This is the standard two-volume history of one of the classic albeit largely disastrous campaigns of Victorian military history - the attempt to impose British rule or influence on Egypt and the trackless wastes of the Sudan which then as now despite much-trumpeted victories proved implacably hostile to foreign intervention. The climax of the story is the tragic saga of Charles Gordon the charismatic eccentric though fatally flawed British General whose death at Khartoum provoked a belated expedition down the Nile in a futile rescue attempt. Royle’s history is a model account . A barrister and not a military man himself he is unsparing of the political mistakes of successive British administrations - Liberal and Conservative - to deal with Egypt. Vol. 1 of the history traces the political background and the Egyptian Col. Arabi’s revolt against British dominance. This in turn provoked a major British intervention designed to protect investment in the newly-built and vital Suez Canal. Military operations included the siege and partial destruction of Alexandria the battle of Tel-el-Kebir and the capture of Cairo. Vol 2 opens with the rise of the Mahdi the humbly-born Sudanese student who claimed the mantle of an Islamic messiah and drew thousands of fanatical followers to his cause. At first the Mahdi swept al before him destroying an Anglo-Egyptian army under Gen Hicks and another under Gen. Baker and crowning his triumphs with the death of Gordon. After the mahdi’s death came the less than successful Souakim expedition before a humiliated Britain withdrew from its profitless involvement in the Sudan.
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