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The First World War from Tripoli to Addis Ababa (1911-1924)

 | 
Shiferaw Bekele
, 
Uoldelul Chelati Dirar
, 
Alessandro Volterra
, 
et al.

International and Regional Politics/Developments

Aftershocks of the First World War in the Nile Valley

Anne-Claire de Gayffier-Bonneville

Résumé

Because imperial metropoles displayed a sense of weakness and needed the help of the countries they ruled, the First World War brought about a temporary reversal in the relations between imperial metropoles and colonial possessions. As a result, colonial subjection was shaken. The case of the Nile Valley is very interesting from this point of view: there is successively a growing British request, an Egyptian reaction at the end of the war, and soon after a counter reaction of British authorities southwards.
We will study the impact of WWI on Egypt that determined the claim for independence as soon as the military conflict ended. In order to curb the spreading of nationalist ideas through Sudan, the British General Governor of Sudan worked out a scheme for separating Egypt and Sudan. This study stresses the link between the developments in Egypt and in Sudan after WWI. The Sudanese crisis of 1924, and particularly the British firmness, is closely connected to the Egyptian political changes that occurred at the end of the war. French diplomatic archives give a very interesting and not yet explored point of view on these events.

Texte intégral

The Nile Valley. Made with Scribble Maps.

1Because imperial metropoles displayed a sense of weakness and needed the help of the countries they ruled, the First World War brought about a temporary reversal in the relations between imperial metropoles and colonial possessions. As a result, colonial subjection was shaken. The case of the Nile Valley is very interesting from this point of view: there is successively a growing British request, an Egyptian reaction at the end of the war, and soon after a counter reaction of British authorities southwards.

  • 1 De Gayffier-Bonneville 2008, 71-73.

2We will try to understand the evolution of the Nile Valley as a result of the First World War by offering an overview of this territory. It is highly relevant to adopt this global vision and to overtake the divisions of the states in this study because of the tight links between Egypt and Sudan. The two countries have a common history that begins in the 19th century. Sudan was born thanks to the Egyptian conquest initiated by Muḥammad ‘Alī in the 1820s. The Egyptians set up an administration and, as a result, allowed the unification of small kingdoms and principalities divided in the olden days. In 1882 Egypt was occupied by British soldiers, and approximately at the same time a rebellion led by the Mahdi, Muḥammad Aḥmad ibn ‘Abdallāh, broke out against the Egyptian power in Sudan. Under the pressure of the British and faced with several defeats, the Khedive had no choice but to evacuate Sudan. Sixteen years later General Kitchener launched Anglo-Egyptian troops to re-conquer Sudan. The English presence in the southern part of the Nile Valley started at that moment, including an Anglo-Egyptian condominium over Sudan. Owing to this specific situation, the British hoped to get rid of the Egyptians in this area.1 The First World War brought fundamental changes to Anglo-Egypto-Sudanese relations.

3We will study the impact of WWI on Egypt that determined the claim for independence of this country as soon as the military conflict ended. Its consequences, namely the British will to protect Sudan from the nationalist contagion, will then be underlined.

The Fracture of the First World War

  • 2 For example Ulrichsen 2014; Kitchen 2014.

4The Nile Valley was not a battlefield during the First World War. There were a few military confrontations, but only on the areas bordering the Nile Valley. The purpose of this study is not to focus on military campaigns of WWI in the Middle East. There are several recent publications on this topic.2 However, it is important to put forward the major transformations that occurred in Egypt and in Sudan during this period. The war had implications for the British policy, and people coped with them.

  • 3 Mortlock 2011; Woodward 2006.
  • 4 Moreau 2016, 181-182.

5Egypt was a key point for the British because of the Suez Canal, the easiest and quickest way to connect the different parts of the Empire. The waterway was attacked twice by Ottoman troops led by Jamāl Pasha, the first time in February 1915 and the second time in August 1916. However, each time the Ottoman army failed in its attempts to defeat British defences. As from the end of 1914, the Canal defence system was organised. More specifically, a large part of the area was flooded and warships deployed. The troops were also reinforced to safeguard the security of the region, in preparation of the operations in the Dardanelles at the time, and later towards Salonica and Palestine.3 As soon as the war began, professional soldiers had to leave Egypt to return to Great Britain and then go to the western front. On September 1914 however, the East Lancashire Territorial Division arrived in Egypt, soon followed by thousands of soldiers from the dominions, New Zealand and Australia, as well as from India. About 100,000 men were there to face the expeditionary Ottoman force in February 1915. Jamāl Pasha was expecting them to be no more than 20,000. He was also hoping that Egyptians would rebel against British authorities as Ottoman troops approached,4 but the massive influx of imperial troops prevented Egyptian unrest.

  • 5 Hadaway 2014; Slight 2014.
  • 6 Rogan 2015, 250.

6Egypt was attacked on the western frontier as well after the entry of Italy into the war on the side of the Entente.5 Some Sanūssī, driven by Nūrī Bey, an Ottoman officer and brother of the Turkish Minister of war Enver Pasha, led a raid on British positions in November 1915. It caused the withdrawal of British troops. Sayyid Aḥmad al-Sharīf al-Sanūssī, the Sanūssī leader who was still at war with Italians in Cyrenaica even after the signature of the Ouchy Treaty in 1912, relayed the call for jihād in July and got the support of Bedouins and some Egyptian soldiers. Faced with this situation, the British commander in Egypt rapidly set up a Western Frontier Force. The Ottoman high command’s plan, whose main goal was to “sow alarm and confusion” through the Egyptian territory, “tying down as many British soldiers as possible in the process”,6 worked well. In December a counteroffensive was launched and was reinforced after the evacuation of Gallipoli. Indeed, there were a growing number of imperial forces in Egypt after this campaign. In February 1916, the Ottoman force of Nūrī Bey and Ja‘afar al-Askarī was defeated. The main danger was gone, despite the fact that the oasis of the Western Desert was still agitated due to the Sanūssī. From March 1916 to February 1917, the oasis towns were one by one re-conquered.

  • 7 Daly 2003, 175.
  • 8 University of Durham Library, Durham, Sudan Archive [SAD], 196/1, Wingate to Fitzgerald, 28 July 19 (...)
  • 9 For the life of Sir Reginald Wingate, see Daly 1997.
  • 10 Cassar 2016.
  • 11 Sligh 2010.

7Further south, the British decided to conquer Darfur. This area was not incorporated in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan in 1898 but left in the hands of a grandson of Sultan Muḥammad al-Faḍl, ‘Alī Dīnār, against payment of an annual levy. The British agent and consul-general in Egypt, Lord Cromer, had feared unrest and difficulties in the administration of this remote territory. ‘Alī Dīnār was an independent ruler with the title of sultan. At the beginning of the First World War, the Sudanese government worried about ‘Alī Dīnār’s degree of loyalty to the British and in 1915 series of letters sent by ‘Alī Dīnār raised doubts. He first expressed his grievances against the Sudanese government to Sayyid ‘Alī al-Mīrghanī. Then he criticised the British for the political developments taking place in Egypt with the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war, namely the proclamation of the British protectorate and the deposition of the Khedive. In this second letter he warned the Governor-general that he would repulse any aggression against Darfur.7 In May, he contacted Shaykh ‘Alī al-Tūm of the Kabābīsh and suggested rising up against the infidel British regime. For the Governor-general of Sudan, Sir Reginald Wingate, “there is no doubt whatsoever A.D. has absorbed the Turco-German poison”.8 Indeed, Enver tried to initiate contact with ‘Alī Dīnār by letter, inviting him to join the war. This letter arrived in Al-Fāshir after the beginning of the British campaign waged against ‘Alī Dīnār. Given the situation in Cyrenaica at the end of the year, Wingate9 had ruled in favour of a military intervention. The risk of Arab tribes losing confidence in the British altogether was too high. A gathering of horsemen and camel-drivers upon request of ‘Alī Dīnār at Jabal Hilla at the beginning of February 1916 was exploited as a pretext to let invading forces operate. Lord Kitchener, who had been in charge of the Nile Valley as British agent and consul-general between 1911 and 1914,10 and had then joined the government as secretary of state for war, was directly informed by Wingate of the situation and of his intention to advance on Al-Fāshir as quickly as possible. The authorisation soon came from London. On 23 May 1916, Darfur was under the authority of the Sudanese government. ‘Alī Dīnār had fled the day before.11

  • 12 British National Archives, London [NA], FO141/426/1006, Wingate to MacMahon, 23 Mar. 1916, quoted b (...)
  • 13 SAD 127/3, MacMichael, ‘Memorandum. Concerning the future status of Darfur’, Symes to MacMichael, 2 (...)
  • 14 SAD 127/7 MacMichael, “Memorandum. Concerning the administrative policy to be followed in Darfur in (...)

8British authorities then had to organise the new administration of Darfur. The main lines had been drawn even before the end of the conquest. They are very interesting to report because they already give an account of the British general thinking concerning Sudan. On the one hand, we can see that the British wanted to exclude the Egyptians from the administration of Darfur as much as possible or, to be more precise, to prevent them from joining this structure. The international circumstances of the conquest of Sudan in 1898 had compelled the British to set up a condominium over Sudan with the Egyptians, but they were wishing to reduce the Egyptian influence over Sudan. To justify the project of administrative organisation of Darfur, Wingate told the high commissioner in Cairo, Sir Henry MacMahon, that “the employment of Egyptians had ‘tended to weaken rather than to strengthen’ the administration and to ‘impair the relations between the British (Christian) chiefs and the Native (Muslim) population’”.12 On the other hand, due to the lack of available officials, it was suggested to “leave the power of the existing sheikhs, ‘shartais’, ‘meliks’ and ‘salatin’ over their people”.13 These men “would have to be appointed officially”.14 The new administration would lean on the existing structures of local power. This was a local bringing into play of the Native Administration, or the policy of Indirect Rule, before the decision to implement it in Sudan as a whole after 1924.

  • 15 “M. Milne Cheetham, qui fait l’intérim de lord Kitchener, n’a pas l’autorité dont il serait désirab (...)

9Military speaking the British coped with challenges. But in other fields, especially in Egypt, they showed signs of hesitation, clumsiness, and weakness. The chargé d’affaires appointed to replace Lord Kitchener proved not to be up to the task, from the French consul’s point of view.15 He did not smoothly manage the beginning of the war, nor did he easily handle the German and Austrian presence in Egypt. The British also gave the impression of hesitating as to settling the question of the status of Egypt. They had been occupying Egypt since 1882 and no treaty had been signed to justify or to surround their presence in the Nile Valley. Egypt was an Ottoman province but the Ottoman Empire had joined Germany and the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in the war against the Triple Entente. On 18 December 1914, more than a month after the Ottoman Empire entered the war, Britain declared a protectorate over Egypt. During this month, the British put pressure on Egyptian politicians to obtain their cooperation. The protectorate could not work without at least some political participation of local leaders. The latter tried to force political concessions from the British, but were finally unsuccessful. Therefore, the new legal status of protectorate was not defended by Egyptian politicians. It was also a source of concern among the Egyptian population because Egypt was detached from the Ottoman Empire permanently. The French consul in Egypt noted:

  • 16 FMFAA, vol. 1564, Defrance, 457, Le Caire, 23 Dec. 1914. “Egyptian have the feeling that their coun (...)

Les Égyptiens ont le sentiment que leur pays se détache en quelque sorte de l’Islam, qu’il devient un État européen, presque chrétien et ils ne comprennent pas comment leur nouveau souverain, musulman et égyptien cependant, peut être investi du pouvoir par l’Angleterre, et non pas par une autorité musulmane comme le Khalife.16

  • 17 On 9 Sep. 1917, a decree forbids planting with cotton more than a third of a piece of ground where (...)
  • 18 Abbas Hilmi 1996, 215.
  • 19 FMFAA, 1564, Defrance, 150, Cairo, 7 Nov. 1914.
  • 20 Bullock 1988, 28-29.
  • 21 Amin Ghali 1969, 144.
  • 22 Bullock 1988, 23.
  • 23 Vatikiotis 1991, 254.
  • 24 Bullock 1988, 23, 26-27.

10As the war dragged on, the protectorate was compared to a deterioration of the conditions of the occupation of Egypt by the United Kingdom. In August 1914 the British garrison had 5,000 men, but one year later the imperial troops were 70,000, and in December 1916 more than 100,000 settled between Alexandria, Cairo and the Suez Canal. This huge concentration of men had to be fed, accommodated and equipped. One of the first measures taken by the authorities was the ban on food export, and then the obligation to replace part of cotton crops in the fields by food crops.17 It was a shortfall for the country and at the same time prices of consumer commodities rose sharply. Some profiteers took advantage of this situation but for the majority, especially the fallāh, the lower classes or the unemployed, the living conditions worsened. Furthermore, there were requisitions. Abbās Hilmī, the former Khedive deposed in 1914, explained: Egypt “supplied food, fodder, ropes, tents, labourers, the Service Corps, the donkeys and the camels, for the burning deserts”.18 Egyptian young men were not recruited into the fighting forces. It was a promise of General Maxwell, Commander of the Force in Egypt who, as soon as the war with the Ottoman Empire began, had said that England would shoulder the burden of the war without the help of the Egyptians. He wanted to avoid conflicting loyalties.19 From 1915 there were recruitments in the “Egyptian Labour Corps” (ELC) in order to help lay lines of communication. For example, the railroad was doubled between Zagazig and Ismailia and a water pipe of 200 miles with 17 stages was set up across the Sinai Desert from the banks of the Nile to the Palestine frontier.20 Through ELC, several thousand Egyptians went to Palestine, Mesopotamia and even France.21 In June 1917, there were almost 186,000 “volunteers”. The work was hard and the pay low, but there were some benefits regarding food.22 Recruitment was voluntary at the beginning and then became compulsory.23 The “Camel Transport Corp” was an outgrowth of the ELC and also needed men. It rallied a total of 28,305 drivers and attendants in June 1917. It gathered 17 companies of 2,000 camels.24

  • 25 Amin Ghali 1969, 148.

11During the war years Egyptians did not express their growing discontent. Some laments however said: “My village, my village, the military authorities took my son!” or “Sorry Wingate, our country falls into ruins. You seized camels and donkeys without compensation. Oh men, have mercy on us”.25 The British presence was not really felt in the countryside until the war. It was not a real burden, as until the First World War even Egypt had changed positively. The heavy demands of the war, the worsening economic situation, and the behaviour of the imperial troops (who could be very vulgar or licentious) however changed the feelings of most classes of the Egyptian population. Alcohol and fights ruined the prestige of the British and their Empire. The malaise became general and nationalist ideas that used to be defended only by a small group of intellectuals spread. Henceforth the feeling of alienation from Britain was shared by country people. The anger swelled. The British authorities were conscious of this evolution and carrying of firearms was prohibited starting May 1917.

12The unpopularity of the British occupation was put down to the protectorate. At the end of the war, the Egyptians claimed the independence of their country.

13In Sudan, the situation was different. Sudan was quite far from the main battlefields. There was no need to accommodate imperial troops. Instead some practical problems occurred due to the departure of several officers and officials who chose to go back to England. Requisitions and recruitments of labour did not take place. There were no supply difficulties either. But British authorities were in dread of an uprising, owing to the Ottoman Caliph’s call for jihād. Additionally, Wingate did not trust the loyalty of the Egyptian army, young officers in particular. He warned Lord Cromer saying:

  • 26 SAD 192/2, Wingate to Cromer, 27 Nov. 1914, quoted by Daly 2003, 159.

One must remember that many of them have Turkish blood in their veins and are connected with Turkish families. The majority of the younger officers, who come from the Cairo schools, which are the home of Nationalist propaganda and anti-English, and, in some cases, pro-Turkish ideas, were, I knew, the dangerous element.26

  • 27 Hill 1965, 118-142.

14Measures were taken to ward off the threat. Citizens of the enemy counties were thus hunted. Even Slatin Pasha, an Austrian national who has been the director of intelligence in Sudan until 1914, was not authorised to return to Sudan after the war had been declared.27

  • 28 Warburg 2003, 77.
  • 29 He was born three weeks after his father’s death.

15The most remarkable measure undertaken to counter a movement of resistance consisted in obtaining the support of leading Sudanese figures, leaders of popular Islam in particular. It was a complete turnaround of the British religious policy in Sudan. Until then the administration had fostered an “orthodox” Islam supervised by ulama. In August 1915, nearly 500 religious leaders, shaykhs of sufi orders and tribes, signed the “Sudan Book of Loyalty” in which they declared their full support for Britain and its allies.28 Among them was Sayyid ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, the posthumous son of the Mahdi.29 Mahdism was still popular, despite its defeat in 1898, so that Wingate thought it was important to better manage relations with the leader of this religious movement. Sayyid ‘Abd al-Raḥmān was restored in the political life of Sudan thanks to the First World War.

  • 30 SAD 192/3, Wingate to Herbert, 23 Dec. 1914, quoted by Daly 2003, 155.
  • 31 NA, Lord Kitchener’s paper, 30/57/47, Wingate to MacMahon 2 Jun. 1915, quoted by Daly 2003, 155.

16The second noticeable element regarding the impact of the war in Sudan is the way Wingate perceived the war itself. For him, the war was an opportunity to achieve the separation of Sudan from Egypt. Very shortly after the protectorate was established, Wingate explained to the Foreign Office that the modification of the status of Egypt “makes Sudan more British than ever and I am inclined to think that the time is not far distant when it may be possible to have a Sudan Army”.30 The existence of a Sudan army would lead to the evacuation of the Egyptian army out of Sudan, and then to the end of the Egyptian presence. For Wingate, the second opportunity was the nomination of MacMahon, who came to discover the Nile Valley after working in the Indian administration, as high commissioner. Wingate thought that he could easily convince MacMahon of the validity of his opinion with regards to the future of Sudan. He did not hesitate to explain “that Sudanese loyalty during the war was based, in part, on the assurance that they would ‘never again be governed from Egypt’”.31 Despite these efforts, and even when Wingate became high commissioner in Cairo in January 1917, nothing happened during the war as far as Sudan was concerned.

After the War, Egypt’s Claim for Independence

  • 32 The record of the discussion has been published by the Wafd and reproduced in Sabry, 1921, 11, quot (...)

17On 13 November 1918, three members of the Legislative Assembly prorogued at the beginning of the war met the high commissioner and requested to be allowed to go to London and present the Egyptian demand. “Complete independence is the supreme and unique goal of all Egyptians”32 they told Sir Wingate. This claim was supported by the speeches and promises made during the war: the British commitment to grant independence to the Arabs of the Peninsula, who were less developed than they were in the eyes of the Egyptian people; President Wilson’s speech that recognised peoples’ right for self-determination as the new pattern of international relations; and the Franco-British statement on Ottoman territories released on 7 November 1918. The British government refused to receive the delegation and to debate about the rights of Egypt. For Sa‘ad Zaghlūl, it was very important to appear as the representative of the will of the nation in order to be heard by British authorities.

18He consequently doubled his representativeness as deputy, and requested popular backing throughout the country. All over the country, petitions were sent in support of the delegation, al-Wafd al-Misrī, newly created by Zaghlūl and his fellows. Approximately 100,000 signatures were gathered. British authorities however kept on refusing; they even refused to receive the Egyptians in London. Disappointed, the prime minister chose to resign. He thought he had proved his loyalty enough during the war. Faced with a growing nationalist unrest, the British decided to arrest and exile the main leaders of the Wafd. They used strong-arm tactics, which resulted in a series of demonstrations, massive strikes, acts of sabotage and assassination attempts. For the French consul in Alexandria, the choice of the British authorities was poor. The right way would have been “to give these men obvious satisfaction”. He explained his viewpoint:

  • 33 FMFAA 1918-1929, Egypt file 12 p. 51, Consulat de France à Alexandrie, 19 Mar. 1919. “Rougdi studie (...)

Rougdi [sic] notamment a fait toutes ses études à Montpellier et à Paris. Brillant étudiant, il a conservé le meilleur souvenir de ses années d’étudiant, c’est un joyeux compagnon. Il n’y avait qu’à inviter l’ambassade d’Angleterre à distraire fortement ces messieurs. Beaucoup de champagne et quelques vertus facile [sic] auraient déjà calmé les ardeurs politiques. À Londres avec quelques titres de Sir et décorations, beaucoup de bonnes paroles on aurait eu facilement raison de leur humeur combattive. On a préféré la manière forte. Je persiste à croire que c’est une erreur. Aujourd’hui c’est le pays tout entier qui est en effervescence.33

  • 34 De Gayffier-Bonneville 2017.

19This was a somewhat cynical advice, but French diplomats generally agreed on the fact that repression was a mistake.34

  • 35 It was the slogan of the Nationalist Party founded by Muṣṭafā Kāmil in 1907.
  • 36 Hourani 1991, 209.
  • 37 Adelson 1995, 79.

20What struck people at the time most was the unanimity of the Egyptian population in terms of commitment. Before the First World War, nationalist requests such as “immediate evacuation without condition”35 had already been expressed and nationalist parties had already formed, but only a small part of the population was concerned by this question. In 1906 after the Dinshawai Incident, and in 1908 when the passionate nationalist leader Muṣṭafā Kāmil died, the Egyptians had yet displayed a deep sense of community. The Egyptian jurist and reformer Qasim Amin said that, on these two occasions, he had felt Egypt’s heart pounding.36 That was the exact feeling Muṣṭafā Kāmil hoped to awake in Egypt, but it had been short lived. On 20 February 1910, the Prime Minister Buṭros Ghālī, a Coptic, was murdered. His assassination aroused sensitivity about identity and brought about political tension. Lord Kitchener was then appointed in Egypt and was commissioned to restore order in the country. The nationalists were prosecuted: about 12,000 people were arrested and 300 deported.37 Kitchener maintained strict control over political actions for three years. The following war years were rather quiet so the nationalist upsurge of 1919 was unexpected. The call launched by the Wafd and the circulation of petitions were a good way to involve the people in the struggle for independence.

  • 38 Pernot, ‘L’inquiétude de l’Orient’, Revue des Deux Mondes, 15 juin 1926, 776. “Workers and fellahs (...)
  • 39 800 dead and 3,600 wounded among the Egyptians according to British authorities.

21The country was prompted by a tremendous patriotic fervour. Social and religious divisions no longer existed. The French journal Revue des Deux Mondes explained to its readers: “Ouvriers et fellahs font cause commune avec les étudiants. Les coptes s’unissent aux musulmans. C’est une révolte générale”.38 Even women joined the movement and left their confinement in March 1919 to protest against British violence and repression. The unanimity and determination of the early days did not weaken, despite casualties.39

  • 40 FMFAA, 1918-1929, Egypt file 12, p. 76, Lefebvre-Portalis to Pichon, 68, Mar. 1919.
  • 41 10 and 12 Apr. 1919. Quoted in French by Sabry 1919, 6-7, 11, 17.
  • 42 Ibid.

22There was some questioning about the real nature of the Egyptian movement: some French diplomats wondered if it had something to do with bolshevism. Others feared the unrest to be initiated and manipulated by the Germans.40 The Manchester Guardian published two articles on the Egyptian uprising in April 1919.41 They called into question the British policy in Egypt during the war: the enlistment, the requisitions, and the censorship: “the policy of silence and disinformation has been brought to such an extent in Egypt that no one in England can understand them”.42

  • 43 Quoted by Goldschmidt Jr. 2004, 70.

23In April 1919, the US delegation in Paris issued a statement recognising the British protectorate over Egypt and in May, the protectorate was included in the Treaty of Versailles, article 147. For British authorities it changed what was at stake in Egypt; from now on the protectorate was embodied in an international agreement. A few days before, the Egyptian nationalist leaders had been released and authorised to go to Europe, and especially to Versailles where the Peace Conference was being held. They were very disappointed by this news. Violence decreased in Egypt but the Egyptians did not give up. A new approach including the slogan of non-cooperation began. The prime minister resigned. Once again Egypt did not have a government. In order to find a way out of the political crisis, London decided to send a commission to examine the causes of the unrest and to report “on the form of Constitution which, under the Protectorate, will be the best calculated to promote its peace and prosperity, the progressive development of self-governing institutions and the protection of foreign interests”.43 Complying with the requests for independence was not considered.

24The Milner Mission was boycotted by almost all the Egyptians, who implemented the watch-word spread by the Wafd. It was a clear rejection of discussions regarding the continuation of the protectorate. Lord Milner and his colleagues were very impressed by this consensus. Back in London, they undertook informal discussions with Sa‘ad Zaghlūl. Together with him they drafted the first version of a treaty between Britain and Egypt in which Egypt would become independent.

  • 44 “Le gouvernement d’un pays en état d’hostilité aiguë qui nous accuse de déloyauté et mauvaise foi d (...)

25In February 1921, the report of the Mission was published. For Lord Milner, the aspirations of Egyptian nationalism could not be smothered44 even though, in his opinion, this feeling was only shared by a minority. The report suggested that the protectorate was no longer suitable and that a treaty should be concluded between the two countries in order to safeguard United Kingdom’s “special interests”.

26The two delegations did not reach an agreement. Once again, the prime minister resigned and Egypt was without government at the end of 1921. The recognition of independence was an essential prerequisite for any new prime minister. Hoping to restore order and to resume negotiations, the British exiled Zaghlūl and his fellows for the second time, but it led to a renewal of tensions: strikes, demonstrations, riots and terrorism.

  • 45 Foreign Office Circular to British Diplomatic missions, 15 Mar. 1922 in Hurewitz 1956, 103.
  • 46 Allenby’s Declaration to Egypt, 28 Feb. 1922, in Hurewitz 1956, 102.

27On 28 February 1922, the high commissioner issued a unilateral Declaration of Independence. Egypt became “an independent sovereign State” but “certain matters in which the interests and obligations of the British Empire are especially involved”45 were “reserved to the discretion of His Majesty’s Government”.46 Consequently, British soldiers stayed in Egypt waiting for an agreement to be finalised. The High Commissioner Field Marshall Viscount Allenby had pressured the British government to obtain this because he thought it was the only way to restore order. Other factors also came into play: at this time, Great Britain faced major post-war economic difficulties and colonial tensions such as the Irish war of independence or unrest in India. In this context, Egypt was not a priority for London.

Protecting Sudan from Nationalist Contagion by Separating Sudan from Egypt

28The events happening in Egypt were followed in Sudan, and not only by the Egyptians. In April 1919, when the Revolution in Egypt was very violent, Sudanese notables took sides in this conflict; they congratulated Great Britain for its victory in the war and expressed their wishes to see British domination continuing. At the end of the war, clubs where political issues were discussed were additionally founded by young educated Sudanese. A nationalist feeling arose among them and British officials were inclined to see Egyptian hands behind this awaking of nationalist aspirations.

  • 47 Here is the vision of a French diplomat in 1918: “Par gouvernement soudanais il faut entendre gouve (...)
  • 48 Daly 2003, 269.
  • 49 De Gayffier-Bonneville 2015, 112-113.
  • 50 Daly 2003, 300.
  • 51 Daly 2003, 307.
  • 52 Vezzadini 2012; Johnson 1988, 142-156.

29The Government of Sudan already had a negative image of the Egyptians in Sudan, despite the fact that their role was limited and they mainly occupied low-level positions in the administration.47 Even the way the Egyptian Army in Sudan remained quiet during the three years of unrest in Egypt was interpreted as proof of cowardice from Egyptian soldiers.48 The Egyptian Revolution convinced British authorities that the idea of separating Sudan from Egypt and removing Egyptians from the country,49 which had already been expressed in the past, had to be followed. On not less than two occasions before Egypt obtained its independence, British political leaders had already expressed this view. In October 1920 after the break down of negotiations between Milner and Zaghlūl, Foreign Secretary Lord Curzon wrote that “the complete political and military independence of Sudan” was “the ulterior object which British interest” demanded.50 The Milner report recommended in February 1921 an “independent development” for Sudan. Plans for an Egyptian evacuation were drawn up.51 The possibility of creating a Sudan military force as a substitute for the Egyptian army based in Sudan was specifically examined. This force would allow the links with Egypt to be broken in two ways: the Egyptian soldiers would not have any more reasons to stay in Sudan and, more symbolically, Sudanese battalions could be released from swearing allegiance to the King of Egypt.52

  • 53 NA, FO371/7738 E12207/1/16, Allenby to Curzon, 30 Oct. 1922.

30Sudan, which was one of the aspects at the discretion of the British in the Declaration of Independence, soon became a controversial matter between independent Egypt and Great Britain. The British began hostilities: in the Egyptian draft constitution, they vetoed firmly the article on the title of the King. Lord Allenby strongly rejected the formula “King of Egypt and Sudan”53 and was prepared to depose the monarch if he did not comply with this. A few months later, Sa‘ad Zaghlūl, prime minister since January 1924, claimed that Sudan belonged to Egypt. The British Government answered that they would not abandon it. The British were then determined to take the first opportunity to seize the Sudanese administration alone, and remove the bulk of Egyptian people settled in Sudan.

  • 54 The expression is borrowed from Daly 2003, 311.

31On 19 November 1924, the assassination of Sir Lee Stack, governor general of Sudan and Sirdar (i.e. “commander in chief”) of the Egyptian army, by Egyptian extremists in Cairo turned out to be the long-sought occasion. Allenby carried out the “coup”54 by serving an ultimatum which demanded inter alia the withdrawal of all Egyptian officers and army units from Sudan within 24 hours. Almost all the Egyptians left Sudan. Nevertheless, it was not the end of the condominium, which now looked like an empty shell, except from a financial point of view because the Egyptian Government kept on providing the Sudanese Revenue Department with an annual subvention. This British policy contributed to the fracture of the Nile Valley thirty years later because Egypt and Sudan developed separately from this time on.

  • 55 De Gayffier-Bonneville 2005, 37-43.

32The colonial order in the Nile Valley was temporarily perturbed by the First World War and its immediate economic consequences. The British re-established their domination. Egypt restored its sovereignty, but it was incomplete: the independence was a trompe-l’oeil. The means used by the British to exercise a real influence were less visible and direct, as they were achieved through the new organisation of powers. The establishment of a constitutional monarchy arose partly under British pressure. Thanks to this institutional architecture, political competition was fostered. The high commissioner thus kept a major role in the new Egyptian political game: he became an arbiter between the King, his followers, and the Wafd, who would have preferred another division of powers, namely a sovereign with very limited powers, a King who reigns but does not govern.55 As “high commissioner”, or “ambassador” after the signature of the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty in 1936, the representative of the United Kingdom would have an important part to play until 1945 and the Labour victory in England. Ultimately, the First World War helped reshape the forms of domination.

33As for Sudan, the British achieved their goal: the expression of an Egyptian national feeling gave them the opportunity to shatter the unity of the Nile Valley. This policy was indeed another way of regaining control over this area.

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Notes

1 De Gayffier-Bonneville 2008, 71-73.

2 For example Ulrichsen 2014; Kitchen 2014.

3 Mortlock 2011; Woodward 2006.

4 Moreau 2016, 181-182.

5 Hadaway 2014; Slight 2014.

6 Rogan 2015, 250.

7 Daly 2003, 175.

8 University of Durham Library, Durham, Sudan Archive [SAD], 196/1, Wingate to Fitzgerald, 28 July 1915, quoted by Daly 2003, 177.

9 For the life of Sir Reginald Wingate, see Daly 1997.

10 Cassar 2016.

11 Sligh 2010.

12 British National Archives, London [NA], FO141/426/1006, Wingate to MacMahon, 23 Mar. 1916, quoted by Daly 2003, 190.

13 SAD 127/3, MacMichael, ‘Memorandum. Concerning the future status of Darfur’, Symes to MacMichael, 29 Sep. 1915, quoted by Daly 2003, 189.

14 SAD 127/7 MacMichael, “Memorandum. Concerning the administrative policy to be followed in Darfur in the immediate future”, 6 Mar. 1916, quoted by Daly, 2003, 190.

15 “M. Milne Cheetham, qui fait l’intérim de lord Kitchener, n’a pas l’autorité dont il serait désirable de voir actuellement investi le Représentant britannique” wrote Defrance, French consul in Egypt, first in August 1914 and again in October. French Ministry of Foreign Affairs Archives, Paris, [FMFAA], file 1563, Defrance 352, 31 Aug. 1914; 394, 16 Oct. 1914; 399, 22 Oct. 1914.

16 FMFAA, vol. 1564, Defrance, 457, Le Caire, 23 Dec. 1914. “Egyptian have the feeling that their country breaks off Islam, that it becomes a European State, almost Christian and they don’t understand how their new sovereign, though Muslim and Egyptian, may be given his power by England and not by a Muslim authority as the Calif”.

17 On 9 Sep. 1917, a decree forbids planting with cotton more than a third of a piece of ground where food grains could grow: FMFAA, ‘Note sur la situation économique et politique de l’Egypte, sous-direction d’Afrique’, 29 March 1919.

18 Abbas Hilmi 1996, 215.

19 FMFAA, 1564, Defrance, 150, Cairo, 7 Nov. 1914.

20 Bullock 1988, 28-29.

21 Amin Ghali 1969, 144.

22 Bullock 1988, 23.

23 Vatikiotis 1991, 254.

24 Bullock 1988, 23, 26-27.

25 Amin Ghali 1969, 148.

26 SAD 192/2, Wingate to Cromer, 27 Nov. 1914, quoted by Daly 2003, 159.

27 Hill 1965, 118-142.

28 Warburg 2003, 77.

29 He was born three weeks after his father’s death.

30 SAD 192/3, Wingate to Herbert, 23 Dec. 1914, quoted by Daly 2003, 155.

31 NA, Lord Kitchener’s paper, 30/57/47, Wingate to MacMahon 2 Jun. 1915, quoted by Daly 2003, 155.

32 The record of the discussion has been published by the Wafd and reproduced in Sabry, 1921, 11, quoted by Ghali, 1969, 162-164.

33 FMFAA 1918-1929, Egypt file 12 p. 51, Consulat de France à Alexandrie, 19 Mar. 1919. “Rougdi studied entirely in Montpellier and Paris. Brilliant student, he kept the best memories of his student years, he is a happy fellow. The Embassy of England should have distracted the attention of these gentlemen. Lot of champagne and women of easy virtues would have calmed down their political keenness. In London, a few titles, decorations and fine words would have wept out their combativeness. Strong measures have been preferred. I continue to believe it is a mistake. Today, the whole country is in turmoil”.

34 De Gayffier-Bonneville 2017.

35 It was the slogan of the Nationalist Party founded by Muṣṭafā Kāmil in 1907.

36 Hourani 1991, 209.

37 Adelson 1995, 79.

38 Pernot, ‘L’inquiétude de l’Orient’, Revue des Deux Mondes, 15 juin 1926, 776. “Workers and fellahs make common cause with students. Copts unite with Muslims. It is a general revolt”.

39 800 dead and 3,600 wounded among the Egyptians according to British authorities.

40 FMFAA, 1918-1929, Egypt file 12, p. 76, Lefebvre-Portalis to Pichon, 68, Mar. 1919.

41 10 and 12 Apr. 1919. Quoted in French by Sabry 1919, 6-7, 11, 17.

42 Ibid.

43 Quoted by Goldschmidt Jr. 2004, 70.

44 “Le gouvernement d’un pays en état d’hostilité aiguë qui nous accuse de déloyauté et mauvaise foi devient une tâche difficile et répugnante à la fois pour ceux qui en ont la charge et pour le peuple anglais qui en a la responsabilité”. Translated and quoted by Amin Ghali 1969, 191.

45 Foreign Office Circular to British Diplomatic missions, 15 Mar. 1922 in Hurewitz 1956, 103.

46 Allenby’s Declaration to Egypt, 28 Feb. 1922, in Hurewitz 1956, 102.

47 Here is the vision of a French diplomat in 1918: “Par gouvernement soudanais il faut entendre gouvernement britannique. Le gouvernement du sultan d’Egypte est demeuré ce que le qualifiait le général Gordon une fiction. Il serait aujourd’hui même plus exact de dire: au Sudan [sic] égyptien il n’est qu’une fiction fantomale [en rouge dans le texte]”. FMFAA, 1918-1929 Egypt file 12, 83.

48 Daly 2003, 269.

49 De Gayffier-Bonneville 2015, 112-113.

50 Daly 2003, 300.

51 Daly 2003, 307.

52 Vezzadini 2012; Johnson 1988, 142-156.

53 NA, FO371/7738 E12207/1/16, Allenby to Curzon, 30 Oct. 1922.

54 The expression is borrowed from Daly 2003, 311.

55 De Gayffier-Bonneville 2005, 37-43.

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