The French Fashoda Expedition, 1896-99

Patricia Wright describes how the French arrival upon the Upper Nile caused an international crisis.

I. The Makings of a Crisis

The bare facts of the 1898 Fashoda crisis are widely known, while the slaughter of Omdurman, which preceded it, made world headlines at the time and has formed the basis for countless books and films ever since. What is much less well known in this country is the extraordinary achievement of the French ‘Expédition du Congo-Nil’, before it was encountered by Kitchener’s victorious troops at Fashoda another 500 miles further south from the battlefield of Omdurman.

The French had resented the British occupation of Egypt in 1882 and relations between the two states were bedevilled by the Egyptian question. As early as January 1893 a French hydrologist, Victor Prompt, had delivered a paper before the Institut Egyptien in Paris, arguing the possibilities inherent in the construction of a dam north of the confluence of the White Nile and the Sobat - that is, in the Fashoda area.

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