A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 31


BRITAIN IN AFRICA


not with her but with her stubborn antagonists in the South African War, under the curious conviction that all the dominions of the British empire were craving to be free from a bondage which had no existence. In actual fact, for fifty years past Great Britain had consistently fostered autonomy in her colonies, which were aware of no bondage except when the exigencies of international relations made the imperial government actually or apparently neglectful of the interests of particular colonies. Regarding themselves and being regarded as partners in the empire, and not as subordinates, they had no desire for separation, however jealous they might be in regard to their own rights and privileges; and the sense of imperial solidarity was growing, not diminishing. South Africa was on a different footing from the rest, for the simple reason that the Dutch element there declined to regard itself as British, looked upon the British as interlopers, and presented the British claim to sovereignty in territories which the Dutch, who had been there long before them, regarded as being rightfully their own. And that sentiment among the Boers had been intensified by the retrocession of the Transvaal's independence in 1881.

When this antagonism issued in the South African War in 1899, the popularity of Great Britain in Europe had not been increasing. Her prospective evacuation of Egypt seemed to grow more remote; it could not come till the Egyptians could be trusted to govern themselves, and she was not teaching them the art of self-government. She was showing them how the thing ought to be done, giving them stable rule, developing their resources, bringing to the fellaheen an unprecedented prosperity; but the men who were doing it all, holding all the responsible posts, were not Egyptians but Britons — after the Indian precedent, and for the same reasons.

In 1896 Britain made the first open move towards the reconquest of the Sudan by pushing the Egyptian frontier defences up to Dongola. The business was done in the single campaign of 1898. The fanatical hordes of the Khalifa, the Mahdi's successor, were completely shattered at the battle of Omdurman. The Sudan became what it had been before in theory, but never in fact, a province of Egypt, and virtually a British protectorate. But the concentration of the Khalifa's forces against the British advance had enabled a small expeditionary party from the French Congo to reach Fashoda

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