A Brief History • By the late 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was in decline. This worried the British who though it would fall into the hands of a European rival! • France encouraged a separation from the Empire. French investors poured in money to Egypt. • Suez Canal built 1869. • Britain offered Egypt massive loans. Between 1863 and 1879 Egypt’s foreign debt went from £3 million to £100 million. • 1875 – Egyptian debt crisis. Britain sends Stephen Cave to help. • 1878 – Anglo-French rescue plan. French and British to take control of Egyptian economy.
continued • 1882 – Nationalist movement under Arabi Pasha. • By Oct’ 1882, rebellion was crushed. Tewfik was left in charge. British ended the dual control between the French and British – France annoyed. • 1884 – General Gordon dies in Sudan. • Late 1890s – British took revenge and used armed forces to annex Sudan. • Provoked more French anger – led to ‘Fashoda Incident’ where the French attempted to capture the Fashoda fort, but they eventually backed down.
Robinson and Gallagher • Britain was drawn into Africa through the ‘persistent crisis in Egypt’ • Britain’s main concern was to protect the route to India (Suez Canal). • The Arabi Pasha revolt in 1881 made North Africa unstable. Britain reacted to protect its trading interests. This is an example of Britain supporting formal rule only when trade was threatened. • As a result, Britain was dragged into other parts of Africa, such as the Sudan, in order to maintain their stronghold on Egypt.
Foreign Rivalry Until the 19th century the French had played a smaller role in Africa than the British, but their defeat in the Napoleonic War made them look to Africa for compensation. North Africa became a theatre for Anglo-French rivalry, illustrated most dramatically by the Fashoda incident, where troops from both powers marched from opposite directions to meet in wilderness in southern Sudan, bringing the two European powers to the brink of war.
Foreign Rivalry “Gentlemen, in Europe such as it is today, in this compensation of the many rivals we see rising up around us, some by military or naval improvements, others by the prodigious development of a constantly growing population; in a Europe, or in a universe thus constituted, a policy of withdrawal or abstention is simply to high road to decadence! In our time nations are great only through the activity they deploy; it is not by spreading the peaceable light of their institutions… that they are great, in the present day.” Jules Ferry, Prime Minister of France (1880-1881, 1883-1885)
Lenin His theory can’t apply to Egypt. • Palmerston: ‘We do not want to have Egypt. What we wish about Egypt is that it should be attached to the Turkish Empire, which is security against it belonging to another European power. We wish for trade with Egypt and travel through Egypt’. • Britain never intended to use capitalism to exploit Egypt, but to encourage relations between the countries for trade. Also, it is clear that European rivalry encouraged Britain with Egypt, not capitalist exploitation.
Cain and Hopkins - Overview • Cain and Hopkins argue that Robinson and Gallagher’s claim that imperialism was the result of crises on the periphery is ‘to report the symptoms, not to diagnose the cure.’ • They also discard the theory of European rivalry: ‘To attribute British intervention to the actions of European rivals is to assign to other impulses which might properly be looked for at home.’ • Their argument is that the reason for Britain’s intervention in Egypt ‘lay in the expansion of European trade and investment after 1838, and especially in the growth of public sector borrowing from the 1860’s.’
Cain and Hopkins – Economic Interests • After 1815, Britain’s commercial ties with Egypt grew. • In 1838, Britain imposed free trade on the Ottoman Empire. This led to a substantial increase in foreign trade and investment. • In 1862, railways and harbours were built in Egypt by British manufacturers, and state bonds were marketed externally to fund the Suez Canal. • In 1873, British investors held over half the public debt. • In 1875, Britain’s interests in Egypt grew with the purchases of the Suez Canal shares. • Alexandria became a colonial enclave long before Egypt became, effectively, a colony.’
Cain and Hopkins – Economic Interests • In 1876, Egypt was bankrupt. Britain had an obligation to ensure the loans were repaid. • Harsh measures to balance the budget under Dual (Anglo-French) control provoked opposition in 1879. • At this point, the government was close to military action. (here we can argue that economic interests provoked Britain to action) • In 1879, the Law of Liquidation was passed, which consolidated debt and rescheduled repayments. • In 1880, Britain took 80% of Egypt’s exports, and supplied 44% of her imports. • Many British investors felt Egypt was a safe bet because of the Suez shares.
Cain and Hopkins • Gladstone had 37% of his portfolio invested in Egypt in 1882. • Key figures in the Liberal Party were keen to make Liberal foreign policy more aggressive and jingoistic. They sought to replace Dual control with supremacy in Egypt. • After the bombardment of Alexandria, the Liberals got ‘a new lease of popularity and power’. • (we can argue that it was party politics which motivated Gladstone, or at least other members of the Liberal party such as Hartington, who threatened to resign if forward action in Egypt wasn’t taken).
Cain and Hopkins • The riots in Alexandria were provoked by the British naval presence. (we can argue that this ‘crisis on the periphery’ was caused by European intervention, not the other way around). • Furthermore, the Suez Canal did not become an issue in the public mind until just two weeks before the bombardment. (suggests maintaining the route to India was perhaps not a crucial factor)
Cain and Hopkins • After 1880, French policy towards Egypt was ‘marked with restraint’. After 1881, they were occupied with the problems in Tunisia. (this challenges the foreign rivalry theory, as it suggests it was non-existent). • It can also be argued that Britain’s intervention in Egypt directly led to further intervention in Africa. There was a need to prevent the Sudan from endangering the new situation in Egypt, so Britain got involved in trying to re-instate stablility.