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The Sudan

Sudan is the largest country in Africa, bordering Egypt in the north, the Red Sea in the northeast, on Eritrea and Ethiopia in the east, on Kenya, Uganda, and Congo (Kinshasa) in the south, on the Central African Republic and Chad in the west, and on Libya in the northwest.

Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia. Colton, Cartographer. 1859.

Map.Map of Africa by Colton. 1859.

Northeast Sudan, called Nubia in ancient times, was colonized (c.2000 BC) by Egypt as far as the fourth cataract of the Nile and ruled by the Cush Kingdom from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th. Meroe, near the fourth cataract of the Nile, was a center of trade and ironworking, and from there iron technology may have spread to other parts of Africa.

The region known in modern times as the Sudan (short for the Arabic bilad as-sudan, "land of the blacks") has for much of its history been linked with or influenced by Egypt, its immediate neighbour to the north. But it also has a strong identity as the eastern end of the great trade route stretching along the open savannah south of the Sahara.

In about 3100 B.C.E., Egyptian pharaohs extend their control as far up the Nile as a boat can easily travel. This brings them to the first cataract (or rapid), in the region of modern Aswan.

References to Kush are well known in Egyptian inscriptions and also in the works of Greek and Roman authors as well as in the bible. Despite the originality of the Kushite civilization, scholars have tended to see its achievements as wholly due to outside influences, even from areas as far away as India. This reflects a deep-seated prejudice, common until recently, about the ability of the African continent to nurture an indigenous civilization.

To the Greeks, from Homer onwards, all the known people living south of Egypt are called Ethiopians (inhabiting the areas of modern Sudan and Ethiopia). Later again Sudan as far south as Khartoum becomes widely familiar under the Latin name Nubia. The whole region is rich in gold mines, and the name probably derives from the word for gold (nub in Mahasi, though this is only one among the many dialects of Nubia past and present).

The main geographical feature of Sudan is the Nile River, which, with its tributaries (including the Atbara, Blue Nile, and White Nile rivers), traverses the country from south to north. The Nile system provides irrigation for strips of agricultural settlement for much of its course in Sudan and also for the Al Gezira plain, situated between the White Nile and the Blue Nile, just south of their confluence at Khartoum. In the extreme north, the Nile broadens into Lake Nasser, formed by the Aswan High Dam in Egypt.

Africa.Africa. Latin Map. 1660.

From the 13th to the 15th century, the region was increasingly infiltrated by peoples from the north; the states collapsed, and Nubia gradually became Muslim.

The People's of the Middle Niger.

"The Island of Gold" was the medieval Muslim and later European name for a fabled source of gold and other tropical riches. Although the floodplain of the Niger river lies far from the goldfields, the mosaic of peoples along the Middle Niger created a wealth in grain, fish and livestock that supported some of Africa's oldest cities, including Timbuktu. These ancient cities of the region that came to be known as Western Sudan were founded without outside stimulation and their inhabitants long resisted the coercive, centralized state that characterized the origins of earliest towns elsewhere. ~ The Peoples of the Middle Niger: The Island of GoldThe Peoples of the MIddle Niger.. Roderick James McIintosh.

The southern part of the modern Sudan continued to adhere to traditional African beliefs. Much of the north was ruled by the Muslim state of Funj from the 16th century, until 1821, when it was conquered by armies sent by Muhammad Ali of Egypt. Muḥammad ʿAlī initially supported the Ottoman sultan in suppressing rebellion both in Arabia and in Greece, and he also invaded the Nilotic Sudan in search of recruits for his army and gold for his treasury. The Egyptians founded (1823) Khartoum as their headquarters and developed Sudan's trade in ivory and slaves.

VictoriNaval History.The Naval History of Great Britain.ous in all three campaigns, until European intervention in Greece caused the destruction of his fleet at the Battle of Navarino in 1827, Muḥammad ʿAlī felt that he was strong enough to challenge the sultan. British Admiral Sir Edward Codrington’s squadron led the European counterattack at the Battle of Navarino; within hours the Europeans’ superior artillery completely annihilated Turkish and Egyptian fleets.

His first war against the sultan (1831–33) gained him control of Syria as far north as Adana. In the second war (1838–41) the decisive defeat of Ottoman troops at the Battle of Nizip (1839) and the desertion of the Ottoman fleet to Muḥammad ʿAlī led to intervention by the European powers.

In July 1840, Great Britain, Russia, Austria, and Prussia agreed to end Egyptian rule in Syria, shattering Muḥammad ʿAlī’s hopes for greater independence from the Ottoman Empire. In 1841 he and his family were granted the hereditary right to rule Egypt and the Sudan, but his power was still subjected to restraints, and the sultan’s suzerain rights remained intact. In the late 1840s, owing to his failing lucidity, Muḥammad ʿAlī retired from office. In 1848, rule was officially transferred to Muḥammad ʿAlī’s son Ibrahim, who died shortly thereafter; Muḥammad ʿAlī himself died in the following year. Although many of his reforms and institutions were abandoned—some before his death—he is nevertheless hailed as having cleared the path for the creation of an independent Egyptian state.

Ismail Pasha (in office 1863-79) tried to extend Egyptian influence further south in Sudan, ostensibly to end the slave trade. This campaign, which was headed first by Sir Samuel Baker and then by Charles Gordon, provoked a complex revolt (1881) by the Mahdi (Muhammad Ahmad), who sought to end Egyptian influence and to purify Islam in Sudan. The Mahdists defeated Anglo-Egyptian punitive expeditions, and Britain and Egypt decided to abandon Sudan.

June 16, 1875, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

The Sudan Campaigns. 1881-1898.

The Governor of Algeria has resolved to institute periodical lairs in the principal oases of the Sahara lying south of his province, with tbe twofold object of opening up commercial relations with the natives of the Sudan, and by familiarizing them with Europeans, paving the way for future explorers of that interesting part of Central Africa. The chief fair will be held in the oasis of Wargla, some distance to the south of the province of Constantine. It is anticipated that this oasis will form a mart for the cariavans trading in ivory, salt, henna, honey, ostrich feathers, coat and camel skins, stuffs, and the quaint jewelry peculiar to Africa.

Gordon, sent to evacuate the British and Egyptian troops, was killed by the Mahdists at Khartoum in early 1885. The Mahdi died in the same year, but his successor, the Khalifa Abdallahi, continued to build up the theocratic Mahdist state. In the 1890s the British decided to gain control of Sudan, and, in a series of campaigns between 1896 and 1898, an Anglo-Egyptian force under Herbert (later Lord) Kitchener destroyed the power of the Mahdists. Agreements in 1899 (reaffirmed by the Anglo-Egyptian treaty of 1936) established the government of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.

November 20, 1899, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Camel Corps in the French Sudan.

Camel Corps up the Nile. Edward Gleichen, Author.

While all the rest of the world is busy watching the struggle between the Boers and the British in South Africa, France is very quietly looking after her own interests in the east of the French Sudan. Her officers in Africa are day by day enrolling native regiments and arming and training and preparing the same for future emergencies.

The French pressed native warriors into their service; they are all sharpshooters and warriors of the most courageous character.

The Secretary Bird

Secretary Birds. Africa.

The coat of arms of Sudan features the secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), a distant cousin of the vulture. Although it can fly, the long-legged secretary bird is one of only two bird species known to hunt on foot: it is found mostly in savannas south of the Sahara, stalking through tall grasses in search of prey. The odd moniker may have come from English visitors in the 1800s, who compared the bird’s color and plumage to the typical dress of a male secretary, complete with a feather-quill pen stuck behind the ear. ~ SmithsonianSmithsonian Magazine.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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