‘Britain, India, and the Somaliland Campaigns of 1901–04’

  • Derek BlakeleyEmail author
Part of the Britain and the World book series (BAW)


The Somaliland Campaigns of 1901–1904 were, perhaps, the final ‘Victorian’ colonial expedition of the British Empire. In subsequent years, the rising threat of Imperial Germany and the ententes with France and Russia would focus British attention on European tensions. But, these expeditions demonstrated the stresses placed upon imperial resources at the turn of the century, as well as some of the conflicting interests which existed within the empire, particularly between the perceived interests and obligations of Britain and British India. The Somaliland conflict resulted from the rise of the ‘Mad Mullah,’ Muhammad Abd al-Hasan, as a fundamentalist Islamic leader in the region in the 1890s and came at a particularly vital point in the transition of the Empire and Britain’s position in the world. When the operations began, the Boer War was still underway and all available regular troops were committed there. As such, over these four years, a broad array of imperial resources were committed to Somaliland. Local levies and imperial forces from Aden, India, and Central and Eastern Africa were all utilized, as well as officers sent from Britain. London set policy (and paid the bills), but officials sent from India largely ran the campaign. This essay examines how and why these arrangements came to be, as well as their effectiveness and what they tell us about the state of the Edwardian Empire. It also considers how changing technology and diplomatic arrangements impacted this conflict as Britain transitioned from an era of imperial conflicts toward World War I.


  1. Blyth, R.J. The Empire of the Raj: India, Eastern Africa and the Middle East, 1858–1947 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).Google Scholar
  2. Genis, G. ‘Die Somaliland Burgher Contingent.’ Scientia Militaria: South African Journal of Military Studies 26, no. 2 (1996): 74–97.Google Scholar
  3. Irons, Roy. Churchill and the Mad Mullah of Somaliland: Betrayal and Redemption, 1899–1921 (Barnsley, UK: Pen & Sword Books, 2013).Google Scholar
  4. Jardine, Douglas J. The Mad Mullah of Somaliland (New Delhi: Isha Books, 2013, reprint of London: Herbert Jenkins, 1923).Google Scholar
  5. Maj. Jennings, J. Willes. With the Abyssinians in Somaliland (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1905).Google Scholar
  6. Lews, I.M. The Modern History of Somaliland: From Nation to State (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1965).Google Scholar
  7. Capt. MacNeill, M. In Pursuit of the “Mad” Mullah: Service and Sport in the Somali Protectorate (London: C. Arthur Pearson Ltd., 1902).Google Scholar
  8. Slight, John P. ‘British and Somali Views of Muhammad Abdullah Hassan’s Jihad 1899–1920.’ Bildhaan: An International Journal of Somali Studies 10 (2010): 16–35.Google Scholar
  9. Swayne, Harald George Carlos. Seventeen Trips Through Somaliland and a Visit to Abyssinia, with Supplementary Preference on the ‘Mad Mullah’ Risings (London: Rowland Ward, 1903).Google Scholar
  10. Military Report on Somaliland (London: HMSO, 1907).Google Scholar
  11. Official History of the Operations in Somaliland, 1901–04. 2 vols. (Delhi: Facsimile Publisher, 2017, reprint of London: HMSO, 1907).Google Scholar

India Office Library and Records, British Library

  1. India Office Records: R/20/11213, R/20/E/222, L/MIL/5/701, L/MIL/7/14510, L/MIL/7/14512, L/MIL/&/14515, V/27/230.Google Scholar
  2. Lord Curzon Papers, F.111/161-162.Google Scholar
  3. Summary of the Principal Events and Measures of the Viceroyalty of His Excellency Lord Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy and Governor-General of India, in the Foreign Department. Volume III. Aden and Dependencies (Simla: Foreign Department Press, n.d.), part II. R/1/5/3.Google Scholar


  1. Cabinet Office Papers: Lord Ismay, ‘Lectures on Somaliland,’ CAB 127/1.Google Scholar
  2. Foreign Office Papers: FO 2/312, FO 2/813, 814.Google Scholar
  3. War Office Papers: WO 32/8424, WO 32/8436, WO 32/21906.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.McNeese State UniversityLake CharlesUSA

Personalised recommendations