Gerald Butt

He Loved a Slave Girl

Henry Salt: Artist, Traveller, Diplomat, Egyptologist


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Henry Salt (1780-1827) served as British Consul-General in Cairo when the nominal Ottoman ruler Muhammad Ali (Mehemet Ali) Pasha – credited as the founder of modern Egypt – was approaching the height of his powers. Salt, the son of a surgeon from Lichfield, had gone to London as a young man and tried, without much success, to make a career as a portraitist. After an encounter with nobility via family connections, he was taken on by one Viscount Valentia and travelled, as his secretary and artist, to India, and from there to Ceylon, Abyssinia and Egypt, later returning to Cairo in the consular service. These were exciting days in Egypt – the country had been shaken out of the slumber of Ottoman rule by the brief appearance of Napoleon Bonaparte and his army. The arrival of the French also presented Britain with a challenge in the eastern Mediterranean, and it was after a joint British-Ottoman force drove Napoleon’ s army out of Egypt that Muhammad Ali saw the chance to build his own power base.

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