The building of the Suez Canal linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea was the greatest engineering feat of the nineteenth century, but it was much more than just a marvel of construction.
The idea, which began with Napoleon Bonaparte, was kept alive by a utopian cult and was then taken up by the French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps who masterminded the project. The great breakthrough came in 1854 when de Lesseps persuaded his old friend the Viceroy of Egypt to grant him the concession to cut a 100-mile-long canal across the isthmus of Suez. It would take fifteen years of ceaseless effort to bring this to fruition.
A brillant entrepreneur, de Lesseps travelled throughout Europe to raise support and money. He managed to win the vital backing of Louis Napoleon and neutralize the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire but he never convinced the British Prime Minister Lord Palmerston who was determined to prevent the canal's completion. To carry out the enormous engineering project, de Lesseps used both old tools and new machines designed by the best engineers of the day. He also set up a modern company governed by shareholders but came under attack for taking advantage of forced labour.
The creation of the Suez Canal captured the imagination of people throughout the world. Its opening in 1869 was a party to end all parties. It was heralded as a symbol of progress that would unite East & West, but its legacy is mixed. The canal was supposed to strengthen the Middle East and bridge cultures: instead the gap widened and disturbs the world today more than ever.
Hardback with unclipped dustcover over original red boards with gilt blocking to spine titles. Map + 310 pages text with supporting photographic illustrations. Fine.
- Jacket Condition: Fine
- Binding Condition: Fine
- Overall Condition: Fine
- Size: 24 x 16 cm
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