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The Baker Expedition for the Suppression of the Slave Trade, 1869
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The Baker Expedition for the Suppression of the Slave Trade, 1869

Measurements: Overall: 18.5cm (7.25in) x 23cm (9.25in)

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Pen and ink on paper. Inscribed ‘Departure from Khartoum of the expedition to Central Africa for the suppression of the Slave Trade, led by Sir Samuel White Baker’. The present illustration of Baker’s Nile flotilla is a period work after the original that was published in the English edition of ‘Ismailia, the narrative of expedition to Central Africa for suppression of slave trade’. Framed and glazed.

Sir Samuel White Baker (1821-1893) is chiefly remembered as the discoverer of Lake Albert and for rescuing his second wife from an eastern European slave market (and the clutches of the Ottoman Pasha of Vidin) while on a hunting expedition with Maharaja Duleep Singh. Baker was also a prolific author and a friend of King Edward VII, who as Prince of Wales visited him in Egypt.

In 1869, at the request of Khedive of Egypt, Baker led a military expedition to the equatorial regions of the Nile, with the object of suppressing the slave trade and opening the way to commerce and civilisation. Before starting from Cairo with a force of 1700 Egyptian troops - many of whom sweepings of the city’s gaols - he was given the rank of Pasha and Major-General in the Ottoman army. As on previous expeditions, the former slave girl, Lady Baker, accompanied him. The Khedive further gave him the title of Governor-General of Equatoria at a salary of £10,000 a year. He served four years and had to contend with innumerable difficulties - the blocking of the river in the Sudd; the hostility of officials with interests in the slave trade; the armed opposition of the indigenous people. He nevertheless succeeded in laying the foundations of an administration before handing over to the ill-fated new governor, Gordon of Khartoum.

Despite his many achievements, Baker never received quite the same level of acclamation granted to other contemporary British explorers of Africa. Queen Victoria avoided meeting him because of the irregular way in which he acquired Lady Baker, and because of the scandal involving his brother Colonel Valentine Baker whose moves on a young lady on a train out of Waterloo proved as ruinous then as they would today.
 

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