Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Mahdi of Sudan...

Colonial wargamers tend to be, in my experience, extremely well read on British and mperial troops and commanders, but less well so on their "native" opponents. The Sudan is no exception, and the vast majority of books that are readily available are written largely from the Imperial perspective. Worse still, hunting down many of the books and articles that were written at the time of the campaigns or shortly thereafter one finds that (understandably) they are almost entirely written in that style, and lump the Mahdi and his commanders into the generic role of "noble savage" (or noble wily savage in the case of Osman Digna), clever, cunning yet uneducated. Wherever possible I try to read both sides of the story when launching into a new wargaming period - for example, one of the most valuable books I obtained when I was running a Falklands 1982 campaign was Martin Middlebrook's account written from the Argentinean perspective - and this has been pretty tricky this time around. So it was with some happiness that I've recently picked up a copy of "The Mahdi and the Death of General Gordon", by Fergus Nicholl. I'm only part way into it but that part has covered the early life of Muhammad Ahmad in some considerable detail, and straight away has blown away some of my own preconceptions regarding the background to the campaigns in the Sudan. I'm sure the rest of the book will be just as edifying - I'll report back on it later.

As an aside - Google Books is an invaluable resource, isn't it? I've managed to download copyright-free versions of a whole host of boks writen about the campaigns in the 1880s and 1890s. I suspect Liz's new Kindle may find itself topping up with those in the not-too-distant future!

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