|About the Book|
The Fashoda crisis of 1898 was a confrontation between Britain and France over imperial control of the Upper Nile valley. On the surface, the contested prize, a deserted and crumbling fortress on the Nile, appeared to have little intrinsicMoreThe Fashoda crisis of 1898 was a confrontation between Britain and France over imperial control of the Upper Nile valley. On the surface, the contested prize, a deserted and crumbling fortress on the Nile, appeared to have little intrinsic significance. In fact, the crisis involved a range of larger and interrelated issues: quarrels over imperial preponderance in Africa and the Nile valley, concerns over the stability of the Ottoman Empire, and polemics over national honor. Little disagreement exists in historical literature about its significance as a turning point in the relations between Britain and France. The crisis forced the resolution of the Egyptian and Upper Nile questions and ultimately served as the catalyst to eventual rapprochement. The Entente Cordiale of 1904 proved to be the instrument that ended centuries of Anglo-French antagonism and contributed to the formation of the Triple Entente. The crisis followed the meeting at Fashoda in mid-September 1898 between Captain Jean-Baptiste Marchand and Colonel Herbert Kitchener, both under orders to claim the region on behalf of their governments. For four months, the dispute brought France and Britain near the brink of war. British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury and French Foreign M inister Theophile Delcasse stood At the heart of the negotiations to resolve the crisis. This work focuses on the role of Sir Edmund John Monson, British ambassador to France. Much of the historical scholarship concentrates on the policies of Salisbury and Delcasse and provides a limited assessment of Monsons role during the negotiations. Furthermore, most of these works ignore crucial domestic considerations-most significantly, the Dreyfus Affair that altered the setting in which the negotiations were to be conducted. Throughout the crisis, the French temper grew more explosive and more unpredictable. As the French government failed to control the domestic agitation over revision and the accompanying turmoil, Monson increasingly feared French leaders might attempt to divert public attention away from the Affair with a military confrontation against Britain. Monsons role during the crisis followed two phases. From September to October 1898, he provided an active voice for Salisbury and thus engaged Delcasse in often animated discussions. From October to November, however, growing dissatisfaction with Monsons performance diminished his influence. Three factors ensured his relegation to the periphery of the discussions. First, the growth of professionalism within the British diplomatic service and a technological revolution in communications diminished ambassadors independence and initiative. Second, the international prestige of the British empire meant that foreign governments generally conducted their diplomatic relations with Britain in London. Third, Salisbury and Delcasse ultimately preferred to negotiate through the French ambassador in London. On the one hand, in Paris, Delcasse grew frustrated with his inability to persuade the ambassador to moderate Britains hard-line position. On the other hand, in London, Salisbury increasingly doubted the soundness and reliability of Monsons reporting. As a result, the negotiations that resolved the Fashoda crisis shifted to London and Monson was thereafter ignored. Clearly, Monson clearly played a minimal role in the ultimate resolution of the Fashoda crisis. Consequently, the concentration on the ambassador presents the reader with an interesting if not obvious question -- namely, why bother? Given the institutional and technological limitations placed upon him, the reader might question whether Monson could have played anything but a peripheral function. Therefore, the consideration of Monsons role during the crisis helps to provide a more thorough appreciation of the changing nature of British diplomatic representation in the late nineteenth century.