Fashoda Incident

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Crisis in which both France and Britain, vying for territory in Africa, claimed control over a Sudanese outpost.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the European powers were competing for control of Africa. As the French extended eastward from the Congo, the British expanded south from Egypt. In July 1898, a French expedition commanded by Captain Jean-Baptiste Marchand arrived at the Sudanese outpost of Fashoda on the Nile, some 400 miles (644 km) south of Khartoum. After British General Herbert Kitchener's victory at Omdurman on 2 September, he proceeded to Fashoda on orders from the British prime minister, Lord Salisbury. He arrived on 19 September and met with Marchand. Kitchener claimed the entire Nile valley for Great Britain, and, after several days, both parties withdrew peacefully. The solution to the conflicting claims was later worked out by diplomats in Britain and France, and it reflected the fact that Britain had an army in Khartoum while France had no appreciable forces in the vicinity. France renounced all rights to the Nile basin and the Sudan in return for a guarantee of its position in West Africa. The Fashoda incident is seen as the high point of AngloFrench tension in Africa.

See also Kitchener, Horatio Herbert.


Eldridge, C. C. Victorian Imperialism. London: Hodder and Staughton, 1978.

Porter, Bernard. The Lion's Share: A Short History of British Imperialism, 18501983, 2d edition. London and New York: Longman, 1984.

zachary karabell

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Fashoda Incident (fəshō´də), 1898, diplomatic dispute between France and Great Britain. Toward the end of the 19th cent., while Britain was seeking to establish a continuous strip of territory from Cape Town to Cairo, France desired to establish an overland route from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. To make good their claim the French dispatched (May 1, 1897) Major J. B. Marchand with a small force from Brazzaville, in the face of a British warning. After crossing over 2,000 mi (3,200 km) of almost unexplored wilderness, Marchand reached (July 10, 1898) the village of Fashoda (now Kodok) on the Nile in the S Sudan (now in NE South Sudan). Beating off a Mahdist attack, he stopped there to await an expected Franco-Ethiopian expedition from the east. Meanwhile, Lord Kitchener's Anglo-Egyptian army had defeated (Sept. 2) the Mahdists in the N Sudan. When he heard of the French activities, Kitchener led forces upriver to Fashoda and, despite Marchand's presence, claimed (Sept. 19) the town for Egypt. The French government resisted for a time, but, fearing war, ordered its mission to withdraw on Nov. 3. In Mar., 1899, France yielded its claim to the upper Nile region and accepted part of the Sahara as compensation.