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Khartoum The Ultimate Imperial Adventure

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The British campaign in the Sudan in ueen Victoria's reign is an epic tale of adventure thrilling than any fiction The story begins with the massacre of the 11000 strong Hicks Pasha column in 1883 Sent to evacuate the country British hero General Gordon was surrounded and murdered in Khartoum by an army of dervishes led by the Mahdi The relief mission arrive. Having read much on the British Army in the twentieth century and on Victorian society and empire one area I had done little than scratch the surface the sand even was Sudan The reader is given a background to the political arrangements and past rulers up to the British presence in what was a sideshow for the Empire when compared to South Africa and the shining jewel India This British interest and clearly at times in London plain disinterest and a man who is God's Expected One The Mahdi are the centre for a war that would see the world's first islamic state rise from defeating the 19th century's superpower; before Victoria's men expunged the memory of defeat 14 years laterThe land much blood was spilt on and over was a mix of harsh and unforgiving landscapes with at its heart a thin ribbon of green vegetation emanating from the river Nile and it's two tributaries the White and Blue Nile populated by nomadic tribes or people who lived in abject poverty in the few towns with little infrastructureMr Asher provides excellent descriptions on both forces including the main characters their relationships influences and organisation including the building of a railway – it is Victorian Britain after all so you’d expect it – surveyed with great skill by members of the Royal Engineers He also clearly knows the country well and his descriptions of the land and the areas where battles were fought are excellent To my mind he provides a fair assessment of both armies during the two separate and distinct phases of the war and the tactics used Although Britain was a modern power with well trained troops and considerable firepower at its disposal it would be wrong to think of the native forces as only having spears swords and shields They did and employed these with both skill and courage but they also used firearms and artillery and when coupled with their traditional warrior culture and sheer weight of numbers they were a formidable foe to be treated with caution and respectMichael Asher's informative exciting and balanced account of the wars during the period 1883 1898 was a perfect entry for me It has left me wanting to read and has added to my knowledge of Gordon particularly Lord Kitchener and the most of all Sudan; a country that today has a population of some 42 million people and since the 1950s has been beset by civil wars and strife that look set to continue for some time yet in one of the world’s most complex geo political areas MacArthur: America's General (The Generals Series) ueen Victoria's reign is an epic tale of adventure thrilling than any fiction The story begins with the massacre of the 11000 strong Hicks Pasha column in 1883 Sent to evacuate the country British hero General Gordon was surrounded and murdered in Khartoum by an army of dervishes led by the Mahdi The relief mission arrive. Having read much on the British Army in the twentieth century and on Victorian society and empire one area I had done little than scratch the surface the sand even was Sudan The reader is given a background to the political arrangements and past rulers Es war einmal ein Mord up to the British presence in what was a sideshow for the Empire when compared to South Africa and the shining jewel India This British interest and clearly at times in London plain disinterest and a man who is God's Expected One The Mahdi are the centre for a war that would see the world's first islamic state rise from defeating the 19th century's superpower; before Victoria's men expunged the memory of defeat 14 years laterThe land much blood was spilt on and over was a mix of harsh and Bruder Kemal unforgiving landscapes with at its heart a thin ribbon of green vegetation emanating from the river Nile and it's two tributaries the White and Blue Nile populated by nomadic tribes or people who lived in abject poverty in the few towns with little infrastructureMr Asher provides excellent descriptions on both forces including the main characters their relationships influences and organisation including the building of a railway – it is Victorian Britain after all so you’d expect it – surveyed with great skill by members of the Royal Engineers He also clearly knows the country well and his descriptions of the land and the areas where battles were fought are excellent To my mind he provides a fair assessment of both armies during the two separate and distinct phases of the war and the tactics Řídících Márinka (Řídících Márinka, used Although Britain was a modern power with well trained troops and considerable firepower at its disposal it would be wrong to think of the native forces as only having spears swords and shields They did and employed these with both skill and courage but they also あばれんぼハニー (Abarenbo Honey) Vol.02 used firearms and artillery and when coupled with their traditional warrior culture and sheer weight of numbers they were a formidable foe to be treated with caution and respectMichael Asher's informative exciting and balanced account of the wars during the period 1883 1898 was a perfect entry for me It has left me wanting to read and has added to my knowledge of Gordon particularly Lord Kitchener and the most of all Sudan; a country that today has a population of some 42 million people and since the 1950s has been beset by civil wars and strife that look set to continue for some time yet in one of the world’s most complex geo political areas

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Uthor Michael Asher has reconstructed this classic tale in vivid detail Having covered every inch of the ground and examined all eyewitness reports he brings to bear new evidence uestioning several accepted aspects of the story The result is an account that sheds new light on the most riveting tale of honour courage revenge and savagery of late Victorian tim. This was a great and fairly balanced despite than occasional flashes of old school gung ho rah rah type British patriotism style telling of both of the Mahdist Wars between the British some Sudanese and Egyptians on one side and most Sudanese following the self declared Mahdi on the other The details from the battles is particularly great and as fun and shocking to read as if they had been written in narrative fictionThe only potential drawback is that this book did not include the non Anglo Egyptian involved Mahdist wars such as the skirmishes with the Italians in Eritrea or most interesting of all the large pell mel war fought between Sudan and Ethiopia In one of the battles there Meneilik II defeated the Mahdists before then going on to defeat the Italians later on These actions could have been included to show just the scope of events in the Sudan during the late 19th Century Man A Machine uestioning several accepted aspects of the story The result is an account that sheds new light on the most riveting tale of honour courage revenge and savagery of late Victorian tim. This was a great and fairly balanced despite than occasional flashes of old school gung ho rah rah type British patriotism style telling of both of the Mahdist Wars between the British some Sudanese and Egyptians on one side and most Sudanese following the self declared Mahdi on the other The details from the battles is particularly great and as fun and shocking to read as if they had been written in narrative fictionThe only potential drawback is that this book did not include the non Anglo Egyptian involved Mahdist wars such as the skirmishes with the Italians in Eritrea or most interesting of all the large pell mel war fought between Sudan and Ethiopia In one of the battles there Meneilik II defeated the Mahdists before then going on to defeat the Italians later on These actions could have been included to show just the scope of events in the Sudan during the late 19th Century

Michael Asher º 6 read & download

D 2 days too late The result was a national scandal that shocked the ueen and led to the fall of the British government Twelve years later it was the brilliant Herbert Kitchener who struck back Achieving the impossible he built a railway across the desert to transport his troops to the final devastating confrontation at Omdurman in 1898 Desert explorer and a. This is a historical period that has long interested me It covers the time between 1880 1898 in the Sudan I remember that as a young boy fascinated by maps I had been curious at the designation of the “Anglo Egyptian Sudan” on the map It was huge and the Nile flowed right through it I wondered how it had been both British and Egyptian As a college student of Asian civilizations I had done a large research project on the Taiping rebellion in China in the 19th Century and there found mention of a charismatic leader Charles Gordon who had helped end the conflict and seemed to be a principled and righteous British officer who often went against his orders and always did what he thought was right and usually acted to reduce the suffering of the people he was dealing with There was a mention there that he had died defending Khartoum in the Sudan My interest was raised and when I saw a trashy paperback in a bookstore I bought it and uickly read Gordon of Khartoum It was uite a fanciful retelling of the story of how Gordon was governor general of the Sudan when it was ruled by the Turks Egyptians British how he had worked to end the slave trade and eventually was reappointed elsewhere He was brought back to Khartoum to “rescue” the country from an Islamic fundamentalist leader the Mahdi “expected one” who would purify Islam or so the legend went Gordon had died defending the city because the relief column sent to rescue him arrived about 18 hours too late I knew it was largely history romanticized but I enjoyed it I certainly was not as aware as I am now so the story of a righteous Christian imperialist dying defending his beloved people appealed to me Later I saw the movie of the same name staring Charlton Heston which I instantly sensed was entertaining but a load of tripeAs I was browsing the bookstore shelves buying books for my trip to Mexico a very serious undertaking I saw this volume inspected it and bought it hoping that I would now have a historically accurate picture of the eventsAs usual I began by finding out about the author Some background information usually helps me ascertain my feelings about the text He had been a British military officer in the SAS and then had become an author achieving much success in many different types of writing He also was fascinated by this region of the world and had won awards for desert exploration in the Sudan from the Royal Geographic Society He lived in Sudan for ten years and spoke fluent Arabic He now lives in Kenya with his Arabist wife and two childrenThis text is in fact a very detailed retelling of the entire story from the original massacre of the Anglo Egyptian force under Hicks in 1883 by the Mahdi to the fall of Khartoum to the Mahdi including Gordon’s death to the eventual capture of Khartoum by Kitchener in 1899 There are several interesting points about the text that are worth rememberingFirst it seems somewhat balanced A European will always tell such a story from a European perspective but he did try to balance the story He was very critical of the British officer corps for its lack of military competence its reward of “chumminess” over skill the purchase of commissions and its indifference and hostility to those who were part of the British Empire His indictment of many officers was specific and cutting These elements were interesting to me as they showed the arrogance of the British forces in specific detail with stories of specific officers and how they behaved He showed remarkable respect for the Sudanese people their various cultures and their tremendous survival skills He talks a lot about how the Beja specifically had been defeating invading armies since the time of the Pharaohs and had always been successful He specifically praises the skills and cleverness of the Haddendowa leaders Osman Digna a survivor who outlived it all His salute to the Sudanese as fighters also seems sincere whether for the courage of those fighting for the Mahdi and for the steadiness and reliability of the Sudanese and Egyptians who fought with the British His strongest indictment comes of the Turco Egyptian ruling class both in Sudan and Egypt as corrupt cowardly and self centered He seems to agree with Gordon that they were the roots of the problem there and that the people had good reason to rise up against them Asher’s reliance on British sources is to be expected but he also seems to have used many Arabic sources as well as oral histories in telling the storySecond he saw the conflict as not exclusively religious The Mahdi provided a charismatic figure around which to rally and while many did so for religious reasons there were also many practical reasons to support this regime given the corruption and mismanagement of the Turco Egyptian government Many of the ethic groups had not rallied to the Mahdi but when the existing government collapsed and Gordon was killed they naturally rallied to the winning side Likewise when the Mahdi died soon after the fall of Khartoum the Islamist state introduced by his successor was a bit too harsh for them and fractures began to develop along ethnic linesThird the descriptions of the battles themselves are detailed and horrifying I wish I had read this as a boy and it might have cured me of some of the lingering military romanticism that it took me another ten years to eliminate His descriptions of steel on steel battles uite often the British steel failed and the movements of troops were also gripping The fact that many battles were over uickly but seemed like an eternity was fleshed out by substantial detail and comments written later by soldiers who survived His strongest salute was to the individual soldiers who showed courage and determination in the face of tremendous adversity both with the opponents and with the elementsFourth water was often the key Running around the desert with large military forces reuires water and it was often pivotal British forces that came upon a watering hole defended by forces of he Mahdi had no choice but to attack as did the Mahdi’s successor near the end of the conflict The railroads that were built solved some of this problem but even they had to carry huge amounts of water to power the steam engines and at one point half of the train was carrying water for itself One interesting story is how a surveyor and water diviner brought in by the British actually found two new water supplies that were critical in assisting them cross a route no native would think could be usedFifth the book does a good job of setting the stage for the modern phase of Islamic fundamentalism without becoming too preachy This was one of the first truly Islamic states established and was the only colony to win independence by force of arms in Africa The agenda of the Mahdi and his regime very much set the stage for future Sudanese politics and the rise of Bashir in 1989 Osama bin Laden spent years in Sudan soaking up the teachings of the Mahdi and his modern followers It also documented the severe ethnic divides in the country that are being played out today in the crisis in Darfur I liked the way he made his point but let the reader draw his or her own conclusionsIt was a very good read and I would commend it to all persons of a serious bent Now that I have some additional solid information about the period I am perhaps ready to engage my colleague at the University of Vermont Darius Jonathan who is from Sudan as well as my friend Hassan Suleiman who I met in atar also a Sudanese Then I might really start learning Moon on the Water ueen and led to the fall of the British government Twelve years later it was the brilliant Herbert Kitchener who struck back Achieving the impossible he built a railway across the desert to transport his troops to the final devastating confrontation at Omdurman in 1898 Desert explorer and a. This is a historical period that has long interested me It covers the time between 1880 1898 in the Sudan I remember that as a young boy fascinated by maps I had been curious at the designation of the “Anglo Egyptian Sudan” on the map It was huge and the Nile flowed right through it I wondered how it had been both British and Egyptian As a college student of Asian civilizations I had done a large research project on the Taiping rebellion in China in the 19th Century and there found mention of a charismatic leader Charles Gordon who had helped end the conflict and seemed to be a principled and righteous British officer who often went against his orders and always did what he thought was right and Just like Grey (Series ONE Complete Set): Billionaire Romance usually acted to reduce the suffering of the people he was dealing with There was a mention there that he had died defending Khartoum in the Sudan My interest was raised and when I saw a trashy paperback in a bookstore I bought it and Viridiana uickly read Gordon of Khartoum It was Иудейская война uite a fanciful retelling of the story of how Gordon was governor general of the Sudan when it was ruled by the Turks Egyptians British how he had worked to end the slave trade and eventually was reappointed elsewhere He was brought back to Khartoum to “rescue” the country from an Islamic fundamentalist leader the Mahdi “expected one” who would purify Islam or so the legend went Gordon had died defending the city because the relief column sent to rescue him arrived about 18 hours too late I knew it was largely history romanticized but I enjoyed it I certainly was not as aware as I am now so the story of a righteous Christian imperialist dying defending his beloved people appealed to me Later I saw the movie of the same name staring Charlton Heston which I instantly sensed was entertaining but a load of tripeAs I was browsing the bookstore shelves buying books for my trip to Mexico a very serious DAX undertaking I saw this volume inspected it and bought it hoping that I would now have a historically accurate picture of the eventsAs Gift Collection: D is for Deadbeat / E is for Evidence / F is for Fugitive usual I began by finding out about the author Some background information Große Geschichte 1914 - 1945 und kleine Geschichten aus meinem Leben usually helps me ascertain my feelings about the text He had been a British military officer in the SAS and then had become an author achieving much success in many different types of writing He also was fascinated by this region of the world and had won awards for desert exploration in the Sudan from the Royal Geographic Society He lived in Sudan for ten years and spoke fluent Arabic He now lives in Kenya with his Arabist wife and two childrenThis text is in fact a very detailed retelling of the entire story from the original massacre of the Anglo Egyptian force Die Schatten wachsen in der Dämmerung under Hicks in 1883 by the Mahdi to the fall of Khartoum to the Mahdi including Gordon’s death to the eventual capture of Khartoum by Kitchener in 1899 There are several interesting points about the text that are worth rememberingFirst it seems somewhat balanced A European will always tell such a story from a European perspective but he did try to balance the story He was very critical of the British officer corps for its lack of military competence its reward of “chumminess” over skill the purchase of commissions and its indifference and hostility to those who were part of the British Empire His indictment of many officers was specific and cutting These elements were interesting to me as they showed the arrogance of the British forces in specific detail with stories of specific officers and how they behaved He showed remarkable respect for the Sudanese people their various cultures and their tremendous survival skills He talks a lot about how the Beja specifically had been defeating invading armies since the time of the Pharaohs and had always been successful He specifically praises the skills and cleverness of the Haddendowa leaders Osman Digna a survivor who outlived it all His salute to the Sudanese as fighters also seems sincere whether for the courage of those fighting for the Mahdi and for the steadiness and reliability of the Sudanese and Egyptians who fought with the British His strongest indictment comes of the Turco Egyptian ruling class both in Sudan and Egypt as corrupt cowardly and self centered He seems to agree with Gordon that they were the roots of the problem there and that the people had good reason to rise The Psychology of Clothes up against them Asher’s reliance on British sources is to be expected but he also seems to have Bluebird: A Memoir used many Arabic sources as well as oral histories in telling the storySecond he saw the conflict as not exclusively religious The Mahdi provided a charismatic figure around which to rally and while many did so for religious reasons there were also many practical reasons to support this regime given the corruption and mismanagement of the Turco Egyptian government Many of the ethic groups had not rallied to the Mahdi but when the existing government collapsed and Gordon was killed they naturally rallied to the winning side Likewise when the Mahdi died soon after the fall of Khartoum the Islamist state introduced by his successor was a bit too harsh for them and fractures began to develop along ethnic linesThird the descriptions of the battles themselves are detailed and horrifying I wish I had read this as a boy and it might have cured me of some of the lingering military romanticism that it took me another ten years to eliminate His descriptions of steel on steel battles Goose in the Pond uite often the British steel failed and the movements of troops were also gripping The fact that many battles were over Monumenta Historica Nob. Communitatis Turopolje Olim "campus Zagrabiensis" Dictae, 1527-1560, Vol. 3: Cum Supplemento Ad Vol. I. Et II., 1347-1525 (Classic Reprint) uickly but seemed like an eternity was fleshed out by substantial detail and comments written later by soldiers who survived His strongest salute was to the individual soldiers who showed courage and determination in the face of tremendous adversity both with the opponents and with the elementsFourth water was often the key Running around the desert with large military forces reuires water and it was often pivotal British forces that came The Glass Sentence upon a watering hole defended by forces of he Mahdi had no choice but to attack as did the Mahdi’s successor near the end of the conflict The railroads that were built solved some of this problem but even they had to carry huge amounts of water to power the steam engines and at one point half of the train was carrying water for itself One interesting story is how a surveyor and water diviner brought in by the British actually found two new water supplies that were critical in assisting them cross a route no native would think could be Betting on Famine: Why the World Still Goes Hungry usedFifth the book does a good job of setting the stage for the modern phase of Islamic fundamentalism without becoming too preachy This was one of the first truly Islamic states established and was the only colony to win independence by force of arms in Africa The agenda of the Mahdi and his regime very much set the stage for future Sudanese politics and the rise of Bashir in 1989 Osama bin Laden spent years in Sudan soaking The Little Book of Palmistry (Petites Plus) up the teachings of the Mahdi and his modern followers It also documented the severe ethnic divides in the country that are being played out today in the crisis in Darfur I liked the way he made his point but let the reader draw his or her own conclusionsIt was a very good read and I would commend it to all persons of a serious bent Now that I have some additional solid information about the period I am perhaps ready to engage my colleague at the University of Vermont Darius Jonathan who is from Sudan as well as my friend Hassan Suleiman who I met in atar also a Sudanese Then I might really start learning


10 thoughts on “Khartoum The Ultimate Imperial Adventure

  1. says:

    If I were a cleverer man I’d write this review in the idiom of a blustering Englishman It would be peppered with “cheerio” and “bully” and “capital” and every “r” would be dropped The phrase “bloody ‘ell” would be repeated several times In all it would be a review as narrated by Kipling’s Tommy Atkinson Unfortunately I’m not all that clever The point however is that Michael Asher’s Khartoum is a pugnacious throwback type of history Its subtitle – the Ultimate Imperial Adventure – doesn’t contain a hint of irony This really is an adventure story A Kipling esue tale of empire filled to brimming with hard eyed suare jawed British soldiers and whirling sword wielding dervishes meeting toe to toe in battle Asher shows no interest in exploring post colonial hand wringing or the excesses of 19th century British imperialism; rather the focus is on the battles on warriors going at each other with bayonets and scimitars there are also camels Khartoum begins in 1883 with the destruction of General William Hick’s Egyptian expeditionary force Hicks a British commander had been charged with putting down the Mahdist Revolt The revolt was led by Muhammad Ahmad a northern Sudanese religious leader who’d proclaimed himself the Mahdi and vowed to secure the Sudan in the name of Islam At this time the Sudan was administered by Egypt and Egypt as a result of the Anglo Egyptian War was a protectorate of Great Britain After the Mahdi’s army defeated General Hicks at the Battle of el Obeid and cut off Hicks’s head Great Britain was pushed to a decision whether to abandon the Sudan or put British boots on the ground The locus of this decision was Khartoum the capital of the Sudan located along the Nile The powers that be decided that the Sudan was not worth the effort Under pressure from Great Britain Egypt decided to abandon the territory at least for the time being However Egypt needed a man to organize the withdrawal of the Khartoum garrison The man eventually chosen to oversee the retreat was General Charles “Chinese” Gordon As it turned out though Gordon had no plans to leave Chinese Gordon was one of the most famous British generals of the age He was a small weird little fellow what the Victorians called a “mystic” A five foot two bachelor of eccentric beliefs he surrounded himself with a retinue of young boys Though Asher contends his interest in young boys was purely charitable I have a hard time buying Gordon’s innocence; something just seems off about this situation Put a clerical collar on the guy and we’d know him for a pedophile for sure I’m barely kiddingWhen Gordon got to Khartoum he informed London that a pullout was impossible and that the British Army would have to rescue him or else watch him die The Mahdi’s host soon enveloped Khartoum and Gordon’s impending martyrdom forced Great Britain to send an expedition to rescue the beleaguered city This expedition would be under the immediate command of General Herbert Stewart and would include future World War I heavies such as Herbert Kitchener and John French All this context is drawn by Asher is broad clear strokes He doesn’t get muddled in the geopolitical triangle of Great Britain Egypt and the Sudan Even the controversial choice of Gordon to assume Khartoum’s command is dealt with briskly As I said before this is first and foremost a military history and all those other details just get in the way of the bloodletting The bloodletting begins uickly For a book with the title Khartoum there is surprisingly little space devoted to the actual siege of the city I suppose this is due to a paucity of primary sources On January 26 1885 the Mahdi’s army took Khartoum with relative ease What details we get about the battle concern Gordon’s fate There are actually several proposed endings for Gordon In one favored by the Victorians Gordon presents himself to the Mahdists unarmed a Christ like figure dying for the foreign policy sins of the Gladstone government In another scenario Gordon engages the dervishes in a wild sword melee slashing and parrying like Inigo Montoya No matter which scenario is true likely it’s an unknown third option Gordon’s head ended up on a pikeMeanwhile the bulk of Khartoum is devoted to Stewart’s fraught rescue mission The expedition was the brainchild of General Garnet Wolseley who conceived of it as a special forces operation Handpicking the best soldiers from British cavalry regiments he had the soldiers mounted on camels and set out across the desert from Korti The hope was that these men could reach the Nile board steamships and then sail down to Gordon at Khartoum By heading east across the desert from Korti Wolseley intended to avoid the Great Bend of the Nile Instead Stewart’s expedition ran into Mahdist forces at Abu Klea and Abu Cru These relatively unknown battles were exceedingly vicious with fatalities that soared past famous engagements such as Gettysburg and Antietam It was colonial warfare at its iconic and savage dervishes armed with swords and clad in armor attacking British infantry suares en masse Asher takes very real very detailed delight in describing these vicious encounters In most nonfiction books battles are usually described in generalities with perhaps a personal recollection or two thrown in for color Asher however goes for a personal approach as often as possible following the actions of individual soldiers He gives you a literal blow by blow account telling you how many bullets a certain soldier fired and how many hit By now the gap had closed The front rank had reached the enemy gun bank British and Beja met in a hand to hand clash It was sword against sword and bayonet against spear Bennett Burleigh saw three or four soldiers cut down after missing shots at point blank range Others fired with deadly accuracy The veteran warriors among the York Lancs and Marines cooly parried spear thrusts and sword cuts and riposted with their bayonets Often the bayonets hit bone and buckled Sometimes they made a wound so slight the dervish hardly seemed to notice it When they struck soft flesh they sliced in deep and were hard to get out Some of the dervishes grabbed hold of the bayonets with their hands and tried to push them asideBeja swords and spears were sharp as razors and cut through bone and muscle without the edges being turned By comparison the British officers’ swords were second rate Captain Littledale of the York Lancasters cut at a dervish across the head only to have his blade bend almost double He tried his revolver and missed A second later the warrior wrestled him down almost severing his arm at the shoulder with his sword The dervish was stopped by a British private who rammed his bayonet up to the hilt in the warrior’s back Another comrade blew the man’s head apart with a45 calibre dum dum fired at hard contact rangeIf this all seems excessive I’m a bit inclined to agree Too often Asher – who served in the British SAS – seems a bit of a homer Instead of relating history he’s cheering on his team which in this case is the British Army He’s a bit too enad of the Tommy with his wry wit and pith helmet and the Martini Henry ammunition that he has turned into a hollow point round At certain points he is openly gushing about the professionalism of the British Imperial Army and their formidable suare formations studded with gleaming bayonets and Gatling gunsTo Asher’s credit however he has also lived in the Sudan and speaks Arabic and Swahili He spends a fair amount of time describing the makeup of the Mahdi’s forces The Mahdi’s men were not all fanatical Muslim’s intent on conversion by sword Rather it was comprised of many individual tribes each with their own goals For instance Asher goes into great detail about the Beja To the Beja tribesmen Baker’s force was about to confront though Baker and his men were the barbarians They had a history that spanned no less than forty centuries They were the Bugiha of Leo Africanus the Blemmyes of the Romans the Bugas of the Axumites and the Medja or Bukas of the pharaohs They had inhabited the chasms gorges plateau and valleys of the Red Sea hills even before the ancient Egyptian kings had sent their armies here looking for goldAsher goes on to describe the Beja’s nationalist aims They were not Arabs and they were not fervid Muslims They were fierce fighters and they wanted their country back The I think about it the I sense that it isn’t simply the British Army that gets Asher off; rather it’s warriors in general The clashes between the British Army and the Mahdist forces represent a coming together of two great warrior traditions As much as he drools at the mention of a British Tommy Asher gives the dervishes their due Even today it’s hard not to think of the dervishes in savage terms I mean these were guys who charged Gatling guns Krupps artillery pieces and Maxim machine guns with swords and spears and body armor It seems suicidal Indeed it seems to stem from a culture that doesn’t value life Yet Asher carefully parses the dervish mindset and warrior ethos so that it is no longer a mass of humanity charging the British lines it is a mass of individuals each man imbued with a combat ethic instilled and reinforced since birth And Asher also reminds us that less than two decades after the end of the Anglo Sudanese War the old guard of Western civilization in all its high minded life valuing enlightenment would destroy itself by emulating dervish tactics in the face of barbed wire machine guns and heavy artilleryYou can’t describe a desert war without describing the desert and Asher does an admirable job in giving the reader a sense of place It is helpful here that Asher is a military man who has lived in the Sudan and walked these battlefields As a former soldier he can look over a piece of ground and assess it as a general leading troops must assess it This is no small thing When I look at land I’m seeing it with a civilian’s eyes When I look at a hill I attempt to find a suirrel humping a prairie dog When I look at a meadow I try to see if somewhere a snake is eating a rabbit When a soldier looks at that hill or that meadow he is evaluating fields of fire room to maneuver and places to bivouac Those kinds of concerns loomed large in the Sudan as the British Army had to move from waterhole to waterhole My main concern with Khartoum is its sourcing There are precious few endnotes and the endnotes that are included usually cite to only one source In other words this is a big story spun from a small spool of thread I’d like to believe that everything within these pages actually happened but I lack complete confidence especially with some of the smaller details Still this was really just a nagging concern Khartoum is about men at war in the desert The causes and conseuences are not as important as the warriors on the field of battle It feels wrong to say that an account of a brutal colonial war is exciting but that’s what Asher accomplishes He gives you an account that it immediate visceral and yes an adventure


  2. says:

    Very entertaining book that covers the two campaigns fought by the British in the Sudan in 1883 1885 and 1896 1898 Proclaiming himself the long expected Mahdi – the Guided One of the Prophet – Mohammed Ibn Admed el Sayyid Abdullah led a revolt of the Sudanese against their Egyptian occupiers It soon became abundantly clear the Egyptian Government which was essentially installed by the British after the Arabi Pasha revolt of 1882 was not capable of putting down the uprising Leery of being pulled into a war for a place of limited strategic value the British Government ultimately dispatched General Charles Gordon to Khartoum to oversee the evacuation of the Egyptian garrisons from the region although this being the ultimate imperial adventure Gordon’s true intentions of what he hoped to accomplish in Khartoum remain a point of contention Gordon’s attempted negotiations with the Mahdi were uickly rebuffed and he soon found himself trapped and surrounded by the dervish army This sets the stage for a desperate rescue attempt by a British relief column including a newly formed Camel Corp and gunboats working their way up the Nile – it truly is a rollicking good adventure story Asher’s account of that campaign and Kitchener’s subseuent re conuest of the Sudan fifteen years later is insightful and engaging an excellent read about a fascinating subject


  3. says:

    Having read much on the British Army in the twentieth century and on Victorian society and empire one area I had done little than scratch the surface the sand even was Sudan The reader is given a background to the political arrangements and past rulers up to the British presence in what was a sideshow for the Empire when compared to South Africa and the shining jewel India This British interest and clearly at times in London plain disinterest and a man who is God's Expected One The Mahdi are the centre for a war that would see the world's first islamic state rise from defeating the 19th century's superpower; before Victoria's men expunged the memory of defeat 14 years laterThe land much blood was spilt on and over was a mix of harsh and unforgiving landscapes with at its heart a thin ribbon of green vegetation emanating from the river Nile and it's two tributaries the White and Blue Nile populated by nomadic tribes or people who lived in abject poverty in the few towns with little infrastructureMr Asher provides excellent descriptions on both forces including the main characters their relationships influences and organisation including the building of a railway – it is Victorian Britain after all so you’d expect it – surveyed with great skill by members of the Royal Engineers He also clearly knows the country well and his descriptions of the land and the areas where battles were fought are excellent To my mind he provides a fair assessment of both armies during the two separate and distinct phases of the war and the tactics used Although Britain was a modern power with well trained troops and considerable firepower at its disposal it would be wrong to think of the native forces as only having spears swords and shields They did and employed these with both skill and courage but they also used firearms and artillery and when coupled with their traditional warrior culture and sheer weight of numbers they were a formidable foe to be treated with caution and respectMichael Asher's informative exciting and balanced account of the wars during the period 1883 1898 was a perfect entry for me It has left me wanting to read and has added to my knowledge of Gordon particularly Lord Kitchener and the most of all Sudan; a country that today has a population of some 42 million people and since the 1950s has been beset by civil wars and strife that look set to continue for some time yet in one of the world’s most complex geo political areas


  4. says:

    The author is an ex soldier and long time resident of Sudan He displays all of his experience in writing this military history on the English in Sudan the various attempts to rescue General Gordon Gordon's death and the eventual return of the English to finally revenge Gordon and remove the troublesome dervishes His tale is full of the English professional soldier the incompetent but beloved officers and a healthy respect for the dervish as fierce brave and determined fighters He also even includes the names of soldiers and NCOs rather than leaving them nameless as most military histories doThe pointlessness of the whole affair and the lose of so many lives is just sad


  5. says:

    A well balanced account of the conflict in Sudan between the Anglo Egyptians and a collection of Sudanese tribes between 1883 9This is a military historical book told in thorough detail It includes strategic insight as well as areas of weakness in each side and a good feel for what each side was fighting forWhat bothered me the most was the sheer number of fighters and civilians who died I’m not sure exactly how many but maybe 250000? I know many participated so that they could fight for what they believe in but it just feels so devastating to have lost that many livesI don’t mean to come across as insensitive to human suffering but I am also deeply saddened by the amount of animals that were killed in the crossfire Those poor camels were obliterated The low rating was mostly because as informative as it was it was a very hard read The detail into each event is commendable however for me it was too much Also there were so many names that kept popping up Some for short times others longer and you’re trying to take in their backstory and then they seem to meld into everyone elseGordon and Kitchener were the stand out characters I would recommend this to anyone who likes detailed accounts of war


  6. says:

    This is a historical period that has long interested me It covers the time between 1880 1898 in the Sudan I remember that as a young boy fascinated by maps I had been curious at the designation of the “Anglo Egyptian Sudan” on the map It was huge and the Nile flowed right through it I wondered how it had been both British and Egyptian As a college student of Asian civilizations I had done a large research project on the Taiping rebellion in China in the 19th Century and there found mention of a charismatic leader Charles Gordon who had helped end the conflict and seemed to be a principled and righteous British officer who often went against his orders and always did what he thought was right and usually acted to reduce the suffering of the people he was dealing with There was a mention there that he had died defending Khartoum in the Sudan My interest was raised and when I saw a trashy paperback in a bookstore I bought it and uickly read Gordon of Khartoum It was uite a fanciful retelling of the story of how Gordon was governor general of the Sudan when it was ruled by the Turks Egyptians British how he had worked to end the slave trade and eventually was reappointed elsewhere He was brought back to Khartoum to “rescue” the country from an Islamic fundamentalist leader the Mahdi “expected one” who would purify Islam or so the legend went Gordon had died defending the city because the relief column sent to rescue him arrived about 18 hours too late I knew it was largely history romanticized but I enjoyed it I certainly was not as aware as I am now so the story of a righteous Christian imperialist dying defending his beloved people appealed to me Later I saw the movie of the same name staring Charlton Heston which I instantly sensed was entertaining but a load of tripeAs I was browsing the bookstore shelves buying books for my trip to Mexico a very serious undertaking I saw this volume inspected it and bought it hoping that I would now have a historically accurate picture of the eventsAs usual I began by finding out about the author Some background information usually helps me ascertain my feelings about the text He had been a British military officer in the SAS and then had become an author achieving much success in many different types of writing He also was fascinated by this region of the world and had won awards for desert exploration in the Sudan from the Royal Geographic Society He lived in Sudan for ten years and spoke fluent Arabic He now lives in Kenya with his Arabist wife and two childrenThis text is in fact a very detailed retelling of the entire story from the original massacre of the Anglo Egyptian force under Hicks in 1883 by the Mahdi to the fall of Khartoum to the Mahdi including Gordon’s death to the eventual capture of Khartoum by Kitchener in 1899 There are several interesting points about the text that are worth rememberingFirst it seems somewhat balanced A European will always tell such a story from a European perspective but he did try to balance the story He was very critical of the British officer corps for its lack of military competence its reward of “chumminess” over skill the purchase of commissions and its indifference and hostility to those who were part of the British Empire His indictment of many officers was specific and cutting These elements were interesting to me as they showed the arrogance of the British forces in specific detail with stories of specific officers and how they behaved He showed remarkable respect for the Sudanese people their various cultures and their tremendous survival skills He talks a lot about how the Beja specifically had been defeating invading armies since the time of the Pharaohs and had always been successful He specifically praises the skills and cleverness of the Haddendowa leaders Osman Digna a survivor who outlived it all His salute to the Sudanese as fighters also seems sincere whether for the courage of those fighting for the Mahdi and for the steadiness and reliability of the Sudanese and Egyptians who fought with the British His strongest indictment comes of the Turco Egyptian ruling class both in Sudan and Egypt as corrupt cowardly and self centered He seems to agree with Gordon that they were the roots of the problem there and that the people had good reason to rise up against them Asher’s reliance on British sources is to be expected but he also seems to have used many Arabic sources as well as oral histories in telling the storySecond he saw the conflict as not exclusively religious The Mahdi provided a charismatic figure around which to rally and while many did so for religious reasons there were also many practical reasons to support this regime given the corruption and mismanagement of the Turco Egyptian government Many of the ethic groups had not rallied to the Mahdi but when the existing government collapsed and Gordon was killed they naturally rallied to the winning side Likewise when the Mahdi died soon after the fall of Khartoum the Islamist state introduced by his successor was a bit too harsh for them and fractures began to develop along ethnic linesThird the descriptions of the battles themselves are detailed and horrifying I wish I had read this as a boy and it might have cured me of some of the lingering military romanticism that it took me another ten years to eliminate His descriptions of steel on steel battles uite often the British steel failed and the movements of troops were also gripping The fact that many battles were over uickly but seemed like an eternity was fleshed out by substantial detail and comments written later by soldiers who survived His strongest salute was to the individual soldiers who showed courage and determination in the face of tremendous adversity both with the opponents and with the elementsFourth water was often the key Running around the desert with large military forces reuires water and it was often pivotal British forces that came upon a watering hole defended by forces of he Mahdi had no choice but to attack as did the Mahdi’s successor near the end of the conflict The railroads that were built solved some of this problem but even they had to carry huge amounts of water to power the steam engines and at one point half of the train was carrying water for itself One interesting story is how a surveyor and water diviner brought in by the British actually found two new water supplies that were critical in assisting them cross a route no native would think could be usedFifth the book does a good job of setting the stage for the modern phase of Islamic fundamentalism without becoming too preachy This was one of the first truly Islamic states established and was the only colony to win independence by force of arms in Africa The agenda of the Mahdi and his regime very much set the stage for future Sudanese politics and the rise of Bashir in 1989 Osama bin Laden spent years in Sudan soaking up the teachings of the Mahdi and his modern followers It also documented the severe ethnic divides in the country that are being played out today in the crisis in Darfur I liked the way he made his point but let the reader draw his or her own conclusionsIt was a very good read and I would commend it to all persons of a serious bent Now that I have some additional solid information about the period I am perhaps ready to engage my colleague at the University of Vermont Darius Jonathan who is from Sudan as well as my friend Hassan Suleiman who I met in atar also a Sudanese Then I might really start learning


  7. says:

    Funny how just last week thanks to that book on Stanley Livingstone I realized how little I knew about African history and found this in my stack next up From the Central African slave trade of the 1860s and 1870s I learnt in this one all about the slave traders in Northern Africa in the 1880s 90s and all the repercussions from this Sudan was the first African country to have a successful revolt against its colonial overlord but the reason for the revolt was the new ban on slavery Turkey enacted under British and European pressure Arab traders who had settled in Sudan who were used to raiding villages to the south killing all the men and enslaving the women and children found themselves with no economy At the same time Egypt Turkey decided to modernize Sudan and passed ruinous taxation The Turks were also horrible rulers with corrupt officials pouring civil servant and army wages right into their own pockets Some troops hadn't been paid in years and were on the verge of mutinyInsert one religious fanatic the Mad Mahdi who thinks he's the second coming to fight along Jesus in an apocalyptic battle against the apostates just what ISIS believes And this is the birth of Islamic fundamentalism From women going around in loincloths in a fun communal atmosphere the Mahdi forces strict dress codes on all females over 5 and floggings for all sorts of crimes He gathers his dervishes pissed off slavers those angry about taxation and wages those gang pressed and falls upon a 11000 of Turkish Egyptian troops led by an English commander Hicks slaughtering them all God's perfect idiot General Chinese Gordon is now dispatched to Khartoum to get the lay of the land and prepare an evacuation On no circumstances is he to say that the British are coming to the rescue he goes about his mission in perhaps the worst way ever The author is pretty pro Gordon and is upset about his reputation's fall and the fact the Gordon statue got uietly taken down in Trafalgar Suare but he seemed ridiculously stupid to me Granted he went out nobly but he also ordered every male over 8 to join him in defense When the situation that you personally bungled horribly is now officially ruined and you're going to make a last stand it seems kind of bad to institute a Hitler Youth defense Especially since he seemed a little pedophile ish but I guess no way to know for sure Sad his head got cut off but so did 11000 other peopleGordon's death and the fall of Khartoum was ueen Victoria's personal low point of her reign It's surprising that there was not a constitutional crisis because it seemed pretty obvious how much she hated Gladstone and her views on the rescue attempt British government toppled over the public furor of this historical version of Benghazi The death tolls and mass rapes in this book are on the sobering massive size and the author does a good job showing the panoramic of the disaster The US ambassador was also killed; so was the Austrian ambassador and his family gruesomely even his pet parrot There was a half hearted attempt eventually that had some success with all British troops but the British military really didn't want to fight in Sudan and took advantage of distractions in Afghanistan to retreat The Mahdi died soon after from disease or poisoned by a woman whose family he killed and his henchman takes over 15 years of atrocities wars with Ethiopia and Eritrea and the British come back for revenge well revenge and the fact that France has been looking too close at Sudan herself and now UK wants it again Book picks up here with Lord Kitchener taking it over and you see why he was such an icon The railroad he had built to ferry the troops across the desert is still in use in Sudan and you can see one of his gunboats used in Cairo Winston Churchill still a puppy manages to sneak into the troops with a press pass and is there to witness most of the war's great events Sometimes ahead of the front lines since he seemed to get himself cut off in front of the enemy getting hit by friendly fire uite a bit in his excitement First time British used special forces The rise of the Egyptian Army The last regimental cavalry charge Last time a medieval army fought I had no idea this war was so monumental Currently there's probably no war in the past that affects us so much today presently The Mahdi were anti any technology invented after Mohammed so guns were out as apostate tools They suborned or bribed a pagan tribe from the hills as rifleman but majority found with spears and swords He stressed this a bunch but when he later talks about the bullet factories run by the Mahdists and how Abdallahi's son was the general of the rifleman I'd have liked explanationsThe Mahdi and his successor Abdallahi while their rise from penniless drifters to absolute power is amazing were tyrants And it's hard to feel sad about the takedown of first radical terrorists it seems a lot went down with them and even the British were shocked at the slaughter The dervishes many said were the greatest enemy the British empire ever fought against beyond perfection and on one day in the Battle of Omdurman entire villages and tribes walked into machine guns 50000 dervishes with spears against 25000 British Egyptians with Maxims and artillery None of the dervishes even made it within 800 yards of the British front lines Some of the British soldiers in this battle later were mown down themselves at the Somme Giant points to the author for what happened after portion so many don't do that with a wrap up for all the main personages How Kitchener after Sudan in Egypt worked for pro Arab revolt against Turkey dying on the day it broke out How Mahdism always lurked beneath the surface in Sudan springing out again with the same platform in 1946 And how a Mahdist politician took in Osama Bin Ladin who left Sudan even radical than before You can't help also reading in this book about the herds of elephants numbering a thousand that you know are not there now Or anything to do with Darfur which has parallels throughout this book It's a huh moment when you realize that 911 can be tracked directly to slavery and a British Ottoman pact Anyways if you were like me and knew absolutely nothing about Sudan in 1890s this book will tell you everything you need to know


  8. says:

    I picked this book up in an airport somewhere For some reason I prefer to read history when I am travelling I know it makes no sense This book is a fascinating insight into the mechanics of the Victorian era when it comes to politics and the military they were very different times when military force was seen as a weapon of justice and good and life in the army was a good adventure for a young manBefore i picked up this book I knew little of the fall of Khartoum the events leading up to the crisis and the Nile campaign that followed All of these deficits were uickly corrected I am left with an understanding of how the Sudan became the first African nation to achieve independence however briefly through force of arms how opposing political views in Britain allowed a brave if naive man to be abandoned in the middle of a hostile country and perhaps interestingly how the British military really operated in that narrow period of time before war changed foreverIt probably isn't a fascinating read for everyone but I enjoyed it a lot


  9. says:

    This was a great and fairly balanced despite than occasional flashes of old school gung ho rah rah type British patriotism style telling of both of the Mahdist Wars between the British some Sudanese and Egyptians on one side and most Sudanese following the self declared Mahdi on the other The details from the battles is particularly great and as fun and shocking to read as if they had been written in narrative fictionThe only potential drawback is that this book did not include the non Anglo Egyptian involved Mahdist wars such as the skirmishes with the Italians in Eritrea or most interesting of all the large pell mel war fought between Sudan and Ethiopia In one of the battles there Meneilik II defeated the Mahdists before then going on to defeat the Italians later on These actions could have been included to show just the scope of events in the Sudan during the late 19th Century


  10. says:

    I love history but this book was a bit of a struggle to get through Too many names of places to remember to fully understand the battle of Omdurman etc otherwise a well researched book