Abstract

For the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century, Great Britain had defended Egypt by shoring up its suzerain, the Sultan of Turkey. From the mid-1870s the rivalry of France and the erosion of Ottoman authority by a rising tide of nationalism rendered this approach increasingly untenable. When the Conservative Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, purchased the largest single shareholding in the Suez canal company in 1875, he provoked little domestic opposition. In terms of strategy, investment and trade, British policy-makers were convinced that they could not afford to allow any other power to control the canal or Egypt. So far as the diplomatic situation permitted, Disraeli and Lord Salisbury, the Foreign Secretary after March 1878, struggled to establish British paramountcy there. They had largely succeeded when, in 1880, the Liberals, under W. E. Gladstone, again took office. The new Prime Minister failed to form the concert of Europe which he had proposed in his Midlothian speeches. At home, controversy over Ireland divided his party and threatened to force Whigs to join with Tories in opposition to his legislation.

Keywords

Prime Minister Foreign Policy British Government Suez Canal Liberal Party 
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Notes

  1. 1.
    See C. W. Hallberg, The Suez Canal: Its History and Diplomatic Importance (New York, 1931) pp. 224–7, and H. L. Hoskins, British Routes to India (London, 1928; 1966 edn) pp. 454–6.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Gladstone to Granville, 24 Aug. 1873: Ramm, Corr., vol. II, no. 882.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Disraeli to Derby, 23 Apr. 1874: D.P. 16/2/1, Derby to Disraeli (Private), 24 Apr. 1874: H.P. B/XX/S/905 (both also in M & B, vol. V, pp. 412–13); Lyons to Derby, 11 July 1874: Lord Newton, Lord Lyons A Record of British Diplomacy (London, n.d.) p. 348.Google Scholar
  4. 11.
    Northcote to L. Rothschild, 15, also 30 Dec.; Note on Alfred Rothschild’s visit to the Treasury, 17 Dec. 1875: Idd. P. 50052. Also Northcote to M. Corry, 22 Nov. 1875: ibid. 50017; Northcote to Derby (Private), 13 Dec. 1875: D.P. 16/2/6. Although the Rothschilds’s commission of 2½ per cent ‘startled’ officials at the Treasury (Northcote to Disraeli [Confidential], 24 Nov. 1875: Idd. P. 50017), it probably represented but a fraction of their total profit on the shares transaction. The revelation of the purchase sent the Egyptian loan of 1873, quoted at less than 55 on 15 November 1875, over 70 on 26 November. (L. H. Jenks, The Migration of British Capital to1875 [London, 1927; 1938 edn] p. 410, n. 53; listing of foreign stocks in The Times, 16, 27 Nov. 1875.) Philip Rose, Disraeli’s solicitor and investment counsellor, who speculated on foreign loans, ‘knew before the world did what was going on’. He was of the opinion that ‘Rothschilds alone must have benefitted largely, as they bought to the extent of millions of Egyptian stock’. (Sir Philip F. Rose to W. F. Monypenny, 14 Jan. 1907; in reply to Monypenny’s enquiry of 12 Jan. about Rose’s father’s involvement in the purchase of the canal shares: H.P. R/V/A/33, 32a. Philip Rose to Corry [Private], 29 Nov. 1875; also Emile Erlanger to P. Rose, 27 Oct. 1876: ibid. B/XX/R/77, 92.)Google Scholar
  5. 12.
    Carn. D., 4, 16, 18 Nov. 1875; also Arthur Hardinge, Life of Henry Howard Molyneux Herbert Fourth Earl of Carnarvon 1831–1890 (London, 1925, 3 vols) vol. II, p. 95. One example of George Ward Hunt’s incompetence was his remark at the Lord Mayor’s banquet concerning the ramming of the Vanguard by the Iron Duke in fog off Wicklow: ‘If the “Iron Duke” had sent an enemy’s ship to the bottom we should have called her one of the most formidable ships of war in the world; and all that she has done is actually what she was intended to do, except, of course, that the ship she struck was unfortunately our own property, and not that of an enemy.’ Annual Register, 1875, p. [131].Google Scholar
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  21. 68.
    E. Hamilton to Rosebery (Confidential), 26 July 1880; R.P. 10031; cf. Dudley W. R. Bahlman (ed.), The Diary of Sir Edward Walter Hamilton1880–1885 (Oxford, 1972, 2 vols) vol. I, pp. 24, 29–30 (13, 28 July 1880).Google Scholar
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  29. 94.
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Copyright information

© Marvin Swartz 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marvin Swartz
    • 1
  1. 1.AmherstUSA

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