Recollections of Forty Years. Vol. I




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London: Chapman and Hall


French diplomat Ferdinand de Lesseps (1805-94) called on all his negotiating skills to gain authorisation to build the Suez Canal from the ruler of Egypt and Sudan. De Lesseps first read of the centuries old historical canals between the Nile and Red Sea in 1832, while stationed in Alexandria. His proposal was to build a canal from the Red Sea in the south, through the Suez isthmus, to the Mediterranean Sea in the north. In 1854, plans were drawn up and money was raised by subscription. Work began in April 1859 at Port Said. On 17 November 1869, the Suez Canal opened. It cut down the trip between India and Western Europe from 18,400 kilometres to 12,300. Here is one of de Lesseps letters to the Dutch Consul General, ‘floating’ the idea of a canal.


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Ferdinand de Lesseps. Translated by C.B. Pitman, “Recollections of Forty Years. Vol. I,” | OUR Heritage, accessed March 1, 2024,