Khartoum Gordon

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pages: 427 words: 124,692

Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British by Jeremy Paxman

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British Empire, call centre, Cape to Cairo, colonial rule, conceptual framework, Etonian, European colonialism, Fellow of the Royal Society, imperial preference, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, Kibera, land tenure, Livingstone, I presume, mass immigration, offshore financial centre, polynesian navigation, Scramble for Africa, transatlantic slave trade

But the newly emergent mass media began to behave in a way which has since become tediously familiar. The Pall Mall Gazette bellowed that Gordon must be dispatched to Khartoum and soon the entire herd was mooing. In no time, there were crowds in the streets chanting ‘Gordon Must Go!’ and the government caved in. But he was emphatically not being sent there to bag another colony: Gordon was to go to Khartoum, evacuate all those who wished to leave, and then report back. The Foreign Secretary himself came to Charing Cross station to see him off at the start of his journey, although Gladstone’s secretary was wise enough to spot the risks of sending someone like Gordon to a place where he would be beyond any effective control. ‘He seems to be a half cracked fatalist,’ he reflected, ‘and what can one expect from such a man?’

Gordon You send me no information, though you have lots of money. C.G.G. Characteristically, this was followed, two weeks later, by a message which said the precise opposite: ‘Khartoum is all right. Could hold out for years. CG Gordon. 29.12.84’. This was nonsense. As even the Mahdi knew from the deserters who crossed to his lines, by now almost every living thing that could be eaten – even rats – had been devoured. The waters of the Nile, which had provided a natural defence, were falling all the time. At around three in the morning of 26 January 1885 Khartoum was woken by the sound of tens of thousands of jihadists swarming into the town. It was all over very quickly and very savagely. Gordon’s contempt for his Egyptian troops had been justified, and in their emaciated state they were unable to put up much of a fight anyway. The Mahdi’s men were aflame with what they conceived to be holy passion and stormed on towards the palace.

It ended: ‘If in the defence of England’s honour it is necessary to go to Khartoum, it is not to avenge Gordon’s death,’ because the general had taken himself there only out of duty to God, to empire and to ‘the poor Soudanese’. Britain owed it to its own higher calling to destroy the Islamists. Charles Gordon should never have been allowed anywhere near Khartoum. There was sufficient scuttlebutt to suggest that he might have had a drink problem. He was certainly impulsive, emotional, religiously obsessed (he compared himself during the siege to Uriah the Hittite, the soldier abandoned in battle by King David, in order that he could steal his wife, Bathsheba), bad-tempered, unreliable, obstinate and self-absorbed. When the Consul General in Cairo reflected on the hero of Khartoum, he concluded that ‘General Gordon does not appear to have possessed any of the qualities which would have fitted him to undertake the difficult task he had in hand.’


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Ghosts of Empire: Britain's Legacies in the Modern World by Kwasi Kwarteng

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Ayatollah Khomeini, banking crisis, British Empire, colonial rule, Corn Laws, corporate governance, Deng Xiaoping, discovery of penicillin, Etonian, illegal immigration, imperial preference, invisible hand, Khartoum Gordon, land reform, sceptred isle, Scientific racism, Scramble for Africa, trade route, urban planning, Yom Kippur War

In keeping with Sudanese custom, the heads of Hicks and his leading officers were presented to the Mahdi and his followers.22 It was then decided by Gladstone’s government in London to evacuate the Egyptian garrison in Khartoum, an operation that Gordon was dispatched to oversee; he arrived on 18 February 1884. Charles Gordon is one of those historical figures of whom many people are dimly aware. This is partly because the role of Gordon was successfully played by Charlton Heston in the 1966 film Khartoum, in which Gordon meets his end on the steps of the palace at Khartoum, surrounded by spear-wielding dervishes. Despite being the subject of a Hollywood blockbuster, Gordon’s life was even more spectacular than any work of creative fiction could depict. Born in 1833, he was fifty-one when the final act of his eventful life unfolded. Like Kitchener and many others in the Sudan story, Gordon had been educated at the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, from which he had been recruited into the Royal Engineers.

As Lord Randolph Churchill told the House of Commons on 16 March 1884, the General was in a dangerous situation, being ‘surrounded by hostile tribes and cut off from communications with Cairo and London’.28 The siege continued, with conditions in Khartoum becoming more and more desperate. The garrison suffered from ‘want of food’, and by December ‘all the donkeys, dogs, cats, rats etc. had been eaten’.29 The slow response from the Gladstone government to the crisis in which Gordon found himself is well known. The Prime Minister was as stubborn as Gordon and seems to have taken a perverse pride in not heeding the popular demand that he immediately send a force to save Gordon. Belatedly, a Gordon Relief Expedition was dispatched in August 1884, under Sir Garnet Wolseley, another powerful figure of this militaristic age. In Khartoum, Gordon was having sleepless nights and was only too aware that his ability to withstand the siege was limited.

In Khartoum, Gordon was having sleepless nights and was only too aware that his ability to withstand the siege was limited. The denouement came in January 1885, when, at about 3.30 a.m. on Monday the 26th, the Mahdi’s troops made a ‘determined attack’ on the south side of the town. Khartoum fell, according to Kitchener’s account (though he was not there to witness it), because the garrison were too exhausted by their sufferings to put up a proper resistance. Once the rebels had entered the town, there was a general massacre, and the exact fate of General Gordon remains unclear. He was killed, certainly, but differing accounts of his death have been related to this day. It is likely that he died near the gate of the palace, but the dramatic accounts of his confronting the mob on the steps of the Governor’s palace may derive more from the imagination of subsequent storytellers than from what actually happened.


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Heaven's Command (Pax Britannica) by Jan Morris

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British Empire, Cape to Cairo, centralized clearinghouse, Corn Laws, European colonialism, Fellow of the Royal Society, Khartoum Gordon, Khyber Pass, land reform, land tenure, Livingstone, I presume, Magellanic Cloud, mass immigration, means of production, Monroe Doctrine, Plutocrats, plutocrats, profit motive, Ralph Waldo Emerson, sceptred isle, Scramble for Africa, trade route

Instead he implied that he was chiefly concerned with the future stability of the Sudan. He toyed with the idea of negotiating peace with the Mahdi, and suggested that as an agent of authority the Government should send to Khartoum a notorious former slave-trader, Zubeir Pasha, who had once been Gordon’s bitter enemy, but towards whom he had lately developed, he said, ‘a mystical feeling’. The very name of Zubeir was anathema to the English evangelicals, and Gordon’s quixotic demand for his services was the British public’s first intimation that queer things were likely to happen in Khartoum—his employment, said the Anti-Slavery Society, would be ‘a degradation for England, a scandal to Europe’. Next Gordon began to hint that perhaps after all the Sudan should be reconquered by British arms, if only to guarantee the security of Egypt. ‘If Egypt is to be kept quiet the Mahdi must be smashed up.

A message from the Mahdi put paid to any hope of negotiated settlement: if Gordon surrendered he would save himself and his supporters, ‘otherwise you shall perish with them and your sins and theirs shall be on your head’. Now the tribes to the north of Khartoum, hitherto quiescent, rose in support of the Mahdi. The rebels invested Khartoum itself, and the telegraph line to Cairo was cut. Gordon’s communications with Baring were reduced to messages on scraps of paper, sent out by runner, and Khartoum became a city under siege. Now at least Gordon was explicit. When the British Government got a message through asking why he seemed to be making no attempt to leave Khartoum with the garrison, as instructed, his reply was tart. ‘You ask me to state cause and intention in staying in Khartoum knowing Government means to abandon Sudan, and in answer I say, I stay at Khartoum because Arabs have shut us up and will not let us out.’

‘You ask me to state cause and intention in staying in Khartoum knowing Government means to abandon Sudan, and in answer I say, I stay at Khartoum because Arabs have shut us up and will not let us out.’ This was not true. He could still fight his way out of Khartoum, but he had never tried to do so, and gradually, as the summer of 1884 dragged by, it became dimly apparent to Mr Gladstone’s Government that Gordon was blackmailing them. He had no intention either of withdrawing the garrisons, or even escaping himself: he wanted the British to reconquer the Sudan by force of arms, and he was staking his own person as hostage. If the British public baulked at Zubeir, despised the Egyptians, was not very interested in the future of the Sudan and had little idea where Khartoum was, it would certainly not be prepared to let ‘Chinese’ Gordon, the perfect Christian gentleman, die abandoned and friendless in the heart of Africa. By the middle of September Gordon was almost the only European in Khartoum.


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Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Niall Ferguson

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British Empire, Cape to Cairo, colonial rule, Corn Laws, European colonialism, imperial preference, income per capita, John Harrison: Longitude, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, Khyber Pass, land reform, land tenure, liberal capitalism, Livingstone, I presume, Mahatma Gandhi, mass immigration, night-watchman state, profit motive, Scramble for Africa, spice trade, The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth, the new new thing, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus, trade route, transatlantic slave trade, transatlantic slave trade, union organizing, zero-sum game

In 1883 his forces even had the temerity to wipe out, to the last man, a 10,000-strong Egyptian army led by Colonel William Hicks, a retired British officer. After an indignant press campaign led by W. T. Stead, it was decided to send General Charles George Gordon, who had spent six years in Khartoum as the Egyptian Khedive’s Governor of ‘Equatoria’ during the 1870s. Although a decorated veteran of the Crimean War and the commander of the Chinese army that had crushed the Taiping rebellion in 1863–4, Gordon was always regarded by the British political establishment as half mad, and with some reason.* Ascetic to the point of being masochistic, devout to the point of being fanatical, Gordon saw himself as God’s instrument, as he explained to his beloved sister: To each is allotted a distinct work, to each a destined goal; to some the seat at the right-hand or left of the Saviour … It is difficult for the flesh to accept ‘Ye are dead, ye have naught to do with the world.’

‘I died long ago,’ he told her on another occasion; ‘I am prepared to follow the unrolling of the scroll.’ Charged with evacuating the Egyptian troops stationed in Khartoum, he set off alone, resolved to do the very opposite and hold the city. He arrived on 18 February 1884, by now determined to ‘smash up the Mahdi’, only to be surrounded, besieged and – nearly a year after his arrival – hacked to pieces. While marooned in Khartoum, Gordon had confided to his diary his growing suspicion that the government in London had left him in the lurch. He imagined the Foreign Secretary, Lord Granville, complaining as the siege dragged on: Why, HE said distinctly he could only hold out six months, and that was in March (counts the months). August! Why he ought to have given in! What is to be done? They’ll be howling for an expedition … It is no laughing matter; that abominable Mahdi!

They’ll be howling for an expedition … It is no laughing matter; that abominable Mahdi! Why on earth does he not guard his roads better? What IS to be done? … What that Mahdi is about I cannot make out. Why does he not put all his guns on the river and stop the route? Eh what? ‘We will have to go to Khartoum!’ Why, it will cost millions, what a wretched business! Even more reviled was the British Agent and Consul-General in Egypt, Sir Evelyn Baring, who had opposed Gordon’s mission from the very outset. There was a grain of realism in Gordon’s paranoia. Gladstone, still uneasy at having ordered the occupation of Egypt, had no intention of being drawn into the occupation of Sudan. He repeatedly evaded suggestions that Gordon should be rescued and authorized the despatch of Sir Garnet Wolseley’s relief expedition only after months of prevarication.


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Baghdad Without a Map and Other Misadventures in Arabia by Tony Horwitz

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By some estimates, half the city's inhabitants in the 1850's were slaves, destined for Arabia or Turkey. The Sudanese eventually revolted, under a messianic figure known as the Mahdi, and laid siege to a small British force under the command of Charles George Gordon. “It is a useless place and we could not govern it,” Gordon wrote from Khartoum in 1884. “The Sudan could be made to pay its expenses, but it would need a dictator, and I would not take the post if offered to me.” It wasn't. Instead, Gordon's severed head was offered to the Mahdi, then stuck atop a pole on the banks of the Nile. Thirteen years later, Sudanese dervishes charged out of Khartoum, clad in chain mail, to meet British Catling guns in the battle of Omdurman. The British lost twenty-eight men; the Sudanese ten thousand. Winston Churchill, who took part in the battle, called it “the most signal triumph ever gained by the arms of science over barbarians.”

Winston Churchill, who took part in the battle, called it “the most signal triumph ever gained by the arms of science over barbarians.” A war correspondent of the day wasn't so impressed: “It was not a battle but an execution.” The British hurled the Mahdi's head into the Nile and settled in for sixty more years of dominion. Now, after three decades of independence, Khartoum was a sprawling junkyard of British imperialism. The graves of eighteen-year-old Cameron Highlanders and 1st Grenadiers felled by Dervish spears—or more often by malaria—lay in a weed-infested cemetery at the edge of town. George Gordon's own gunboat rotted on the city's riverbank, unmarked and unremembered, near where the slate-gray waters of the Blue Nile meet the dull dishwater brown of the White Nile. Five miles upstream, naked boys fished from the half-sunk hulls of rusted British paddle-wheelers. Khartoum's broad avenues had been laid out at the turn of the century in the shape of a Union Jack, with the streets forming three superimposed crosses.


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This Sceptred Isle by Christopher Lee

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agricultural Revolution, Berlin Wall, British Empire, colonial rule, Corn Laws, cuban missile crisis, Edward Lloyd's coffeehouse, failed state, financial independence, glass ceiling, half of the world's population has never made a phone call, James Hargreaves, James Watt: steam engine, Khartoum Gordon, Khyber Pass, mass immigration, Mikhail Gorbachev, Monroe Doctrine, new economy, Northern Rock, Ronald Reagan, sceptred isle, spice trade, spinning jenny, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, urban decay

He arrived in Khartoum in February, and once there he judged that it would be wrong to withdraw the garrisons and abandon the country to the mercy of the Mahdi’s Dervishes. He accordingly asked for reinforcements and put forward plans for counter-attack. He was resolved to remain in Khartoum until his self-imposed mission was accomplished. By May of that year, 1884, Gordon was trapped in Khartoum. Public opinion demanded that he should be rescued. The government, with other matters on its mind and obviously dithering, did nothing until it was too late. At last, Gordon’s dilemma became a Cabinet crisis. Gladstone gave in and General Wolseley was ordered to Cairo. He did not arrive in time. When reinforcements and rescue squadrons arrived in Khartoum on 28 October, Gordon was dead and soon would be a martyr. That was in 1885. In the twelve months between June 1885 and June 1886, Britain had four General Elections. The obvious reason was Ireland, but there was also a lack of cohesion in Gladstone’s Liberal Party; the unpopularity of his handling of the crisis in Sudan which led to the death of General Gordon; and the emergence of another generation of political thinkers in the Commons – among them the thirty-six-year-old Lord Randolph Churchill, the leader of the younger Conservatives, and, on the other side of the House, the Liberal rebel, Joseph Chamberlain.


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The Gun by C. J. Chivers

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air freight, Berlin Wall, British Empire, cuban missile crisis, defense in depth, illegal immigration, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, mutually assured destruction, offshore financial centre, Ponzi scheme, RAND corporation, South China Sea, trade route, Transnistria

“It was a veritable nine-day wonder,” he said. As the new weapon was receiving its inaugural praise in Maxim’s shop, England was consumed by a long-running difficulty in eastern Africa. The Egyptian province of Sudan had been swept by Islamic rebellion in 1881, and in 1883 Britain had decided to evacuate its citizens and the Egyptian military presence from the capital, Khartoum. A popular officer and former administrator of the province, Major General Charles Gordon, was dispatched to organize the city’s defense and coordinate the exit. He arrived to discover the situation desperate. By midspring 1884 the Islamic forces controlled the approaches to the city, trapping the Egyptian contingent and General Gordon in a siege. Britain, pressured by public demands for a rescue, ordered General Wolseley, who had brought the first Gatling gun to Africa during the Ashanti War, to go to Gordon’s assistance.

After the battle, he walked among the Arab dead and confirmed the awful power of the big weapon: “I observed that the rows of bullets from the Gardner gun, which was rifle calibre .45 inch, with five barrels, had cut off heads and tops of heads, as though sliced horizontally with a knife.”29 Lord Beresford liked that. But it lasted only fourteen turns—seventy bullets against thousands of attacking men. A machine gun good only for a moment’s work was not much good at all. The Desert Column fought another engagement en route but Colonel Stewart was wounded and he ceded command. His unit arrived at Khartoum one day late. The city had fallen. General Gordon had been beheaded. His killers displayed their grisly prize by wedging it in the branches of a tree. Colonel Stewart later succumbed to his wounds. London was crestfallen. What was bad for Britain was good for Maxim. Episodes when manual machine guns failed could only aid his cause. And then it happened again. Two years later an Italian column roughly half the size of Colonel Stewart’s expedition was caught by an Ethiopian force making an overland movement in what is now Eritrea.

A large expeditionary force, more than eight thousand British soldiers accompanied by nearly eighteen thousand Egyptian and African troops, was placed under the command of General Herbert Kitchener. It massed in Egypt and prepared for the arduous trek and river movement up the Nile to destroy the forces of the Khalifa, the Sudanese leader, and reclaim Khartoum. The campaign would serve a second purpose: to avenge the beheading of General Gordon in 1885. A feat of logistics and administration made the final clash possible. Kitchener built a railroad through the desert to keep his soldiers well supplied. An escort of gunboats accompanied them as they traveled upriver. The Maxims were brought overland wrapped in silk, to prevent them from collecting sand and grit.64 By late summer 1898, with the British columns nearing the capital at last, the Khalifa prepared to annihilate them outside Omdurman, on the Nile’s western bank and to Khartoum’s north.


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After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire Since 1405 by John Darwin

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agricultural Revolution, Atahualpa, Berlin Wall, Bretton Woods, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, colonial rule, Columbian Exchange, cuban missile crisis, deglobalization, deindustrialization, European colonialism, failed state, Francisco Pizarro, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, laissez-faire capitalism, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, Malacca Straits, mutually assured destruction, new economy, New Urbanism, oil shock, open economy, price mechanism, reserve currency, Ronald Reagan, Scramble for Africa, South China Sea, South Sea Bubble, spice trade, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith, trade route, transaction costs, transatlantic slave trade

It opened up a space for ‘fundamentalist’ movements to wage jihad against infidels, pagans and corrupt fellow Muslims. Europeans reserved a particular loathing (and a special fear) for this Muslim ‘fanaticism’, symptomatic, they thought, of Islam’s arrested development. Its most famous victory in the late nineteenth century was the Mahdist revolt against Egypt’s colonial rule in the Nilotic Sudan, which culminated in 1885 with the capture of Khartoum and the death of General Gordon, the governor-general sent by the Egyptian government (under heavy British pressure) to stage an orderly retreat.95 When the British re-entered the city thirteen years later, after defeating the Mahdist army at Omdurman, Kitchener ordered the bones of the first Mahdi ruler (Muhammad Ahmad, 1844–85) to be thrown in the Nile. A word from Queen Victoria was needed to stop him from using the Mahdi’s skull as an ashtray.


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Engines of War: How Wars Were Won & Lost on the Railways by Christian Wolmar

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anti-communist, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, Khartoum Gordon, railway mania, Ronald Reagan, South China Sea, V2 rocket

The Grand Crimean Central Railway, built to supply the British troops at the Siege of Sevastopol, 1855. The railway network of the Confederate and border states at the outset of the American Civil War, 1861. The railway network of eastern France at the time of the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1. The detail shows the area around Metz which was a key battleground. The Sudan Military Railway built to allow the British to retake Khartoum thirteen years after the capture of the town and the death of General Gordon in 1885. The railways in southern Africa at the start of the Boer War in 1899. The key railways over which the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 was fought. The western front in the First World War showing the main railway lines with detail of the Somme. Eastern Europe during the Second World War showing the main railway routes used by the Germans to invade Russia.

There were immediate thoughts about extending the line through to Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, but it was impossible to make progress because of the shortage of capital. However, in 1884 a start was made on a line at Wadi Haifa, the Nile port on the Egyptian-Sudanese border, by British and Egyptian soldiers and labourers, overseen by a company (about 250 men) of Royal Engineers, but work stopped when the 700 local labourers deserted. The idea was abandoned shortly after, with just fifty miles completed, when news reached Egypt of the fall of Khartoum and the death of General Gordon at the hands of the Mahdi rebels in January 1885. Work also stopped on a separate line which was being built simultaneously to link the Nile with the Red Sea at the port of Suakin. Again the Royal Engineers had been involved but attacks by Dervishes on the mostly Indian labour force led to the abandonment of the project after just twenty miles had been laid, despite the construction of fortified posts at regular intervals along it and the introduction of night patrols using a bulletproof train armed with a 20-pounder gun.

With the completion of the railway, ‘though the battle was not yet fought, the victory was won… It remained only to pluck the fruit in the most convenient hour, with the least trouble and at the smallest cost.’15 Indeed, new gunboats were ordered and broken up into sections that could be accommodated on the railway, rebuilt and relaunched on the navigable section of the Nile. Having overcome resistance and conquered the intermediate towns, the final battle took place at Omdurman, fifteen miles from Khartoum, where Churchill was proved correct: the might of the well-supplied British Army easily overcame the enemy despite being hugely outnumbered. The British lost just fifty men, compared with about 10,000 enemy casualties, and Gordon was richly avenged. It was, of course, not only the railway but the whole logistical operation which ensured victory. Churchill described what it took for one box of biscuits to reach the front line from Cairo, involving a dozen changes of mode, including camel as well as boat and train, to cover some 1,150 miles.


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Diamonds, Gold, and War: The British, the Boers, and the Making of South Africa by Martin Meredith

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back-to-the-land, banking crisis, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, liberation theology, sceptred isle, Scramble for Africa, trade route

The Cape, he said, lacked the necessary resources, reminding his colleagues that its white population was no greater than that of a ‘third-rate English city, spread over a great country’. Desperate to resolve the Basutoland quagmire, the Cape government recruited the services of General Charles Gordon, one of the foremost heroes of the Victorian age. A decorated veteran of the Crimean War and commander of the Chinese army that had crushed the Taiping rebellion in 1863-4, Gordon had spent six years in Khartoum during the 1870s serving as governor of Equatoria province in southern Sudan. Gordon saw himself as God’s instrument and believed he possessed mesmeric power over primitive people. The British political establishment regarded him as half mad - ‘inspired and mad’, according to Gladstone. Despite his formidable record, on his return to London he was packed off to Mauritius, in his words to supervise ‘the barracks and drains’ there. He was thus keen for a new adventure.

I never met a man as strong for his opinion; you think your views are always right.’ Gordon soon fell out with the Cape government and returned to England. The Cape government itself, weakened and impoverished by the Gun War, soon tired of responsibility for Basutoland and passed it back to Britain. Gordon, however, did not forget Rhodes. When he was given a new assignment in Khartoum - this time to evacuate Egyptian troops threatened by the advance of the Mahdi’s Dervish army - Gordon asked Rhodes to join him. Once again, Rhodes declined. When Rhodes heard the news of Gordon’s death in 1885 on the steps of the governor’s residence in Khartoum, dreaming of posthumous glory for himself he remarked: ‘I am sorry I was not with him.’ By then, however, Rhodes was engaged in a new African adventure, one of far greater significance than Basutoland: a battle to secure ‘the road to the north’. 13 THE ROAD TO THE NORTH The road to the north had been pioneered by British missionaries pushing ever deeper into the interior of Africa, far beyond the limits of white settlement.


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Blood, Iron, and Gold: How the Railways Transformed the World by Christian Wolmar

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banking crisis, Beeching cuts, British Empire, Cape to Cairo, invention of the wheel, James Watt: steam engine, joint-stock company, Khartoum Gordon, Mahatma Gandhi, railway mania, refrigerator car, side project, South China Sea, transcontinental railway, tulip mania, urban sprawl

The railway was no mean achievement, having to cross the Nile twice, and the line was highly profitable as it attracted travellers using the overland route between Europe and India, which avoids the long sea voyage via the Cape, who previously had to use camels or rough horse-drawn carriages to cross Egypt. Despite the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, which took away much of its revenue, the railway was extended to reached Assiut on the banks of the Nile by 1874 and Luxor 340 miles south of Cairo in 1898. Sudan, south of Egypt, had been abandoned in 1885 by the British after the siege of Khartoum which ended with the massacre of Gordon and his army by rebels, led by Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad, a religious leader opposed to Western control of Egypt. A decade later, Kitchener obtained permission from the British government to build the Sudan Military Railway through to Khartoum in order to reconquer the country and defeat the Mahdi rebels. To get to Khartoum, hundreds of miles across the desert, Kitchener realized that a railway was needed from the Sudanese frontier at Wadi Halfa on the Nile which could be reached by ships from Luxor.


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The Black Nile: One Man's Amazing Journey Through Peace and War on the World's Longest River by Dan Morrison

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In time Muhammad Ahmad’s ardent supporters gave him the mantle and he ran with it, routing the occupying forces with a growing army of Arab tribesmen in the first jihad of the machine age. After winning an escalating series of battles against the occupiers, in 1883 the Mahdi’s forces smote an incompetent British-led force of eight thousand Egyptian soldiers (some of them outfitted in heavy chain mail for the desert engagement). In 1885, they hit the jackpot and took Khartoum after a 317-day siege, killing the famed governor-general Charles Gordon, a British war hero and darling of the antislavery movement. Sudan became a Talibanlike state of summary judgment, famine and perpetual war. The flow of slaves from Sudan to Egypt, Turkey and the Arabian Peninsula resumed from a trickle to a flood. And Britain readied its revenge. The Mahdi died five months after his conquest, possibly of typhus, but his state carried miserably on until 1899 when more than ten thousand Mahdists fell to British machine guns at the Battle of Omdurman.


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The Last Spike: The Great Railway, 1881-1885 by Pierre Berton

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The adoption of the new time system in that first month of 1885 was a relatively minor event as far as newspaper readers were concerned. The world was in a ferment and, for the first time, the new nation had a personal stake in the outcome. Up the steamy cataracts of the Nile a flotilla of boats manned by Canadian voyageurs was slowly making its way on a vain mission to relieve Khartoum and rescue that flawed hero, General Charles Gordon, from the clutches of the Mahdi. This was the nation’s first expeditionary force and it had its origin in the same series of events that helped to launch the idea of a Pacific railway. Its commander was General Garnet Wolseley, who had taken Canadian and British troops across the portages of the Shield to relieve Fort Garry during the Riel uprising of 1869–70. It was Wolseley’s idea to use some of the same French Canadians to man the Nile brigade.


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China into Africa: trade, aid, and influence by Robert I. Rotberg

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Some argue that this position is an outgrowth of China’s fierce protection of its own rights and sovereignty, and its resentment of foreign interference in its domestic affairs. The involvement of Western traders, the Boxer Rebellion, and the general humiliation at the hands of Western interests in the nineteenth century have not been forgotten. In a revealing moment, Zhou Enlai told an audience in Khartoum in 1964 that China was grateful to the Sudanese for killing British General Charles Gordon in 1885. Evidently, Gordon had supervised the burning of the old Beijing Summer Palace in 1860, twenty-five years earlier. More than a century later, Beijing still considered Gordon’s activities an insult to the Chinese people.8 This resentment of outside interference has colored Sino-Russian relations since Nikita Khrushchev and Mao Zedong split in the mid-1950s, and it certainly characterizes China’s response to U.S. criticism of alleged human rights violations.


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Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire, Brent Beardsley

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airport security, colonial rule, failed state, global village, invisible hand, Khartoum Gordon, land reform, risk/return, Ronald Reagan

I sat down beside him to try to ease his embarrassment and reassure him he was all right and then sent him to change his pants while I replaced him at his post. The city was largely quiet. Sitting there in the dark, I studied the fence surrounding the compound and visualized hundreds of extremists swarming our headquarters, intent on getting to Faustin. The image made me think of the movie Khartoum, when swarms of dervishes rush the stairs to kill General Gordon and his men. Would my soldiers fight under a UN flag to defend Faustin? For the first time that day I felt truly hopeless and trapped, a feeling I determinedly shunted to one side when the young Ghanaian came back to relieve me. Sometime after midnight, an RPF officer and a platoon of soldiers arrived at our main gate, and Brent was summoned by the Ghanaian guards to talk to the officer, who was cockily wearing a UN blue helmet like a war trophy and demanding to see Faustin.


pages: 1,364 words: 272,257

pages: 1,800 words: 596,972

The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East by Robert Fisk

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Albert Einstein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Berlin Wall, Boycotts of Israel, British Empire, call centre, clean water, colonial rule, cuban missile crisis, Farzad Bazoft, friendly fire, Howard Zinn, IFF: identification friend or foe, invisible hand, Islamic Golden Age, Khartoum Gordon, Khyber Pass, land reform, Mahatma Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, music of the spheres, Ronald Reagan, the market place, Thomas L Friedman, Transnistria, unemployed young men, uranium enrichment, Yom Kippur War

His bin Laden company—not to be confused with the larger construction business run by his cousins—was paid in Sudanese currency which was then used to purchase sesame, corn and sunflower seeds for export. Profits did not seem to be bin Laden’s top priority. Was Sudan? Certainly it boasted another potential Islamic “monster” for the West. Hassan Abdullah Turabi, the enemy of Western “tyranny,” a “devil” according to the Egyptian newspapers, was supposedly the Ayatollah of Khartoum, the scholarly leader of the National Islamic Front which provided the nervous system for General Omar Bashir’s military government. Indeed, Bashir’s palace boasted the very staircase upon which General Charles Gordon had been cut down in 1885 by followers of Mohamed Ahmed ibn Abdullah, the Mahdi, who like bin Laden also demanded a return to Islamic “purity.” But when I went to talk to Turabi in his old English office, he sat birdlike on a chair, perched partly on his left leg that was hooked beneath him, his white robe adorned with a tiny patterned scarf, hands fluttering in front of a black beard that was now flecked with white.

Even a municipality is better than nothing.” But if “Palestine” was to be a municipality, where did that leave the Arabs? In need, surely, of a leader who did not speak in this language of surrender; in need of a warrior leader, someone who had proved he could defeat a superpower. Was this not what the Mahdi had believed himself to be? Did the Mahdi not ask his fighters on the eve of their attack on Khartoum whether they would advance against General Gordon even if two-thirds of them should perish? But like almost every other Arab state, Sudan re-created itself in a looking glass for the benefit of its own leaders. Khartoum was the “capital city of virtues,” or so the large street banners claimed it to be that December. Sometimes the word “virtues” was substituted with the word “values,” which was not quite the same thing.