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Nathaniel Mathews

Baron Dhanis, Belgian soldier and colonial official in the Belgian Congo, was born on 11 March 1862 to Joseph-Edmond Dhanis, the Belgian consul in London, and his Irish wife, Brigitte Maher. His parents had married in Australia, Dhanis was born in London, and when young Francis was seven or eight, his parents moved near Cardiff in Wales. Dhanis studied at Saint Joseph’s Institute before being admitted to the École Militaire in Belgium in March 1882.

After completion of military school in 1884, he volunteered for service in the Congo Free State, which King Leopold II of Belgium had established in 1885 At the Berlin Conference King Leopold had maneuvered to bring this vast region of Central Africa under the control of the Association Internationale Africaine an organization he personally controlled Leopold now needed manpower to establish military control over the vast territory Initially Dhanis conducted missions of ...


M. W. Daly

British soldier and administrator in the Sudan, was born at Woolwich in England on 23 January 1833, the son of General H. W. Gordon and his wife, Elizabeth Enderby. Owing to his exploits in the Sudan, culminating in his death at Khartoum in January 1885, Gordon was and remains one of the most famous figures in the colonial history of Africa.

A Royal Engineer, Gordon served in the Crimea (1855) and as a commissioner delimiting the Russo-Turkish borders in Bessarabia and eastern Anatolia. For his soldiering during the Second Opium War and suppression of the Taipeng rebellion in 1860–1864 he became known popularly in Britain as “Chinese Gordon.” In 1874 he began the first of three stints in the Egyptian Sudan where the Khedive Ismaʿil had begun to rely on European officers to suppress the slave trade As governor of Equatoria Gordon continued the work of Samuel ...


Jeremy Rich

French military commander and imperialist, was born on 17 November 1867 in Paris, France. He was the eldest of six children, and his family was deeply faithful to Catholicism. Gouraud himself remained a practicing Catholic despite the growth of anticlerical views in the French Third Republic, and later in life his beliefs would lead him to consider French colonialism as the triumph of Christianity over Islam. Gouraud attended secondary school at the College Stanislas. Gouraud’s family had no prior ties to the military profession, but Gouraud was haunted by the Prussian victory over France in 1870 and 1871 and wanted to rebuild his country’s glory through African conquests. His budding interest in the army surprised his parents, but they supported their son’s decision to enter the acclaimed Saint-Cyr military academy, from which he graduated in the class of 1888 At first he accepted his father s wish that he ...


Karin Pallaver

German military leader and colonialist, was born in Saarlouis (Western Saarland). Son of General Paul Karl von Lettow-Vorbeck and his wife, Mary, he came from a noble Pomeranian family with a long tradition of military service. In 1888 he began his military career and acquired a rather exceptional international experience for his time. He was a member of the German detachment of the Eight-Nation Alliance army sent to China to suppress the Boxer Rebellion (1900–1901). Later, he was sent to German South-West Africa where he took part in the suppression of the Herero and Nama revolts (1904–1907), during which he was wounded. Back home, Lettow obtained the command of a marine infantry battalion. In 1913 he asked to become part of the colonial forces in Africa, and in 1914 he was appointed head of the Schutztruppen (Protective Forces) in German East Africa.

After the outbreak of World War I Lettow ...


Geoffrey Roper

French army officer and colonial administrator in Morocco, Algeria, and Madagascar, was born at Nancy on 17 November 1854. His father was from a family of soldiers and administrators, and his mother was an artistically inclined aristocrat, both of which tendencies influenced his life and career. In infancy he suffered a severe accident, which disabled him until the age of twelve; but he later entered the military college at Saint-Cyr, from which he graduated as a cavalry officer.

In 1880 he was posted to Algeria where he spent initially two years during which he acquired some knowledge of and taste for local Muslim manners and customs carefully learning spoken and written Arabic He found poetry even in Algiers but he was especially enthusiastic about the deserts and mountains of the hinterland whose vistas he described as a fairyland at every minute worth all the beautiful but drab landscapes ...