Fashoda Incident

The Fashoda Incident was the climax of imperial territorial disputes between Britain and France in Eastern Africa, occurring in 1898. A French expedition to Fashoda on the White Nile river sought to gain control of the Upper Nile river basin and thereby exclude Britain from the Sudan. The French party and a British-Egyptian force (outnumbering the French by 10 to 1) met on friendly terms, but back in Europe, it became a war scare. The British held firm as both empires stood on the verge of war with heated rhetoric on both sides. Under heavy pressure the French withdrew, securing Anglo-Egyptian control over the area. The status quo was recognised by an agreement between the two states acknowledging British control over Egypt, while France became the dominant power in Morocco. France had failed in its main goals.

Between the two governments there was a brief battle of wills, with the British insisting on immediate and unconditional French withdrawal from Fashoda. The French had to accept these terms, amounting to a public humiliation....Fashoda was long remembered in France as an example of British brutality and injustice.[1]

It was a diplomatic victory for the British as the French realized that in the long run they needed the friendship of Britain in case of a war between France and Germany.[2] It was the last crisis between the two that involved a threat of war and opened the way for closer relations in the Entente cordiale of 1904. It gave rise to the 'Fashoda syndrome' in French foreign policy, or seeking to assert French influence in areas which might be becoming susceptible to British influence.[3]

Fashoda Incident map - en
Central and east Africa during the incident


During the late-19th century, Africa was rapidly being claimed and exploited by European colonial powers. After the 1885 Berlin Conference regarding West Africa, Europe's great powers went after any remaining lands in Africa that were not already under another European nation's influence. This period in African history is usually called the Scramble for Africa. The two principal powers involved in this scramble were Britain and France, along with Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, and Spain.

The French thrust into the African interior was mainly from the continent's Atlantic coast (modern Senegal) eastward, through the Sahel along the southern border of the Sahara, a territory covering modern Senegal, Mali, Niger, and Chad. Their ultimate goal was to have an uninterrupted link between the Niger River and the Nile, hence controlling all trade to and from the Sahel region, by virtue of their existing control over the caravan routes through the Sahara. France also had an outpost near the mouth of the Red Sea in Djibouti (French Somaliland), which could serve as an eastern anchor to an east-west belt of French territory across the continent.[4]

The British, on the other hand, wanted to link their possessions in Southern Africa (South Africa, Bechuanaland and Rhodesia), with their territories in East Africa (modern Kenya), and these two areas with the Nile basin. Sudan, which then included today's South Sudan and Uganda, was the key to the fulfilment of these ambitions, especially since Egypt was already under British control. This 'red line' (i.e. a proposed railway, see Cape to Cairo Railway) through Africa was made most famous by the British and South African political force Cecil Rhodes, who wanted Africa "painted [British] Red".[5]

If one draws a line from Cape Town to Cairo (Rhodes' dream) and another line from Dakar to French Somaliland (now Djibouti) by the Red Sea in the Horn (the French ambition), these two lines intersect in eastern South Sudan near the town of Fashoda (present-day Kodok), explaining its strategic importance. The French east-west axis and the British north-south axis could not co-exist; the nation that could occupy and hold the crossing of the two axes would be the only one able to proceed with its plan.

Fashoda was also bound up in the Egyptian Question, a long running dispute between the United Kingdom and France over the legality of the British occupation of Egypt. Since 1882 many French politicians, particularly those of the parti colonial, had come to regret France’s decision not to join with Britain in occupying the country. They hoped to force Britain to leave, and thought that a colonial outpost on the Upper Nile could serve as a base for French gunboats. These in turn were expected to make the British abandon Egypt. Another proposed scheme involved a massive dam, cutting off the Nile’s water supply and forcing the British out. These ideas were highly impractical, but they succeeded in alarming many British officials.[6]


Contemporary illustration of Marchand's trek across Africa

A French force of only 120 tirailleurs plus 12 French officers, non-commissioned officers and support staff—Captain Marcel Joseph Germain, Captain Albert Baratier, Captain Charles Mangin, Captain Victor Emmanuel Largeau, Lieutenant Félix Fouqué, teacher Dyé, doctor Jules Emily Major, Warrant Officer De Prat, Sergeant George Dat, Sergeant Bernard, Sergeant Venail and the military interpreter Landerouin—set out from Brazzaville in a borrowed Belgian steamer, under Major Jean-Baptiste Marchand with orders to secure the area around Fashoda, and make it a French protectorate. They steamed up the Ubangi River to its head of navigation and then marched overland through jungle and scrub to the deserts of Sudan. They travelled across Sudan to the Nile River. They were to be met there by two expeditions coming from the east across Ethiopia, one of which, from Djibouti, was led by Christian de Bonchamps, veteran of the Stairs Expedition to Katanga.[7]

Following a difficult 14-month trek across the heart of Africa, the Marchand Expedition arrived on 10 July 1898, but the de Bonchamps Expedition failed to make it after being ordered by the Ethiopians to halt, and then suffering accidents in the Baro Gorge. Marchand's small force was thus alone.[8] On 18 September a flotilla of five British gunboats arrived at the isolated Fashoda fort. They carried 1,500 British and Egyptian/Sudanese soldiers, led by Sir Herbert Kitchener and including Lieutenant-Colonel Horace Smith-Dorrien.[9] Marchand had received incorrect reports that the approaching force consisted of Dervishes but now found himself facing a diplomatic rather than a military crisis.[10]

As the commander of the Anglo-Egyptian army that had just defeated the forces of the Mahdi at the Battle of Omdurman, Kitchener was in the process of reconquering the Sudan in the name of the Egyptian Khedive, and after the battle he opened sealed orders to investigate the French expedition. Kitchener, a fluent French speaker, landed at Fashoda wearing Egyptian Army uniform, and the two commanders behaved with admirable restraint. Both sides insisted on their right to Fashoda but agreed to wait for further instructions from home.[11]

News of the meeting was relayed to Paris and London, where it inflamed the imperial pride of both nations. Widespread popular outrage followed, each side accusing the other of naked expansionism and aggression. The crisis continued throughout September and October. The Royal Navy drafted war orders and mobilized its reserves.[12]


No Fight - JM Staniforth
1898 cartoon: a French poodle begs for scraps from a British bulldog

In naval terms, the situation was heavily in Britain's favour, a fact that French deputies acknowledged in the aftermath of the crisis. Significant credit has been given to Marchand for remaining calm.[13]

The military facts were undoubtedly important to Théophile Delcassé, the newly appointed French foreign minister. "They have soldiers. We only have arguments," he said resignedly. Besides he saw no advantage in a colonial war with the British, especially since he was keen to gain their friendship in case of any future conflict with Germany. He therefore pressed hard for a peaceful resolution of the crisis although it encouraged a tide of nationalism and anglophobia. In a scathing editorial published in L'Intransigeant on 13 October Victor Henri Rochefort wrote, "Germany keeps slapping us in the face. Let’s not offer our cheek to England."[14]

According to nationalists, France’s capitulation was clear evidence that the French army had been severely weakened by the traitors who supported Dreyfus. Yet the reopening of the Dreyfus Affair in January had done much to distract French public opinion from events in the Sudan and with people increasingly questioning the wisdom of a war over such a remote part of Africa, the French government quietly ordered its soldiers to withdraw on 3 November and the crisis ended peacefully.[3] Marchand chose to withdraw his small force by way of Abyssinia and Djibouti, rather than cross Anglo/Egyptian territory by taking the relatively quick journey by steamer up the Nile.[15]

In March 1899, the Anglo-French Convention of 1898 was signed and it was agreed that the source of the Nile and the Congo rivers should mark the frontier between their spheres of influence. The Fashoda incident was the last serious colonial dispute between Britain and France, and its classic diplomatic solution is considered by most historians to be the precursor of the Entente Cordiale.[16]

The two main protagonists are commemorated in the Pont Kitchener-Marchand, a 116-metre (381 ft) road bridge over the Saône, completed in 1959 in the French city of Lyon. In 1904, Fashoda was officially renamed Kodok. It is located in modern-day South Sudan.

See also


  1. ^ Bell 2014, p. 3.
  2. ^ Taylor 1954, pp. 321–326.
  3. ^ a b Langer 1951, pp. 537–580.
  4. ^ William Roger Louis, and Prosser Gifford, eds. France and Britain in Africa: imperial rivalry and colonial rule (Yale University Press, 1971).
  5. ^ Louis and Gifford, eds. France and Britain in Africa: imperial rivalry and colonial rule (1971).
  6. ^ Henri L. Wesseling, Divide and conquer: The partition of Africa, 1880–1914 (1996).
  7. ^ Michel Côte, Mission de Bonchamps: Vers Fachoda à la rencontre de la mission Marchand à travers l’Ethiopie, Paris, Plon, 1900.
  8. ^ Lewis 1988, pp. 133–135, 210.
  9. ^ Pakenham 1991, p. 548.
  10. ^ Pakenham 1991, p. 547.
  11. ^ Moorehead 2002, p. 78.
  12. ^ Pakenham 1991, p. 552.
  13. ^ Giffen 1930, pp. 79–98.
  14. ^ Vaïsse 2004, pp. 15–16.
  15. ^ Pakenham 1991, p. 555.
  16. ^ Horne 2006, pp. 298–299.


  • Andrew, G.; et al. (1974). "Gabriel Hanotaux, the Colonial Party and the Fashoda Strategy". J. Imp. Commonw. Hist. 3 (1): 55–104. doi:10.1080/03086537408582422.
  • Bates, D. (1984). The Fashoda Incident of 1898: Encounter on the Nile. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192117718.
  • Bell, P. (2014). France and Britain, 1900–1940: Entente and Estrangement. London: Routledge. ISBN 9781317892731.
  • Brown, R. (1970). Fashoda Reconsidered: The Impact of Domestic Politics on French Policy in Africa, 1893–1898. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 9780801810985.
  • Churchill, W. (1899). The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan. London: Longmans, Green & Co. OCLC 2704682.
  • Eubank, K. (1960). "The Fashoda Crisis Re-Examined". Historian. 22 (2): 145–162. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6563.1960.tb01649.x.
  • Giffen, M. (1930). Fashoda, the Incident and Its Diplomatic Setting. University of Chicago Press. OCLC 993310905.
  • Horne, A. (2006). La Belle France: A Short History. New York: Vintage. ISBN 9781400034871.
  • Langer, W. (1951). The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890–1902. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. OCLC 787805.
  • Lewis, D. (1988). The Race to Fashoda: European Colonialism & African Resistance in the Scramble for Africa. London: Bloomsbury. ISBN 9780747501138.
  • Moorehead, A. (2002). The White Nile. London: Penguin. ISBN 9780141391168.
  • Pakenham, T. (1991). The Scramble for Africa, 1876–1912. New York: Random House. ISBN 9780394515762.
  • Porter, C. (1975). The Career of Théophile Delcassé. Westport: Greenwood. pp. 132–139. ISBN 9780837177205.
  • Riker, T. (1979). "A Survey of British Policy in the Fashoda Crisis". Political Science Quarterly. 44 (1): 54–78. doi:10.2307/2142814.
  • Taylor, A. (1950). "Prelude to Fashoda: The Question of the Upper Nile, 1894–5". English Historical Review. 65 (254): 52–80. doi:10.1093/ehr/lxv.ccliv.52.
  • Taylor, A. (1954). The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848–1918. Oxford: Clarendon Press. OCLC 123580339.
  • Vaïsse, M. (2004). L'Entente cordiale de Fachoda à la Grande Guerre: dans les archives du Quai d'Orsay (in French). Brussels: Éditions Complexe. ISBN 9782804800062.
  • Wright, P. (1972). Conflict on the Nile: the Fashoda Incident of 1898. London: Heinemann. ISBN 9780434878307.

External links

Coordinates: 9°53′N 32°07′E / 9.883°N 32.117°E

1898 in France

Events from the year 1898 in France.

1898 in the United Kingdom

Events from the year 1898 in the United Kingdom.

Anglo-French Convention of 1898

The Anglo-French Convention of 1898, full name the Convention between Great Britain and France for the Delimitation of their respective Possessions to the West of the Niger, and of their respective Possessions and Spheres of Influence to the East of that River, also known as the Niger Convention, was an agreement between Britain and France that concluded the partition of West Africa between the colonial powers by finally fixing the borders in the disputed areas of Northern Nigeria. It was signed in Paris on 14 June 1898, ratifications were exchanged on 13 June 1899.

Article IV of this convention was completed by a declaration signed in London on 21 March 1899 that, after the Fashoda Incident, delimited spheres of influence in northern Central Africa and the Sudan.

Anglo-French Wars

Anglo-French Wars were a series of conflicts between England (and after 1707, Britain) and France, including:

Anglo-French War (1193-1199) – Rivalry between the Capetian dynasty and the House of Plantagenet, ended in an English victory at the Battle of Gisors

Anglo-French War (1202–04) – French invasion of Normandy

Anglo-French War (1213–14) – rivalry between the Capetian dynasty and the House of Plantagenet, ended in a French victory at the Battle of Bouvines

French invasion of England (1215-1217) – part of the First Barons War

Saintonge War (1242–43) – ended in a French victory at the Battle of Taillebourg

Anglo-French War (1294–98 and 1300-03) – conflict which revolved around Gascony and ended by the Treaty of Paris (1303)

Hundred Years' War (1337–1453) - ended as a French victory

Anglo-French War (1496–98) – part of the Italian War of 1494–98

Anglo-French War (1512–14) – part of the War of the League of Cambrai

Anglo-French War (1522–26) – part of the Italian War of 1521–26

Anglo-French War (1542–46) – part of the Italian War of 1542–46

Anglo-French War (1557–59) – part of the Italian War of 1551–59

Anglo-French War (1627–29) – part of the Huguenot rebellions

Anglo-French War (1666–67) – a minor corollary of the Second Anglo-Dutch War

Anglo-French War (1667-68) – part of the War of Devolution

Anglo-French War (1689–97) – part of the Nine Years' War

Anglo-French War (1702–13) – part of the War of the Spanish Succession

Anglo-French War (1744–48) – part of the War of the Austrian Succession

Anglo-French war (1744-1763) – France is defeated in India

Anglo-French War (1756–63) – part of the Seven Years' War

Anglo-French War (1778–83) – French victory; ended in the Treaty of Versailles; linked to the American Revolutionary War

Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780-1784) – ended in a British victory

Anglo-French War (1793–1802) – part of the French Revolutionary Wars

Anglo-French War (1803–14) – part of the Napoleonic Wars, including the Peninsular War

Anglo-French War (1815) – part of the Napoleonic Wars, the Waterloo Campaign

Fashoda Incident (1898) -Colonial Incident during the Scramble of Africa.

Bandar Jissah

Bandar Jissah (Arabic: بندر الجصة‎) is a coastal town in northeastern Oman.Bandar Jissah was the centre of a Cause célèbre in Anglo-Omani relations in 1898, which was later called Oman’s Fashoda Incident

The Sultan of the day, the Gujerati speaking Faisal bin Turki, Sultan of Muscat and Oman, wearying of the tiresome British complaints about his trade in slaves, turned to the French, who were more relaxed about such things. He agreed to let them establish a coaling-station at Bandar Jissah. This was too much for the British, one object of whose presence in Muscat had for a long been to frustrate French designs in the region. The Sultan was forced to rescind his agreement with the French on pain of having his Muscat palace blown to smithereens.

Beloved Enemy (1955 film)

Beloved Enemy (German: Geliebte Feindin) is a 1955 West German historical drama film directed by Rolf Hansen and starring Ruth Leuwerik, Werner Hinz and Thomas Holtzmann. The film's plot was loosely inspired by the Fashoda Incident of 1898.

The film's sets were designed by the art director Robert Herlth. It was shot at the Bavaria Studios in Munich, with location filming taking place in Cairo and the Saqqara.

Cape to Cairo Railway

The Cape to Cairo Railway is an uncompleted project to cross Africa from south to north by rail. This plan was initiated at the end of the 19th century, during the time of Western colonial rule, largely under the vision of Cecil Rhodes, in the attempt to connect adjacent African possessions of the British Empire through a continuous line from Cape Town, South Africa to Cairo, Egypt. While most sections of the Cape to Cairo railway are in operation, a major part is missing between northern Sudan and Uganda.

Cape to Cairo Road

The Cape to Cairo Road or Pan-African Highway, sometimes called the Great North Road in sub-Saharan Africa, was a proposed road that would stretch the length of Africa, from Cape Town to Cairo, through the Cape to Cairo Red Line of British colonies. The proposal was similar to the Cape to Cairo Railway, another proposed infrastructure project through the same colonies. Neither were completed before British colonial rule ended in the colonies.

In the 1980s the plan was revived with modifications as the Cairo–Cape Town Highway, known as Trans-African Highway 4, in the transcontinental road network being developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (ADB), and the African Union, as part of the Trans-African Highway network.

Christian de Bonchamps

The Marquis Christian de Bonchamps (15 June 1860 – 9 December 1919) was a French explorer in Africa and a colonial officer in the French Empire during the late 19th- early 20th-century epoch known as the "Scramble for Africa", who played an important role in two of the more notorious incidents of the period.

Fashoda syndrome

Fashoda syndrome, or a 'Fashoda complex', is the name given to a tendency within French foreign policy in Africa, giving importance to asserting French influence in areas which might be becoming susceptible to British influence. It is considered the climax of the imperial territorial disputes between the United Kingdom and France in Eastern Africa, drawing these two nations to the brink of war in their bid to control the African Upper Nile region.

Franco-Russian Alliance

The Franco-Russian Alliance, or Russo-French Rapprochement, was an alliance formed by the agreements of 1891–93; it lasted until 1917. The strengthening of the German Empire, the creation of the Triple Alliance of 1882, and the exacerbation of Franco-German and Russo-German contradictions at the end of the 1880s led to a common foreign policy and mutual strategic military interests between France and Russia. The development of financial ties between the two countries created the economic prerequisites for the Russo-French Alliance.

International crisis

The term international crisis is widespread term without a single common definition. To some, it involves "a sequence of interactions between the governments of two or more sovereign states in severe conflict, short of actual war, but involving the perception of a dangerously high probability of war".

International incident

An international incident is a seemingly relatively small or limited action or clash that results in a wider dispute between two or more nation-states. International incidents can arise from unanticipated actions involving citizens, government officials, or armed units of one or more nation-states, or out of a deliberate but small provocative action by espionage agents of one nation-state, or by terrorists, against another nation-state.

An international incident usually arises during a time of relative peace between nation-states, and in general is, on the surface, an unexpected event. Conflicts that grow out of a series of escalating skirmishes between nation-states generally are not considered international incidents; however, terrorist actions can and often do become international incidents. However, historical views of past international incidents often reveal the incident was the flashpoint of a simmering conflict between nation-states, or organizations opposing nation-states.

Wars have often been provoked by international incidents, and diplomatic efforts to prevent international incidents from growing into full-scale armed conflicts often have been unsuccessful. In the aftermath of the First World War, the League of Nations was established to help nations who were parties to an international incident achieve a solution to the incident through diplomatic means. Initially, the League of Nations had some success in working to find diplomatic solutions, however the failure of the League of Nations to prevent World War II resulted in the disbandment of the League of Nations in favor of the United Nations. As with its predecessor, the United Nations provides a means by which nations involved in an international incident can work to resolve the matter diplomatically rather than through the use of force.

The term is also applied to various incidents that can disrupt international commerce, and to celebrities or other well-known people who commit gaffes or otherwise act inappropriately, causing the press and sometimes governments to criticize their actions.

The International Court of Justice keeps a list of legal disputes between nation-states, many of which result from international incidents. The Royal Mail of the United Kingdom keeps a list on its website of current international incidents that might disrupt mail service. The incidents listed may or may not conform to the definitions given above.

Jean-Baptiste Marchand

for others with similar names, see Jean MarchandGeneral Jean-Baptiste Marchand (2 November 1863 – 13 January 1934) was a French military officer and explorer in Africa. Marchand is best known for commanding the French expeditionary force during the Fashoda Incident.


Kodok or Kothok (Arabic: كودوك‎), formerly known as Fashoda, is a town in the north-eastern South Sudanese state of Western Nile. Kodok is the capital of Shilluk country, formally known as the Shilluk Kingdom. Shilluk has been an independent kingdom for more than sixteen centuries. Fashoda is known as the place where the British and French nearly went to war in 1898.

According to Shilluk belief, religion, tradition and constitution, Fashoda serves as the mediating city for the Shilluk King. It is a place where ceremonies and the coronation of each new Shilluk King takes place. For over 500 years, Fashoda was kept hidden and acted as a forbidden city for the Shilluk King, but as modern educations and traditions emerge, Fashoda is now known to the outside world. Fashoda is believed to be a place where the spirit of Juok (God), the spirit of Nyikango (the founder of Shilluk Kingdom and the spiritual leader of Shilluk religion), the spirit of the deceased Shilluk kings and the spirit of the living Shilluk King come to mediate for the Kingdom of Shilluk's spiritual healing. Fashoda is preserved as a quiet place for the spirit of God, where the sounds and speeches of God (Juok) can be heard and received by the King, leaders, and elders. For the Shilluk, Fashoda is a city of mediation and peace.

Marchand Mission

The Marchand Mission was an expedition undertaken by French emissary Jean-Baptiste Marchand (1863-1934) and 150 men with designs to expand French colonial power in northeastern Africa.

Starting from Libreville (in present-day Gabon) in 1897, the Marchand expedition spent 14 arduous months crossing largely uncharted regions of north central Africa. They finally reached the fort of Fashoda on the upper Nile on July 10, 1898 and hoisted the French flag. On September 18, a flotilla of British gunboats led by Horatio Kitchener arrived at Fashoda; Kitchener had just defeated Mahdi forces at The Battle of Omdurman, and was in the process of reconquering the Sudan in the name of the Egyptian Khedive. The confrontation of the French and British was cordial but both sides insisted on their right to Fashoda.

News of the encounter was relayed to Paris and London and each side accused the other of expansionism and aggression. A stalemate (the Fashoda Incident) continued until November 3 when French Foreign Minister Théophile Delcassé, fearing the possibility of war, withdrew Marchand and his troops and ceded the Sudan to the British.

The Marchand Mission was a major French attempt during the great period of colonial expansion to link colonial territories across the breadth of Africa. Some 45,000 porters struggled over 2000 miles to achieve the conquest, carrying hundreds of tons of supplies.

Ndjamena–Djibouti Highway

The Ndjamena-Djibouti Highway is Trans-African Highway 6 in the transcontinental road network being developed by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the African Development Bank (ADB), and the African Union, connecting the Sahelian region to the Indian Ocean port of Djibouti in the country of Djibouti.

The road passes through Darfur in western Sudan and the town of Al-Fashir, scene of the Darfur conflict. Consequently, travel through that area and Sudan–Chad border region is unsafe and development of that road section is at a standstill.

The route has a length of 4,219 km (2,622 mi) crossing Chad, central Sudan and northern Ethiopia. Less than half of it is paved and a significant proportion of that is in poor condition. Mountainous terrain in Ethiopia presents challenges to highway engineers.

Between Wad Madani in Sudan and Werota in Ethiopia the highway shares the same route as Trans-Africa Highway 4, the Cairo-Cape Town Highway.

The highway is contiguous with the Dakar-Ndjamena Highway with which it will form a complete east-west crossing of the continent of 8,715 km (5,415 mi). The approximate route of the two highways follows a route originally proposed in the French Empire of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and earlier French attempts to control the transcontinental crossing led to the Fashoda Incident.

The Great War in England in 1897

The Great War in England in 1897 was written by William Le Queux and published in 1894.

Upper Nile (state)

Upper Nile was one of the ten states of South Sudan. The only governor of Upper Nile since the independence of South Sudan was Simon Kun Puoch The White Nile flowed through the state, giving it its name. The state also shared a similar name with the region of Greater Upper Nile, of which it was part along with the states of Unity and Jonglei. It had an area of 77,823 square kilometres (30,048 sq mi). Malakal was the capital of the state. The town of Kodok, the location of the Fashoda Incident that ended the "Scramble for Africa", was located in the state. Upper Nile seceded from Sudan as part of the Republic of South Sudan on 9 July 2011.

In October 2015, the states of South Sudan were reorganized into 28 states by President Salva Kiir.

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