The British invasion of Egypt in 1882 bears a depressing resemblance to the abortive Anglo-French campaign on the Suez Canal in 1956, except that the earlier adventure was handled so much more efficiently and was successfully carried through. In 1882, as in 1956, the cry of Egypt for the Egyptians was raised, and Colonel Arabi, like Colonel Nasser, emerged from the obscurity of the Egyptian army to become the leader of the nation against the Western invader. Then, as later, Britain was divided against herself except for a short time when the hostilities were joined, since there were many people in England who abhorred the whole affair.
In similar circumstances too, pride became as quickly involved. It was the familiar pattern; all at once the national blood mounts up on either side, the national honour is engaged, and a thousand reasons are discovered for military action. In Egypt the British become rapacious bullying monsters. In England the Egyptians are described as 'terrorists' who break all pledges and murder innocent European civilians, and it becomes an imperative necessity that troops must be landed to restore law and order. And so the crisis sweeps on from riots to ultimatums, and finally to war.
Tags: Alan Moorehead, The White Nile, war