Cromer, Sir Evelyn Baring, First Earl of

Cromer, Sir Evelyn Baring, First Earl of
   A British diplomat and longtime proconsul in Egypt, Evelyn Baring was a younger son of the Baring banking family. Baring was sent to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich and then posted to the Mediterranean, where he focused on learning Greek and Italian. After passing out first from the Staff College in 1870, he went to the War Office where he worked for the abolition of commission purchase under his cousin Lord Northbrook, the Liberal peer and junior minister. When Northbrook went to India as Viceroy in 1872, Baring followed him as private secretary. Baring acquired a reputation for self-confidence to the point of arrogance - he was known in India as “over,” as in over-Baring - and financial skill that led to his appointment as the British member of a commission on the Egyptian debt.
   After the British occupation of Egypt in 1882, Baring went to Cairo, formally as British Consul, but in reality as a proconsul with final say over the policies of the Khedive’s government. Baring - or Lord Cromer as he became in 1892 - reconstructed the Egyptian army and civil service under the leadership of British officers and officials, worked with some success to put the country’s finances, ruined by Khedivial excess, in order. Notwithstanding that the temporary occupation intended in 1882, Cromer and British opinion generally came to favor an extended British hold over Egypt, perhaps formalized as a protectorate, and often justified by the same kind of philanthropic rhetoric that had come to characterize the Raj. Following the death of General Gordon in the Sudan, Cromer temporized over future Anglo-Egyptian policy there, on the one hand wanting to preserve the prestige of the Khedive’s government and restrain other European powers, while on the other fearing the expense and difficulty of a reconquest. After many hesitations, the British finally sent Horatio Kitchener all the way to Khartoum in 1898. Cromer designed the government of the “Anglo-Egyptian Sudan ” so as to preserve the myth of Egyptian independence. Cromer’s 1907 retirement from a long career as the ultimate authority in Egypt was marred by the scandal surrounding the Dinshawai incident of 1906, in which a number of Egyptians were hanged after an altercation with a party of British officers. In 1908, Cromer published Modern Egypt, a defense of his conduct there, and in 1910, Ancient and Modern Imperialism, a comparative study of imperialism that anticipated the work of modern scholars, especially in its remarks on imperialism and racial prejudice. Cromer presided over the 1916 commission of inquiry into the Dardanelles expedition and died the next year.
    Cromer, Lord. Ancient and Modern Imperialism. London: John Murray, 1910;
    Owen, Roger. Lord Cromer. Oxford: University Press, 2004;
    Zetland, Marquess of. Lord Cromer. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1932.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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