Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Their great canal

They were hellish jealous of their great canal, which was then within a year of completion, with gangs of thousands of the unfortunate fellaheen being mercilessly flogged on the last lap, for it was built with slave labour in all but name.⁹

9. Work on the Suez Canal, the brainchild of the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps, began in 1859, and the waterway was opened to navigation in 1869. It had cost almost ₤30 million, and in 1875 Disraeli acquired 176, 602 shares for ₤4 million, giving Britain a 44% holding. The canal was indeed built by what amounted to slavery, the forced labour (corvee) of the Egyptian peasants being enforced by the rawhide whip of the overseers (courbash). (John Marlowe, The Making of the Suez Canal, 1964.)

 Flashman on the March, p.16, Harper Collins, paperback edition 2005.

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