About the Book
This book is based on the diaries of my ancestor, Edwin Higginbottom. His diaries were returned to my family following his death in 1873 at Gondokoro, Southern Sudan. At that time, he was chief engineer to the party led by Sir Samuel White Baker, who was attempting to eradicate the slave trade on the Nile River. Edwin’s contribution to the expedition was immense. Aside from his role as chief engineer, he was considered by Baker as his second-in-command and was frequently left in charge when Baker was not present. In the early part of the expedition, Edwin was responsible for transporting huge cargoes up the Nile from Cairo, cargoes that not only included supplies but also two large and several small steamboats in kit form, which were to be reassembled later. At Korosko, the party had to leave the Nile in order to circumnavigate its cataracts, and the cargoes were ferried for thirteen days across the desert with the aid of 1,800 camels. Other than providing detailed descriptions of his experiences, the diaries also give an interesting insight on the politics of the region in the late nineteenth century. At that time, both the British and the Egyptians were attempting to expand their influence in the region whilst Africa was being carved up by the major Western powers. Baker, under instructions from the Egyptian government, annexed the region around Gondokoro, claiming that it was the best way of eroding the power of the slave traders. The global call for the abolition of slavery was strong, but in this instance, was it used as an excuse for backdoor colonisation? The party also struggled with the corruption that was rife in the Ottoman Empire at that time. Many of the Egyptian officials who were supposed to be helping them had a financial interest in maintaining the slave trade. On his return from Africa, Baker published his account of the expedition in his two-volume work, Ismailia. Edwin’s diaries provide a very different angle to the same story. Here was a middle class product of South Manchester who was thrown into the world of the ruling elite. Frequently, he views Baker’s style of leadership as being arrogant and overbearing, and he is often appalled at Baker’s treatment of both freed slaves and lower-ranking members of the party. Edwin’s loyalty to the expedition meant that the two men seldom clashed publicly, but his dissatisfaction is made very clear in his diaries. Edwin’s premature death at the age of just thirty-one meant that he was never able to publish his own story. He was a man who Henry Morton Stanley once described as “a man whose intelligence and exertions have, upon several occasions, saved Sir Samuel Baker’s expedition from imminent disasters”—one who was to remain anonymous to the world as a result. The aim of this work is to bring Edwin Higginbottom’s name to a much wider audience in recognition of the huge contribution he made to Baker’s expedition. My own personal aim is to find Edwin’s grave at Gondokoro and, in doing so, to become the first member of his family to pay his or her respects at his last resting place.
About the Author
Geoff Higginbottom is a musician, writer and keen amateur historian from Stockport, North West England. He has spent most of his life writing and performing songs and has recently turned his attention to writing in other media.
The diaries of Edwin Higginbottom were passed down to him from his family and after much consideration he made the decision to transcribe the diaries and publish them as a tribute to his great, great uncle. It was a huge task as the diaries were written in very small handwriting (presumably to save paper) and mostly in pencil.
With his labour of love completed, Geoff continues to write and is currently working on several different projects involving a wide variety of subject material.