Imperial Diplomacy in the Era of Decolonization: The Sudan and Anglo-Egyptian Relations, 1945-56

Article excerpt

Imperial Diplomacy in the Era of Decolonization: The Sudan and Anglo-Egyptian Relations, 1945-56, by W. Travis Hanes, III. Westport, CT and London: Greenwood Press, 1996. x + 174 pages. Bibl. to p. 179. Index to p. 190. $55.

Reviewed by Ismail H. Abdalla Being a condominium, the Sudan was an anomaly in the history of colonialism. It was reconquered in 1898 by Britain and Egypt, two unequal partners, who then governed it until its independence in 1956. During this period, the Sudan's administration was the responsibility of the largely British Sudan Political Service (SPS) headed by a governor-general who was nominated by Britain and confirmed by Egypt. Once appointed, the governor-general acted more or less independently, and his proclamations on domestic affairs were law. But domestic policies and their implementation often interfered with Britain's imperial designs in Egypt and the Middle East. This is the subject of Hanes's concise and readable book.

Hanes's main thesis is that Britain and Egypt failed, after 1936, to reach an agreement over the Suez Canal and the presence of British troops on Egyptian soil because of their differences over the question of the Sudan. Was the Sudan to be under the Egyptian crown, as King Faruq and his government demanded? Or was it to be allowed a measure of self-rule, even independence, as the British, particularly the SPS, seemed to insist. Hanes attributes the failure to resolve this issue mainly to the persistent obstruction of the SPS, especially to that of the Sudan's civil secretary, Jamie Robertson (1945-53), and the governorgeneral, Sir Robert Howe (1947-55). These ofcials frustrated all efforts of the British foreign secretaries, Ernest Bevin and Sir Anthony Eden, who appeared at times ready to concede Egypt's sovereignty over the Sudan as a price for safeguarding Britain's other strategic interests in the region.

To Hanes, SPS obstructionism, based on ethical and moral considerations, went counter to all popular conceptions about colonialism, which put metropolitan interests at center-stage. …