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To What Extent Can Britain's Increasing Involvement in Egypt 1875-85 Be Explained by the Need to Counter Egyptian Nationalism?

In: Historical Events

Submitted By jenny997
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Pages 4
Great Britain was highly involved in Africa, especially Egypt and Soudan. At first, the British intervention was due to the desire of expanding the British Empire ahead of all other European powers, such as the French, Spanish, Ottoman, and several others, however later it was clear that not only would British expansion improve but they would also, in addition improve trade. Nevertheless this involvement was mainly seen to be strategically and economically important to the British (and French) in concepts of continental and even global control.

A factor that had an impact on Britain’s involvement was African nationalism. Nevertheless, it was not a key factor. This mainly just included the intervention of the Mahdi from the south, in Soudan in 1885, and Arabi Pasha in Egypt in 1882. Arabi Pasha was a man who inspired the Egyptian middle classes, and he personally led the nationalist rebellion. Gladstone's Liberals were rather against this way of expanding and believed that expansion was the wrong strategy. The Liberals strongly refused to any involvement in the expansionism in the Middle East, however Gladstone didn’t rule the Empire, and instead the money market did, so the banks wanted immediate action to protect their investments. In 1882, the army under Sir Garnet Wolseley defeated Arabi Pasha's national Islamic uprising at Tel-el-Kebir. This caused much tension and hatred towards the Europeans, which only improved with time.

Following from this, there are other factors that had a greater impact and played more of an importance, such as strategic, economic, and rivalry issues. European rivalry and the competition between different nations was a rather key factor, as this included competition over the Suez Canal between Britain and France in particular. The Suez Canal was finished built in 1869 and was automatically seen to be a strategic benefit for Britain, especially as they would have to travel shorter distances between their Asian and Australasian possessions, which would produce savings. However it also produced the idea that Egypt was increasingly reliant on Britain for both military and economic aid. On top of this there was also rivalry between international powers as the canal was built using French capital and enterprise, and Disraeli only bought 45 percent of shares of the Suez Canal. The British were not fully onboard with the building of the canal as they feared that the canal may fall into the enemies hands, nevertheless they didn’t have much say in the situation and instead they continued doubting and were not convinced even to the very day of the opening. This was clear as leaders back in Britain, such as Gladstone (who’s government were reluctant imperialists), continued to strongly believe that in time of any war, that the canal would most likely close and that the British efficient and essential route to India would be closed as well, stopping British trade and hence their exports, which potentially could have a vast affect on the economy. Therefore the Suez Canal was important for many reasons, such as strategic (access to India, hence is military and can be seen to be commercial for trade), it enhances rivalry between France and Britain, and there are even economic and financial considerations. This includes the idea that by 1882, Britain successfully brought 80 percent of their shipping through the Suez Canal.

As mentioned vaguely before, there was European rivalry between Britain and France in particular, as they competed over who had the most control of the canal. However this was not the only competition, there were also uncertain relationships with the Ottomans, as during the congress in Berlin in 1978, France was given a promise from Britain and Germany would not oppose a French occupation of Tunis. France was very much interested in Tunis yet they were anxious as it bordered with her existing colony, Algeria. France didn’t act upon Tunis until 1881, yet this did not pass as a success as it offended the Sultan, who was ruling Tunis at the time, as it was still part of the empire, and further made cooperation between France and turkey difficult the following year during the Egyptian crisis. This once again also worsened the relationships and increased tension, suggesting that there were more reasons for Britain to intervene in Egypt to support and help.

In conclusion, the main two reasons for the British occupation of Egypt during 1875-1885 is mainly die to the event of the Suez Canal, which triggered several issues such as the economy, rivalry, and strategic considerations. The Suez Canal not only opened opportunities for trade, yet it also enhanced the communication between different countries (and empires at times as well), yet this did not necessarily suggest improved relations, such as with the Ottoman empire. Nevertheless, of course there were other minor factors such as to prevent slavery, yet that was seen to be a convenient excuse and mainly focused on the moral and cultural intentions.…...

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