Oriental Crisis

Congress Europe

Europe 1840.1127

Oriental Crisis

Congress Europe (27 November 1840)

Historical Map of Europe & the Mediterranean

The Egyptian rejection of the 1840 London Convention led to the Oriental Crisis, threatening the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and a war between France - which supported Egypt - and Britain - which supported the Ottomans. In the end, the French backed down and the British used their navy to break Egyptian power in the Levant. Defeated, Egypt agreed to withdraw from its conquests and accept Ottoman suzerainty.

Main Events

Bashir Qasim's insurgency

On 3 September 1840, the Ottoman government appointed Bashir Qasim as emir of Mount Lebanon - effectively sanctioning him as the leader of a Lebanese insurgency against Egyptian rule in the region. For a time, Qasim successfully united Maronite and Druze forces, preoccupying the Egyptian troops in the interior while the British bombarded and captured the coastal ports. However, with the victory over Egypt in October, the Lebanese alliance collapsed, leading to civil conflict and Qasim's dismissal in 1842.

Bombardment of the Levant

With the Egyptian rejection of the London Convention, British warships opened fire on Beirut, bombarding the city for three days and killing about 1,000 people. From there they moved to attack and capture Haifa, Tyre, and Sidon. As the Egyptian forces fled south, the British sailed on Acre, bombarding and seizing the city on 3 November.

Oriental Crisis subsides

Between June 1839 and early 1840, the French Levant Squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Julien-Pierre Lalande, had been strengthened from three to twenty ships of the line in support of Muhammad Ali's Egypt. However, when it became clear this show of force would not deter British support of the Ottoman Empire against Egypt, King Louis Philippe of France backed down - in part because the Royal Navy severely outmatched the French in steam-powered warships. Following the London Convention of 15 July 1840, the French quickly recalled Lalande and his fleet, ending all support of Muhammad Ali in October.

Regency of Espartero

General Baldomero Espartero, a reformist credited for the 1839 victory over the Carlists, used his power in the Spanish court to force both regent Maria Cristina and ten-year-old Queen Isabella II into exile. Taking the regency for himself, Esparatero suppressed insurrections in support of Cristina in Pamplona in October 1841 and Barcelona in December 1842. A third rebellion in 1843 - this time in southern Spain - was more successful, with the rebels marching on Madrid in favor of Isabella's return. Esparatero stepped down, accepting a five-year exile in England.

Alexandria Convention

Following the defeat of his forces by the British-led alliance, Muhammad Ali, Pasha of Egypt, accepted the terms of the Convention of London. Subsequently, the Ottoman Sultan confirmed Ali's position as viceroy and agreed that his descendants would enjoy hereditary rule over Egypt - a major departure from Ottoman procedure. In return, Ali withdrew from Syria, Crete, and Arabia, and restored the Ottoman fleet.

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