The long Britanica article about Egypt contains the following footnote. It clearly and succinctly explains France’s understanding of Egypt’s central importance to England and its most important colony — British India, from which the English had driven French trading companies. As Napoleon explains, France wanted to colonize Egypt, open markets to France, and,eventually, conquer India for itself. French governments may have changed, but throughout the nineteenth century English Prime ministers and their cabinets all realized French threats to the empire. In editing and formatting the the following passage I have added paragraphing to make for easier reading. — George P. Landow

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apoleon has himself explained the views with which this expedition was undertaken. “There were three objects,” says he, “in the expedition to Egypt: 1st, To establish a French colony on the Nile, which would prosper without slaves, and serve France instead of the republic of St Domingo and of all the sugar islands; 2dly, To open a market for our manufactures in Africa, Arabia, and Syria, and to supply our commerce with all the productions of those vast countries; 3dly, Setting out from Egypt as from a place of arms, to lead an army of 60,000 men to the Indus, to excite the Mahrattas and oppressed of those extensive regions to insurrection. Sixty thousand men, half Europeans, and half recruits from the burning climates of the equator and the tropics, carried by 10,000 horses and 50,000 camels, having with them provisions for fifty or sixty days, water for five or six days, and a train of artillery of a hundred and fifty field-pieces, with double supplies of ammunition, would have reached the Indus in four months.

Since the invention of shipping the ocean has ceased to be an obstacle, and the desert is no longer an impediment to an army pos sessed of camels and dromedaries in abundance. The first two objects were fulfilled, and, notwithstanding the loss of Admiral Brueys' squadron at Alexandria, the intrigue by which Kléber was induced to sign the convention of El-Arisch, the landing of from 30,000 to 35,000 English commanded by Abercromby at Aboukir and Cosseir, the third object would have been attained ; a French army would have reached the Indus in the winter of 1801–1802, had not the command of the army devolved, in consequence of the murder of Kléber, on a man who, although abounding in courage, talents for business, and good-will, was of a disposition wholly unfit for any military command” (Memoirs II, 205.) [VIII, 488n].

Related material


“Egypt.” The Encylopædia Britanica or Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black: 1842. VIII, 458-560. Hathi Trust Digital Library online version of a copy in the University of Chicago Library. Web. 13 August 2020.

Last modified 14 August 2020