With Kitchener in the Soudan.

By G A Henty

Printed: 1903

Publisher: Blackie & Son. London

Edition: First edition

Dimensions 14 × 19 × 5 cm

Language: English

Size (cminches): 14 x 19 x 5

Buy Now

Item information


Red cloth binding with gilt title native warrior image on the front board.

  • F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feeling and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

A story of Atbara and Omdurman

In late Victorian Britain, this was a ‘Big Deal’.

Revised First Edition: With Kitchener in the Soudan; A Story of Atbara and Omdurman by British author G. A. Henty is an adventure novel set during the British military expedition under Lord Kitchener and the subsequent destruction of the Mahdi’s followers during the Mahdist War (1881–1899). It was first published in 1902.

With Kitchener in the Soudan; A Story of Atbara and Omdurman by British author G. A. Henty is an adventure novel set during the British military expedition under Lord Kitchener and the subsequent destruction of the Mahdi’s followers during the Mahdist War (1881–1899).

George Alfred Henty (8 December 1832 – 16 November 1902) was an English novelist and war correspondent. He is most well-known for his works of adventure fiction and historical fiction, including The Dragon & The Raven (1886), For The Temple (1888), Under Drake’s Flag (1883) and In Freedom’s Cause (1885).


G. A. Henty was born in Trumpington, near Cambridge but spent some of his childhood in Canterbury. He was a sickly child who had to spend long periods in bed. During his frequent illnesses he became an avid reader and developed a wide range of interests which he carried into adulthood. He attended Westminster School, London, as a half-border when he was fourteen, and later Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was a keen sportsman.

He left the university early without completing his degree to volunteer for the (Army) Hospital Commissariat of the Purveyors Department when the Crimean War began. He was sent to the Crimea and while there he witnessed the appalling conditions under which the British soldier had to fight. His letters home were filled with vivid descriptions of what he saw. His father was impressed by his letters and sent them to the Morning Advertiser newspaper which printed them. This initial writing success was a factor in Henty’s later decision to accept the offer to become a special correspondent, the early name for journalists now better known as war correspondents.

Shortly before resigning from the army as a captain in 1859 he married Elizabeth Finucane. The couple had four children. Elizabeth died in 1865 after a long illness and shortly after her death Henty began writing articles for the Standard newspaper. In 1866 the newspaper sent him as their special correspondent to report on the Austro-Italian War where he met Giuseppe Garibaldi. He went on to cover the 1868 British punitive expedition to Abyssinia, the Franco-Prussian War, the Ashanti War, the Carlist Rebellion in Spain and the Turco-Serbian War. He also witnessed the opening of the Suez Canal and travelled to Palestine, Russia and India.

Henty was a strong supporter of the British Empire all his life; according to literary critic Kathryn Castle: “Henty … exemplified the ethos of the [British Empire], and glorified in its successes”. Henty’s ideas about politics were influenced by writers such as Sir Charles Dilke and Thomas Carlyle.

Henty once related in an interview how his storytelling skills grew out of tales told after dinner to his children. He wrote his first children’s book, Out on the Pampas in 1868, naming the book’s main characters after his children. The book was published by Griffith and Farran in November 1870 with a title page date of 1871. While most of the 122 books he wrote were for children and published by Blackie and Son of London, he also wrote adult novels, non-fiction such as The March to Magdala and Those Other Animals, short stories for the likes of The Boy’s Own Paper and edited the Union Jack, a weekly boy’s magazine.

Henty was “the most popular Boy’s author of his day.” Blackie, who published his children’s fiction in the UK, and W. G. Blackie estimated in February 1952 that they were producing about 150,000 Henty books a year at the height of his popularity, and stated that their records showed they had produced over three and a half million Henty books. He further estimated that considering the US and other overseas authorised and pirated editions, a total of 25 million was not impossible.  Arnold notes this estimate and that there have been further editions since that estimate was made.

His children’s novels typically revolved around a boy or young man living in troubled times. These ranged from the Punic War to more recent conflicts such as the Napoleonic Wars or the American Civil War. Henty’s heroes – which occasionally included young ladies – are uniformly intelligent, courageous, honest and resourceful with plenty of ‘pluck’ yet are also modest. These themes have made Henty’s novels popular today among many conservative Christians and homeschoolers.

Henty usually researched his novels by ordering several books on the subject he was writing on from libraries, and consulting them before beginning writing. Some of his books were written about events (such as the Crimean War) that he witnessed himself; hence, these books are written with greater detail as Henty drew upon his first-hand experiences of people, places, and events. On 16 November 1902, Henty died aboard his yacht in Weymouth Harbour, Dorset, leaving unfinished his last novel, By Conduct and Courage, which was completed by his son Captain C.G. Henty. Henty is buried in Brompton Cemetery, London.

G. A. Henty’s commercial popularity encouraged other writers to try writing juvenile adventure stories in his style; “Herbert Strang”, Henry Everett McNeil, Percy F. Westerman and Captain Frederick Sadleir Brereton all wrote novels in “the Henty tradition”, often incorporating then-contemporary themes such as aviation and First World War combat. By the 1930s, however, interest in Henty’s work was declining in Britain, and hence few children’s writers there looked to his work as a model.

Henty’s views have been contentious; some writers have accused Henty’s novels of being aggressively and obstinately nationalist and reactionary in such books as True to the Old Flag (1885) which features a Loyalist protagonist fighting in the American War of Independence, and In the Reign of Terror (1888) and No Surrender! A Tale of the Rising in La Vendée (1900) which are strongly hostile to the French Revolution.

Henty’s novel With Lee in Virginia has a protagonist who fights on the side of the Confederacy against the Union.

Henty’s popularity amongst homeschoolers is not without controversy. Quoting from the chapter of By Sheer Pluck called “The Negro Character” (“like children”), American television host and political commentator Rachel Maddow called Henty’s writings “spectacularly racist”. Carpenter and Pritchard note that while “Henty’s work is indeed full of racial (and class) stereotypes”, he sometimes created sympathetic ethnic minority characters, such as the Indian servant who marries a white woman in With Clive in India, and point out Henty admired the Turkish Empire. Some even accuse Henty of holding blacks in utter contempt, and this is expressed in novels such as By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War and A Roving Commission, or, Through the Black Insurrection at Hayti. Kathryne S. McDorman states Henty disliked blacks and also, in Henty’s fiction, that “Boers and Jews were considered equally ignoble”.

In By Sheer Pluck: A Tale of the Ashanti War, Mr. Goodenough, an entomologist remarks to the hero: “They [Negroes] are just like children … They are always either laughing or quarrelling. They are good-natured and passionate, indolent, but will work hard for a time; clever up to a certain point, densely stupid beyond. The intelligence of an average negro is about equal to that of a European child of ten years old. … They are fluent talkers, but their ideas are borrowed. They are absolutely without originality, absolutely without inventive power. Living among white men, their imitative faculties enable them to attain a considerable amount of civilization. Left alone to their own devices they retrograde into a state little above their native savagery.”

In the Preface to his novel A Roving Commission (1900) Henty claims “the condition of the negroes in Hayti has fallen to the level of that of the savage African tribes” and argues “unless some strong white power should occupy the island and enforce law and order” this situation will not change. In the novel Facing Death: A Tale of the Coal Mines Henty comes down against strikes and has the working class hero of the novel, Jack Simpson, quell a strike among coal miners.

A review by Deirdre H. McMahon in Studies of the Novel in 2010 refers to his novels as jingoist and racist and states that during the previous decade “Numerous reviews in right-wing and conservative Christian journals and websites applaud Henty’s texts as model readings and thoughtful presents for children, especially boys. These reviews often ignore Henty’s racism by packaging his version of empire as refreshingly heroic and patriotic.”

In 1888, on the book jacket for Captain Bayley’s Heir, The Times wrote that Henty’s character in With Lee in Virginia, “bravely proving his sympathy with the slaves of brutal masters” escapes through “the devotion of a black servant and of a runaway slave whom he had assisted”. The reviewer recommended the book.

The Mahdist War (1881–1899) was a war between the Mahdist Sudanese of the religious leader Muhammad Ahmad bin Abdullah, who had proclaimed himself the “Mahdi” of Islam (the “Guided One”), and the forces of the Khedivate of Egypt, initially, and later the forces of Britain. Eighteen years of war resulted in the nominally joint-rule state of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (1899–1956), a de jure condominium of the British Empire and the Kingdom of Egypt in which Britain had de facto control over the Sudan. The Sudanese launched several unsuccessful invasions of their neighbours, expanding the scale of the conflict to include not only Britain and Egypt but also the Italian Empire, the Congo Free State and the Ethiopian Empire.

Muhammad Ahmad bin Abdullah bin Fahal (August 1843 – 21 June 1885) was a Nubian Sufi religious leader of the Sammāniyya order in Sudan who, as a youth, studied Sunni Islam. In 1881, he claimed to be the Mahdi, and led a successful war against Ottoman-Egyptian military rule in Sudan and achieved a remarkable victory over the British, in the siege of Khartoum. He created a vast Islamic state extending from the Red Sea to Central Africa, and founded a movement that remained influential in Sudan a century later.

From his announcement of the Mahdist State in June 1881 until its end in 1898, the Mahdi’s growing number of supporters, the Ansars, established many of its theological and political doctrines. After Muhammad Ahmad’s unexpected death on 22 June 1885, his chief deputy, Abdallahi ibn Muhammad took over the administration of the nascent Mahdist State.

Following Ahmad’s death, Abdallahi ruled as Khalifa, but his autocratic rule, as well as directly applied British military force, destroyed the Mahdi state following the Anglo-Egyptian conquest of Sudan in 1899. Despite that, the Mahdi remains a respected figure in the history of Sudan. In the late 20th century, one of his direct descendants, Sadiq al-Mahdi, twice served as prime minister of Sudan (1966–1967 and 1986–1989), and pursued democratizing policies.


                                   Lord Kitchener

Field Marshal Horatio Herbert Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener (24 June 1850 – 5 June 1916) was an Irish born senior British Army officer and colonial administrator. Kitchener came to prominence for his imperial campaigns, his involvement in the Second Boer War, and his central role in the early part of the First World War.

Kitchener was credited in 1898 for having won the Battle of Omdurman and securing control of the Sudan, for which he was made Baron Kitchener of Khartoum. As Chief of Staff (1900–1902) in the Second Boer War he played a key role in Roberts’ conquest of the Boer Republics, then succeeded Roberts as commander-in-chief – by which time Boer forces had taken to guerrilla fighting and British forces imprisoned Boer civilians in concentration camps. His term as Commander-in-Chief (1902–1909) of the Army in India saw him quarrel with another eminent proconsul, the Viceroy Lord Curzon, who eventually resigned. Kitchener then returned to Egypt as British Agent and Consul-General (de facto administrator).

In 1914, at the start of the First World War, Kitchener became Secretary of State for War, a Cabinet Minister. One of the few to foresee a long war, lasting for at least three years, and also having the authority to act effectively on that perception, he organised the largest volunteer army that Britain had seen, and oversaw a significant expansion of material production to fight on the Western Front. Despite having warned of the difficulty of provisioning for a long war, he was blamed for the shortage of shells in the spring of 1915 – one of the events leading to the formation of a coalition government – and stripped of his control over munitions and strategy.

On 5 June 1916, Kitchener was making his way to Russia on HMS Hampshire to attend negotiations with Tsar Nicholas II when in bad weather the ship struck a German mine 1.5 miles (2.4 km) west of Orkney, Scotland, and sank. Kitchener was among 737 who died; he was the highest ranking British officer to die in action in the entire war.

The Battle of Omdurman was fought during the Anglo-Egyptian conquest of Sudan between a British–Egyptian expeditionary force commanded by British Commander-in-Chief (sirdar) major general Horatio Herbert Kitchener and a Sudanese army of the Mahdist Islamic State, led by Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, the successor to the self-proclaimed Mahdi, Muhammad Ahmad. The battle took place on 2 September 1898, at Kerreri, 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) north of Omdurman in Sudan.

Following the establishment of the Mahdist Islamic State in Sudan, and the subsequent threat to the regional status quo and to British-occupied Egypt, the British government decided to send an expeditionary force with the task of overthrowing the Khalifa. The commander of the force, Sir Herbert Kitchener, was also seeking revenge for the death of General Gordon, killed when a Mahdist army had captured Khartoum thirteen years earlier. On the morning of 2 September, some 35,000–50,000 Sudanese tribesmen under Abdullah attacked the British lines in a disastrous series of charges; later that morning the 21st Lancers charged and defeated another force that appeared on the British right flank. Among those present was 23-year-old soldier and reporter Winston Churchill as well as a young Captain Douglas Haig.

The victory of the British–Egyptian force was a demonstration of the superiority of a highly disciplined army equipped with modern rifles, machine guns, and artillery over a force twice its size armed with older weapons, and marked the success of British efforts to re-conquer Sudan. Following the Battle of Umm Diwaykarat a year later, the remaining Mahdist forces were defeated and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan was established. Note: in the first half of 1898, Churchill explored the possibility of joining Herbert Kitchener’s military campaign in the Sudan. Kitchener was initially reluctant, claiming that Churchill was simply seeking publicity and medals. After spending time in Calcutta, Meerut, and Peshawar, Churchill sailed back to England from Bombay in June. There, he used his contacts—including a visit to the Prime Minister Lord Salisbury at 10 Downing Street—to get himself assigned to Kitchener’s campaign. He agreed that he would write a column describing the events for The Morning Post. Arriving in Egypt, he joined the 21st Lancers at Cairo before they headed south along the River Nile to take part in the Battle of Omdurman against the army of Sudanese leader Abdallahi ibn Muhammad. Churchill was critical of Kitchener’s actions during the war, particularly the latter’s unmerciful treatment of enemy wounded and his desecration of Muhammad Ahmad’s tomb in Omdurman. Following the battle, Churchill gave skin from his chest for a graft for an injured officer. Back in England by October, Churchill wrote an account of the campaign, published as The River War in November 1899.

The River War: An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan (1899), by Winston Churchill, is a history of the conquest of the Sudan between 1896 and 1899 by Anglo-Egyptian forces led by Lord Kitchener. He defeated the Sudanese Dervish forces, led by Khalifa Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, heir to the self-proclaimed Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad who had vowed to conquer Egypt and drive out the Ottomans. The first, two volume, edition includes accounts of Churchill’s own experiences as a British Army officer during the war, and his views on its conduct.

The River War was Churchill’s second published book after The Story of the Malakand Field Force, and originally filled two volumes with over 1,000 pages in 1899. The River War was subsequently abridged to one volume in 1902.

Want to know more about this item?

We are happy to answer any questions you may have about this item. In addition, it is also possible to request more photographs if there is something specific you want illustrated.
Ask a question

Share this Page with a friend