Directions: The following question is based on the accompanying Documents 1-13. (Some of the documents have been edited forthe purpose of this exercise.) Write your answer on the lined pages of the pink essay booklet.

This question is designed to test your ability to work with historical documents. As you analyze each document take into account its source and the point of view of the author. Write an essay on the following topic that integrates the analysis of the documents. You may refer to historical facts and evelopments not mentioned in the documents.


1. Analyze the pressures on Great Britain's Liberal government during the Sudan crisis (1884-1885), and explain why the government acted as it did.


Historical background: In 1883 a major crisis arose in the Sudan, the territory south of Egypt under Egyptian control. A Muslim religious leader known as the Mahdi led a popular rebellion against Egyptian rule and foreign influence in the Sudan. The rebellion attracted the attention of the British government, which had become deeply involved in Egypt's affairs by 1880. From 1880 to 1885 the Liberal party under the leadership of Prime Minister William Gladstone was in power in Great Britain.

 Document 1


 Document 2

 General Gordon started last night for Egypt. His immediate purpose is to report on the military situation in the Sudan, to provide in the best manner for the safety of the European population of the capital Khartoum and the Egyptian garrisons [permanent military installations] still in the country, as well as [to provide] for the withdrawal of all Egyptian military units from the Sudan. To do what is needed, General Gordon is probably better suited than any living man. His name is respected throughout Egypt, and his prestige in the Sudan has been unrivalled since he served as governor there between 1877 and 1879.

 The Times, London, January 19, 1884

 Document 3

 The Marquis of Salisbury (Conservative party leader in the House of Lords debate) February 12, 1884:
The dishonor upon the Egyptian army and upon our English officers caused by the defeats at the hands of the Madhi comes from inconsistency in the British government's policies. The Gladstone government began with a sound and sober policy of recognizing the Sudan as Egypt's possession. It went on to a policy of indifference and fear of responsibility for the Sudan, and it is ending with a policy of panic. You, the members of Her Majesty's government, do not care for empire; nothing is so pleasing to you as evacuation. How much this will contribute to British influence in the Near East and to the stability of your rule in India, I leave to your lordships to imagine.

 Document 4

 Sir George Campbell (Liberal party member of Parliament, from the debate in the House of Commons) February 12, 1884:
 I earnestly hope that the government will not enter on a great war in the Sudan, but will rest content with rescuing the garrisons. I protest against going to war with the Madhi; I protest against a war of Christianity against Islam in the Sudan. We should get out of Egypt as soon as we possibly can, and not be deterred by the concerns of the European bondholders and the creditors.

 Document 5

 Sir Wilfred Lawson (Liberal party member of Parliament, from the debate in the House of Commons) February 14,1884:
 Who got us into this trouble in Egypt and the Sudan? The Conservative party's leader began it in 1882, when he went to a meeting presided over by the chairman of the British holders of Egyptian government bonds and made fire and thunder speeches. The present Liberal government has been trying to get out of Egypt, and they cannot get out. The Egyptians do not want our diplomats, our bondholders, and our European residents governing them. They want us to go away.

 Document 6

 The position of General Gordon, besieged at Khartoum, unfortunately remains exceedingly precarious. Yesterday we published the unwelcome report that he is now totally isolated. All communications have been cut. A month ago the British government was fully warned that it would become necessary to employ something more than moral force at Khartoum. The necessity is now becoming urgent, but the government has not yet ordered the commander of British and Egyptian forces in southern Egypt to march to Khartoum.

 Commentary in The Times, London, March 20, 1884

 Document 7

 In the spring of 1884,the Liberal party was divided on the question of the Sudan, some wishing for an expedition to rescue Gordon at Khartoum, others hot for abandonment of him. The Conservatives were divided, too; most of them probably wished for an expedition, but they were afraid to say so.

 Memoirs of Sir Charles Dilke, member of the Gladstone cabinet, published in 1917

 Document 8

   10 Downing Street; 23 April 1884

We ought to act in the Sudan only by peaceful means, except for the safety of Gordon and his party. If, in consequence of his being in danger, we have to act by military means, the object of our action ought to be to bring him away at once from Khartoum, and he ought to know that.

If Gordon continues at Khartoum knowing that we cannot approve of supplying him with any forces for military expeditions, he should state to us the cause of his staying and his intentions.

 Memorandum from Prime Minister Gladstone to Foreign Secretary Lord Granville

 Document 9

 Sir Michael Hicks-Beach (Conservative party member of Parliament, from the debate in the House of Commons) May 12, 1884:

 I believe that the people of this country are determined that General Gordon shall be saved together with those who have trusted in him. (Cheers) If General Gordon had been supplied with materials of war earlier, he would have been enabled to stem at Khartoum the wave of religious fanaticism and anarchy led by the Madhi.

It is our duty to complete the commitments which we made when General Gordon went out to the Sudan. Her Majesty's Government must leave no stone unturned to avert from this country the intolerable stain which would be left upon her honour by any injury inflicted upon General Gordon.

 Document 10

 Prime Minister Gladstone (from the debate in the House of Commons) May 12, 1884

 The government was and is pledged to shield General Gordon from danger. Should necessity arise, the government shall do this. The Right Honorable Gentleman Sir Michael Hicks-Beach has said, though, that it is the duty of England to keep the Mahdi's movement out of Egypt and to put it down in the Sudan, and it is this task which the gentleman desires to saddle upon England. That means the conquest of the Sudan. I put aside for the moment all questions of climate, of distance, of the enormous expenses, and all the frightful loss of life. There is something worse involved. It would be a war of conquest against a people struggling to be free.

 Document 11

 It was not until August 8, 1884, that the British secretary for war authorized preliminary steps for moving troops south from Egypt into the Sudan. While authorizing these actions, however, the government stated in Parliament: "Her Majesty's government is not at present convinced that it will be impossible for General Gordon to withdraw from Khartoum." On August 26, Lord Wolseley was appointed to command the expedition to rescue Gordon.

Sir Evelyn Baring, British Consul General in Egypt, 1883-1907, Modern Egypt, I, (1908)

 Document 12


 "Too Late!"

Telegram, Thursday Morning, Feb 5. "Khartoum taken by the MAHDI. General GORDON'S fate uncertain"

 Document 13

 I have had the honour to receive Your Majesty's telegram, stating that it is too frightening to consider that earlier action might have prevented the fall of Khartoum and saved many lives. I am not altogether able to follow Your Majesty's conclusion. Your Majesty's ministers were well aware that climate and distance were far more formidable than the sword of the enemy. Probably abundant anger will be poured out on Your Majesty's ministers, but a partial consolation may be found in the fact that no gross error in the application of means to ends has marked these difficult proceedings.

 Excerpt of a letter from Prime Minister Gladstone to Queen Victoria, February 5, 1885