Top positive review
Bruce to Napier via Napoleon and Muhammad Ali
on 22 August 2017
'The Blue Nile' was written more than a generation ago. I found out about it thanks to Harry Flashman, who - reportedly - participated in Napier's epic march to Magdala. 'The Blue Nile' features in the 'recommended further reading' of that book, and clearly for all the right reasons.
The book is made up of four parts:
1. The travels to Ethiopia by the arrogant yet imposing aristocrat Bruce, who found the source of the Blue Nile (although 16th century Portuguese arguably did that already a few centuries before)
2. Napoleon's Egyptian adventure and his defeat of the Mamelukes
3. The rise of Muhammad Ali in Egypt and his conquest of the Sudan
4. Theodore of Ethiopia, his madness and Napier's liberation of the hostages at Magdala
Its companion 'The White Nile' deals with finding the source of the White Nile as well as with Gordon - Kitchener - Omdurman.
There is a huge amount of phenomenally interesting material and the writing is off the scale fantastic. To me the most unknown bit was the third part. Muhammad Ali rose as a warlord/gangster in the chaotic Egypt after the French involuntarily left. He became an important figure, as his modernized Egypt started to threaten the Ottoman Empire (taking over much of the Middle East in the process, in addition to conquering Sudan in an attempt get the slave trade going again), eventually triggering an international crisis when the European powers got involved. Before that, his son Ibrahim played a large role in the Greek revolt (it was Ibrahim's navy that got thrashed at Navarino). It would have been nice if Moorehead had expanded a bit on the exploits of this dynasty outside Africa - frankly that's the only flaw I could find in this awesome book.
On to the White Nile!