Egyptian Expedition of 1798–1801

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Egyptian Expedition of 1798–1801


the French Army’s campaign in Egypt, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire, although it was actually governed by the Mamelukes. Led by General Napoleon Bonaparte, the Egyptian Expedition was undertaken by the government of the Directory with the aim of conquering Egypt and preparing a base to strike against Great Britain’s possessions in India.

On May 19, 1798, a French squadron with landing forces (38,000 men) left Toulon. After a brief stop on the island of Malta, which Bonaparte annexed to France, on June 30 the expedition disembarked near Alexandria. On July 21, Bonaparte routed the Mameluke forces in the battle at the Pyramids, after which the French Army occupied Cairo. The French fleet was destroyed in early August at Aboukir by the British admiral H. Nelson, and the expeditionary army was cut off from Europe. In September 1798 the Turkish sultan Selim III declared war on France, and in January 1799, Turkey signed treaties of alliance with Russia and Great Britain, thus entering the second anti-French coalition

French authorities established a harsh regime of occupation in Egypt, imposing taxes on the population, requisitioning supplies, and seizing lands. Their actions evoked numerous uprisings, which were cruelly suppressed by French forces. (The largest uprising occurred in Cairo on Oct. 21–23, 1798.) In early 1799, attempting to avert an offensive by the Turkish Army, Bonaparte embarked on a campaign to Syria, but after the unsuccessful siege of Acre, whose defense was directed by Jazar Pasha, he was forced to return to Egypt. Despite its victory over an Anglo-Turkish landing force at Aboukir (July 25, 1799), the French Army’s position in Egypt was hopeless. The weakness of the army’s position, as well as the instability of the political situation in France, forced Bonaparte to abandon the army and return to France.

In January 1800, General J. B. Kleber, who replaced Napoleon, signed an armistice with Great Britain and Turkey, who promised to give him ships to take his troops back to France. However, Great Britain’s demand for the disarmament of the French Army ruined the armistice. On Mar. 20, 1800, at Heliopolis Kleber routed the Turkish Army, which had come from Syria, and drove its remnants from Egypt. Subsequently, another anti-French uprising erupted in Egypt, but it was suppressed by French troops. The position of the French Army in Egypt was weakened by the ac.tions of the Russian squadron in the Mediterranean Sea. J. Menou, the successor of Kleber, who was killed on June 14, 1800, was forced to sign a surrender agreement after unsuccessful battles with British forces that landed in Egypt in the spring of 1801. In September 1801, the remnants of the French Army abandoned Egypt.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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