Interview with Historian David Silbey

by Mitch on August 26, 2012 0 Comments

Northern China in the summer of 1900 was the scene of the Boxer Rebellion, one of the most spontaneous, disorganized, violent and downright peculiar uprisings of that or any other century. Vividly described and detailed by Cornell University historian David J. Silbey in his new book, The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China, the rebellion was at once a peasants' insurgency, an attack on modernism, a clash of cultures and a game changer in the nascent international struggle for power in the Pacific in the new century. Based on letters, diaries and memoirs of many participants, Silbey's brisk narrative traces the root causes, the wild and bloody clashes between the ill-armed Boxers (who mystically believed themselves invulnerable) and the combined military units of Japan, Russia, Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary, France, Italy and the United States, and the global consequences of this hitherto-bewildering struggle.

What was the origin of ...

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The Scramble for Africa: 1890-1914

by Mitch on July 28, 2012 0 Comments

THE BRITISH SQUARE. British infantry in square formation repel an attack by Sudanese warriors at the battle of Abu Klea, 17 January 1885. A British column of more than a thousand men was attacked while attempting to relieve the besieged General Gordon in Khartoum. Massed British rifle fire proved too much for the Sudanese, who suffered more than a thousand casualties in an encounter that lasted not much more than 15 minutes.

Germany did not actively pursue overseas empire until the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The construction of a German high seas fleet, and the commitment of military power beyond the European continent, was considered a distraction by the former chancellor, Otto von Bismarck. The Iron Chancellor did permit the establishment of footholds on the African continent, but he refused to divert Germany's attention and foreign policy to imperial rivalries. Wilhelm's global policy, Weltpolitik, altered the equation ...

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Book: The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China

by Mitch on March 27, 2012 0 Comments

David J. Silbey

Hill and Wang

The year is 1900, and Western empires—both old and new—are locked in regional entanglements across the globe. The British are losing a bitter war against the Boers while the German kaiser is busy building a vast new navy. The United States is struggling to put down an insurgency in the South Pacific while the upstart imperialist Japan begins to make clear to neighboring Russia its territorial ambition. In China, a perennial pawn in the Great Game, a mysterious group of superstitious peasants is launching attacks on the Western powers they fear are corrupting their country. These ordinary Chinese—called Boxers by the West because of their martial arts showmanship—rise up, seemingly out of nowhere. Foreshadowing the insurgencies of the more recent past, they lack a centralized leadership and instead tap into latent nationalism and deep economic frustration to build their army ...

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by Mitch on January 12, 2012 0 Comments

In Entente counsels what militated against evacuation from Gallipoli was not the effects within Turkey but the wider political ramifications within the Muslim world. In Mesopotamia, too, the British forces had overreached themselves. Easy victories at the outset had spurred on the ambitions of Sir John Nixon, the commander on the spot. Grandiose notions of a converging movement linking with the Russians coming down through Persia and Azerbaijan did not help. But the real difficulty was that Nixon was not subject to firm direction. In London, the general staff at the War Office was cautious, anxious not to overcommit itself so far from the main theatre of operations in Europe. But the campaign was less the responsibility of the War Office and more that of the Government of India: it provided the bulk of the troops. Indian official opinion was divided. On the one hand, it was attracted to control ...

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First World War in Africa

by Mitch on January 12, 2012 0 Comments

The First World War broke out in Europe in 1914, which brought Britain, France, and Russia into open conflict with Germany and Austria-Hungary until 1918. Still in the early years of European rule, African countries were drawn into the war by their colonial masters, who required African resources of men, money, and raw materials. The struggle between the European powers over control in Africa was also one of the causes of the war, with rivalry over African possessions complicating longstanding conflicts in Europe.

Each Allied power took steps to protect its colonies, strengthening defenses against possible German attack. When victories over the Germans in their African colonies became certain, these security measures were relaxed. It then became necessary to ensure the loyalty of African subjects, if only to prevent them from supporting Germany, and by and large propaganda was used successfully to this end. Even so, troops had to be ...

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Battle of Omdurman

by Mitch on December 29, 2011 0 Comments

Robert Kelly's depiction of the Kholifa's flight was wholly imaginative, but still suggests the impact which the exotic image of dervish power had on British opinion .



September 2, 1898


Near Khartoum in central Sudan


[1]British and Egyptians

[2]Sudanese Dervishes


[1]Major General Sir Herbert Kitchener

[2]Khalifa Abdullah

Approx. # Troops

[1]8,000 British, 17,000 Egyptians

[2]35,000–50,000 Sudanese Dervishes


Brings Anglo-Egyptian control of the Sudan

In the September 2, 1898, Battle of Omdurman, British, Egyptian, and Sudanese forces defeated nationalists in the Sudan, leading to the establishment of the Anglo- Egyptian Sudan. The battle also illustrated the technological advantage of European military establishments over their brave but primitively armed opponents in the wars of imperialism that preceded World War I.


Concern over the security of the Suez Canal, Britain’s lifeline to India, led the British ...

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Malakand Field Force (1897)

by Mitch on November 26, 2011 3 Comments

South Malakand Camp, August 1897

Pashtun tribesmen attacking a British–held fort in 1897

The ambush and murder in the Tochi Valley of the political agent, Mr. H. A. Gee, and the commander and other soldiers of his military escort in early July 1897 sparked the general uprising of the Pathan tribes on the North - West Frontier of India. A punitive expedition, the Tochi Field Force, was organized and sent to castigate the perpetrators from the Madda Khel of the Isazais tribe.


The wave of religious fervor, coupled with tribal concerns about growing British power and the possible loss of independence, spread quickly to the Swat Valley. A warning to prepare for tribal unrest was sent to the Malakand Brigade, commanded by Colonel W. H. Meiklejohn with elements in two garrisons astride the line of communication with Chitral. In the fort at Malakand were one squadron, 11th Bengal Lancers; No ...

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Book Review: Frontiers of Violence in North-East Africa: Genealogies of Conflict since c.1800.

by Mitch on November 16, 2011 0 Comments

Richard J. Reid. Frontiers of Violence in North-East Africa: Genealogies of Conflict since c.1800. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. 296 pp. $99.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-921188-3.

Reviewed by Matteo Salvadore (Gulf University for Science and Technology)
Published on H-Africa (November, 2011)
Commissioned by Brett L. Shadle

Salvadore on "Frontiers of Violence in NE Africa'

Frontiers of Violence is a thoroughly researched contribution to the historiography of the Horn’s many enduring conflicts. It focuses on the contested borderlands between Eritrea and Ethiopia as a way to understand much of the region’s political violence and instability. Reid takes a long-term approach that reaches back to key early modern developments such as the Zamana Masafent, the Adali-Ethiopian War, and the Oromo expansion. The result is a monograph of great interest that should not only appeal to Horn, African, and Middle Eastern studies specialists, but also those interested in failed states ...

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First World War – African Continent - Consequences

by Mitch on October 18, 2011 0 Comments

Africa was affected by the war in many spheres: military, political, economic, and social. The results were not the same everywhere. In areas where there had been actual fighting, notably in the German colonies, the people suffered greatly. In the French colonies, where the burden of conscription had been heavy, there were anti-colonial protests and widespread resentment. Indeed, in many areas the colonial authorities’ hold on power was weakened: their military were redirected to the war effort; markets and trade routes were disrupted; and the economic recession and growing unemployment that followed the war generated their own tensions.


Military recruitment had temporarily strengthened existing colonial armies, but many of the newly recruited troops perished. The actual number of casualties will never be known exactly, but it was undoubtedly large: of those recruited by the French almost 200,000 lost their lives, while nearly 100,000 lost their lives in the ...

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Suez Crisis

by Mitch on October 15, 2011 0 Comments

An Egyptian boy stands near a British tank amid the rubble of destroyed buildings in Port Said after the British and French assault on the city during the Suez Crisis, November 1956.

Start Date: July 26, 1956

End Date: March 6, 1957

Over the months that followed Egyptian nationalization of the Suez Canal, the community of interest among British, French, and Israeli leaders developed into secret planning for a joint military operation to topple Nasser. The U.S. government was not consulted and indeed opposed the use of force. The British and French governments either did not understand the American attitude or, if they did, believed that Washington would give approval after the fact to policies believed by its major allies to be absolutely necessary.


The British government first tried diplomacy. Two conferences in London attended by the representatives of 24 nations using the canal failed to produce agreement on ...

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