The Suez Canal: Its History and Diplomatic Importance

The Suez Canal: Its History and Diplomatic Importance

The Suez Canal: Its History and Diplomatic Importance

The Suez Canal: Its History and Diplomatic Importance

Excerpt

From the earliest times the highways of communication between Europe and Asia have been of the greatest importance. To a considerable degree they have influenced the course of history. They have occasioned bitter rivalries and long wars, have brought power and wealth to some nations and decadence and ruin to others.

The construction of the Suez Canal was a great landmark in the history of communications. By connecting the Mediterranean with the Red Sea, it cut off half the distance by water from Europe to the East. It brought back to the Mediterranean the traffic in oriental commodities which, ever since the epochal voyage of Vasco da Gama late in the fifteenth century, had followed the long route around the Cape of Good Hope. The revival of the Suez highway was a question of profound interest in France for several centuries and in the reign of Louis XIV was one of the principles of French diplomacy. In the eighteenth century Austria began to see its possibilities for her commerce but England was too firmly attached to the Cape route to desire any change. Napoleon's expedition of 1798 directed England's attention to Egypt and to the advantages of a shorter route to her Indian empire. When the question of a ship canal in Egypt came into prominence late in the administration of Mehemet Ali, Lord Palmerston denounced it in the strongest terms as a menace to the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. England's opposition was the most serious obstacle confronting the efforts of Ferdinand de Lesseps. For twelve years he struggled against it until she reluctantly accepted the canal as inevitable. But it was no sooner . . .

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