How did Britain gain control of the Suez Canal? Why was the Suez Canal important?
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The Suez Canal came under British control in 1882, thirteen years after its construction was completed. It had originally been built by a French company, but British troops moved in to protect the canal from a civil war that was happening in Egypt. At that point, the British government owned part of the canal because the ruler of Egypt sold it to Britain when Egypt needed money.
The canal was extremely important for Britain because of the amount of trade that went on between Britain and India. By passing through the canal rather than going around Africa, ships saved huge amounts of time -- an average of two-thirds of the voyage around Africa.
French engineers constructed the Suez Canal, part of Napolean III's foreign policy, which linked the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. Napoleon III sought to return France to a preeminent position in European affairs by intervention in the Crimean War, in Italian unification, and in Mexico. Maximilian’s failure in Mexico revealed French political and military weakness. The disastrous Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 brought the French Second Empire to an end.
The Suez Canal, completed in 1869, gave Europe a shorter trade route to the east. Europeans were attracted to Egyptian cotton and the plan to construct the Suez Canal, completed in 1869. Islamic intellectuals met in Egypt to discuss means of expelling the European threat. Some argued for strict Islamic religious observance, others for greater Westernization in science and technology. The two groups were unable to reconcile their different approaches. French and British Investors, who held the majority of shares in the Suez Canal, urged their governments to intervene directly in Egypt. An Egyptian army rebellion under Ahmad Orabi induced the British to send military units to Egypt in 1882. Thereafter the administration of Egypt was in the hands of British consuls.
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