Odds and quads

February 25, 2010

When General Charles Gordon was sent to evacuate Egyptian troops from Sudan in the face of a revolt in 1884, he decided instead to march to Khartoum and go on the offensive.

Since the British Government refused to provide reinforcements, he was soon cut off, besieged and under pressure to feed both his army and the local civilian population.

Caught in a trap, and without other resources, General Gordon issued around 90,000 bank notes like this one.

The Arabic text says it can be redeemed in Cairo six months hence, and over half of the notes bear the general's personal signature.

Yet none of this could prevent defeat, with a relief expedition arriving two days too late to prevent Khartoum falling to the Islamic Mahdist uprising in January 1885.

The currency forms part of the major Sudan Archive, established in 1957, which is held at Durham University Library.

Send suggestions for this series on the sector's treasures, oddities and curiosities to: matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com.

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