The British Empire

Talk on ‘General Garnet Wolseley’

General Wolseley was the archetypal Victorian Imperial General. He was present at some of the most important wars of the imperial century and rose from relatively humble origins to become Commander-in-Chief of the British army at the time of the Boer War. He oversaw some major reforms of the army bringing it up to date and enabling it to fight a number of colonial wars in conditions totally unsuitable for European soldiers. He believed passionately in Britain's mission to civilise having witnessed the Cawnpore massacre and was at all time concerned for the welfare of his men.

He was commander of the British force that defeated an Egyptian force at Tel-el-Kebir which led to Britain regarding the Near East as crucial to its interests. He also led the Gordon relief expedition which failed by one day to rescue General Gordon. His victory over the Ashanti was reported widely in Britain and was one of many such expeditions to be regarded by the British as the victory of a Christian country over a savage people needing to be civilised. Was he the greatest Victorian general? This is just one of the questions to be answered in an assessment of Wolseley's career.

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General Garnet Wolseley