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Reading: Viewing Violence in the British Empire: Images of Atrocity from the Battle of Omdurman, 1898

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Viewing Violence in the British Empire: Images of Atrocity from the Battle of Omdurman, 1898

Author:

Michelle Gordon

Uppsala University, SE
About Michelle
Michelle Gordon is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Genocide Studies at the Hugo Valentin Centre, Uppsala University, Sweden.
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Abstract

This article explores a range of photographs taken in the aftermath of the Battle of Omdurman on 2 September 1898, the final and decisive battle of the Anglo-Egyptian Reconquest of the Sudan (1896–98). This campaign was particularly controversial for the methods that were used against the Mahdia, which included the massacring of the enemy wounded and those trying to surrender. The photographs under examination are relevant to considerations of the ensuing controversies of the campaign in which Kitchener was obliged to write directly to Queen Victoria to explain his actions, notably in relation to the bombing of the Mahdi’s tomb and the treatment of his remains. As historians have previously noted, the events in Omdurman constituted a massacre rather than a battle, and areas of dispute include whether Emirs were specifically targeted for destruction in the campaign. The photographs in question contribute to this debate. This article addresses the photographs in the wider context of violence throughout the British Empire and in the context of other images of British violence. That such photographs are not commonly viewed and discussed speaks to wider issues regarding popular perceptions of the ‘benevolent’ British Empire, particularly in comparison to its European counterparts. 

How to Cite: Gordon, M., 2019. Viewing Violence in the British Empire: Images of Atrocity from the Battle of Omdurman, 1898. Journal of Perpetrator Research, 2(2), pp.65–100.
Published on 18 Oct 2019.
Peer Reviewed

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