Slaves of Fortune

November 2011
28 black and white, 14 line illustrations
245 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781847010421
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
James Currey
BISAC HIS001000, HIS037060, SOC056000

Slaves of Fortune

Sudanese Soldiers and the River War, 1896-1898

Ronald M. Lamothe

Exposes the 'blind spot' in popular and academic histories about the role of African soldiers in the creation of Britain's empire, through a re-telling of one of the best known episodes in British imperial military history.
The Anglo-Egyptian re-conquest of Sudan - Churchill's 'River War' - has been well chronicled from the British point of view, but we still know little about its front line troops, the Sudanese soldiers of the Egyptian Army, the men who fought in all the battles, served as interpreters, military recruiters, and ethnic ambassadors throughout the campaign, and who were the real victors at the Battle of Omdurman. Making use of both published contemporary accounts and unpublished primary sources located in the United Kingdom and Sudan, Slaves of Fortune provides an historiographic correction. It argues that nineteenth-century Sudanese slave soldiers were social beings and historical actors, shaping both European and African destinies, just as their own lives were being transformed by imperial forces.

Ronald M. Lamothe is Lecturer in the Department of History at the University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Table of Contents

Introduction: 'Ali Jifun's Fashoda Homecoming
"The Backbone of the Egyptian Army"
"Servants of His Highness the Khedive"
"Flavour of Domesticity"
" Brotherhood that Binds the Brave"
"Tea with the Khalifa"
Epilogue: Mutiny at Omdurman


An important addition to the historiography of modern Sudan. . [It] will be very important reading for anyone who is interested not only in modern Sudanese history but also in gaining a better understanding of the complex relations between State and army. DIGEST OF MIDDLE EAST STUDIES, vol. 22, no. 1

In examining martial race theory and British/Sudanese relationships, Lamothe adds to the historiography of imperial history. [The book] is an important contribution to the history of Great Britain's campaigns along the Nile from 1896-8. [...] General readers of military history as well as scholars will learn much. AFRICAN HISTORY

As well as being of obvious interest to military historians, this book gives an insight into a particular class of slaves in Africa, one that had existed in one form or another since the Pharaohs. BASA NEWSLETTER

Thorough, extensive and well documented. SUDAN STUDIES

"This is 'history from below' that rescues Sudanese soldiers from the shadows to which they were relegated in the contemporary accounts of the River War and also in most subsequent histories. So it adds a new dimension to the much tilled fields of Sudan's recent military and social history." David Killingray