP WAS IMPOSED, AND HALF A MILLION PEASANTS WERE CONSCRIPTED FOR WAR SERVICE, DESPITE ASSURANCES TO THE CONTRARY.

AFTER THE WORLD WAR,  NATIONALIST AGITATION RESUMED.

IN 1919, A GENERAL STRIKE AND RIOTS FOLLOWED. OVER 1,000 EGYPTIANS WERE KILLED, BUT THE STRUGGLE CONTINUED, AND BRITAIN WAS FORCED TO GRANT NOMINAL INDEPENDENCE. HOWEVER, BRITISH RULE WAS PRESERVED: FIRST, BY STRONG MILITARY OCCUPATION OF THE SUEZ CANAL ZONE; SECOND, THROUGH OCCUPATION OF THE SUDAN.

THE UPPER NILE IRRIGATION WORKS CONTROLLED THE FLOW OF WATER IN THE NILE, EFFECTIVELY CONTROLLING EGYPT.

IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN A PRIME DEMAND OF EGYPTIAN NATIONALISTS THAT THE WHOLE NILE VALLEY SHOULD BE UNITED UNDER AN INDEPENDENT REGIME.

NO BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS EVER BEEN PREPARED TO CONSIDER THIS DEMAND, WITHOUT WHICH ANY FORM OF EGYPTIAN INDEPENDENCE MUST REMAIN A MERE PRETENCE.

(THIS HISTORICAL ACCOUNT ENDS IN 1938. HISTORY HAS SINCE SHOWN A SHIFT IN THE BALANCE OF POWER: WW2, BRITAIN AND SUEZ AND AMERICAN IMPERIALIST INTERESTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST.)

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