This photograph shows the British Invasion of Egypt. The photograph was taken in 1882 and shows the British landings at Ismailia. I originally thought it might be the British landing in Eritrea to overthrow Emperor Theodoros II, but I have now confirmed that it is not.

The story of the invasion of Egypt is below.

Possibly British landing Gulf of Zula, December 1867

This is from Wikipedia

In 1878, an Egyptian army officer, Ahmed ‘Urabi (then known in English as Arabi Pasha), mutinied and initiated a coup against Tewfik Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt and Sudan, because of grievances over disparities in pay between Egyptians and Europeans, as well as other concerns. In January 1882 the British and French governments sent a “Joint Note” to the Egyptian government, declaring their recognition of the Khedive’s authority. On 20 May 1882, British and French warships arrived off the coast of Alexandria. On 11 June 1882, an anti-Christian riot occurred in Alexandria that killed 50 Europeans. Colonel ‘Urabi ordered his forces to put down the riot, but Europeans fled the city and ‘Urabi’s army began fortifying the town. The French flotilla demurred from direct hostilities but, an ultimatum to cease the arming of the town having been refused, the British warships began a 10½-hour bombardment of Alexandria on 11 July 1882.

Reasons for the invasion

The reasons why the British government sent a fleet of ships to the coast of Alexandria is a point of historical debate, as there is no definitive information available.

In their 1961 essay Africa and the Victorians, Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher argue that the British invasion was ordered in order to quell the perceived anarchy of the ‘Urabi Revolt, as well as to protect British control over the Suez Canal in order to maintain its shipping route to the Indian Ocean.[1]

A.G. Hopkins rejected Robinson and Gallagher’s argument, citing original documents and second-hand sources to claim that there was no perceived danger to the Suez Canal from the ‘Urabi movement, and that ‘Urabi and his forces were not chaotic “anarchists”, but rather maintained law and order.[2]:373–374 He alternatively argues that British Prime Minister William Gladstone‘s cabinet was motivated by protecting the interests of British bondholders with investments in Egypt as well as pursuit of domestic political popularity. Hopkins cites the British investments in Egypt that grew massively leading into the 1880s, partially as a result of the Khedive’s debt from construction of the Suez Canal, as well as the close links that existed between the British government and the economic sector.[2]:379–380 He writes Britain’s economic interests occurred simultaneously to a desire within the ruling Liberal Party for a militant foreign policy in order to gain domestic political popularity to compete with the Conservative Party.[2]:382 Hopkins cites a letter from Edward Malet, the British consul general in Egypt at the time, to a member of the Gladstone Cabinet offering his congratulations on the invasion: “You have fought the battle of all Christendom and history will acknowledge it. May I also venture to say that it has given the Liberal Party a new lease of popularity and power.”[2]:385

John Galbraith and Afaf Lutfi al-Sayyid-Marsot make a similar argument to Hopkins, though their argument focuses on how individuals within the British government bureaucracy used their positions to make the invasion appear as a more favourable option to Gladstone’s cabinet. First, they describe a plot by Edward Malet in which he portrayed the Egyptian government as unstable to his superiors in the cabinet.[3]:477 On Galbraith and al-Sayyid-Marsot’s reading, Malet naïvely expected he could convince the British to intimidate Egypt with a show of force without considering a full invasion or occupation as a possibility.[3]:477–478 They also dwell on Admiral Beauchamp Seymour, who hastened the start of the bombardment by exaggerating the danger posed to his ships by ‘Urabi’s forces in his telegrams back to the British government.[3]:485