In transcribing the following paragraphs from the Internet Archive online version of The Imperial Gazetteer’s entry on Egypt I have divided the long entry into separate documents, expanded abbreviations for easier reading, and added paragraphing and links to material in the Victorian Web. Unless otherwise noted, charts and illustrations come from the original Gazetteer. — George P. Landow

Decorated initial I

n A.D. 639, the Arabs effected the conquest of Egypt, which, under its Mahometan rulers, soon became totally metamorphosed, at least in spirit. In the great monuments of the ancient Pharaohs, the followers of the Caliphs saw nothing but the work of Jins. In 1250, the government was seized by the Mamelukes (slaves, chiefly from Caucasus, bred to military service), who had grown into power by the favour of Saladin. These were subdued by Selim, the Ottoman Sultan, in 1520; but the descendants of the defeated chiefs kept the country in disorder for more than two centuries, and when, in the first half of the 18th century, the Ottoman empire was hard pressed by Russia and Austria, Egypt fell again under the turbulent sway of the Mamelukes, who continued to retain the sovereign power during the French invasion in 1798.

Mohammed Ali. From the 1843 Fisher’s Drawing Room Scrapbook, where it is accompanied by a poem and biography of Ali. Click on image to enlarge it

On the expulsion of the French by the British forces, the Ottoman Porte effectually urged its claim to sovereignty, and the young officer commanding the Turkish forces, Mahommed Ali Bey, contrived to shorten the contest by entrapping and treacherously murdering the Mameluke leaders. Such was the act which founded the fortunes of the future Pasha. As he consolidated his power in Egypt, the Porte, with sinister intentions probably, commanded him to suppress the Wahfibi, a fanatical sect in Arabia, grown for midable by their numbers and audacity. But his energy and perseverance overcame all difficulties. He subdued the Wahabi, and annexed to his dominions all the provinces of Arabia bordering on the Red Sea. On the banks of the Nile his conquests extended to Senndr and Kordofan. At length he broke openly with the Porte, and the Ottoman and Egyptian forces meeting in the plains of Nizib, in Syria, in June 1839, the latter gained a decisive victory; the result of which was a treaty confirming to Mahommed Ali the viceroyalty of Egypt, as a fief of the Ottoman empire, hereditary in his family.

The sway of the Viceroy of Egypt extends over the country on the banks of the Nile as far South as Fazoklo and Singue (latitude 10˚ 30' North), where the gold washings begin, and as much further as he can uphold by means of occasional incursions. He claims the West oases, though the subjection of Siwah is little more than nominal. He possesses Kordofan, and is master of the Hejaz in Arabia.


Blackie, Walker Graham. The Imperial Gazetteer: A General Dictionary of Geography, Physical, Political, Statistical and Descriptive. 4 vols. London: Blackie & Son, 1856. Internet Archive. Inline version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 31 July 2020.

Last modified 1 August 2020