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Gray, J. R. (1957) The Southern Sudan, 1839-1889. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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In 1839, with the discovery of a navigable waterway stretching a thousand miles into the interior, Khartoum became the river-port for central Africa. Its pagan hinterland, the southern Sudan, soon extended to the northern reaches of the Congo basin and the confines of the Lacustrine Kingdoms of Bunyoro and Buganda. The peoples of the area were suddenly exposed to attempts to open up equatorial Africa from the upper Nile, and this vast sphere of influence endured until the Mahdi captured Khartoum. European missionaries and merchants were the first to seize a unique opportunity to seek converts and fortunes, yet they became involved in conflict and disaster. In most of this area this was the result not of the slave trade, but of the ivory trade, which became linked with violence and plunder. The missionaries could accomplish nothing, exploration was hindered, local European interests declined and by 1860 they were being replaced by large number of northern Arab settlers. In the Bahr el Ghazal the ivory trade was from the beginning dependent on settlements of Arab servants and an overland slave trade increased the devastation. An Egyptian expedition, despatched in 1869 to annex the area, was the first attempt to establish an imperial administration in the interior of Africa. Encountering difficulties from the previous spread of violence, Baker, the commander of the expedition, failed to take possession of the Lacustrine Kingdoms. His successors, Gordon and Emin, were similarly handicapped in their efforts to develop the area and alternative routes were developed. Egyptian resources were diverts by a rebellion of the slave traders in the Bahr el Ghazal. Although temporarily suppressed, the traders later united with the Mahdi to overthrow Egyptian power throughout the Sudan. As the highway to the interior the southern Sudan attracted British interest, the Egyptian imperial expansion was one of the factors leading to the scramble for Africa. With the decline of Egyptian power a group of British humanitarians prepared to build on its foundations, but on the withdrawal of Emin in 1889 this intrusion came to an end.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:24

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