The French expedition on Egypt in 1798 has raised many controversies around its impact; such as the rise of modernity in Egypt, and the beginning of its Europeanisation. However, it is equally important to discuss the course of events within the expedition itself to determine why these polemics came into discourse in the first place. An important aspect, that isn’t being considered often, is the strategic militarily strength of the expedition. Questions arise whether it was a scientific expedition, or a blunt invasion, with viable arguments on both sides. It is due that credit be given to the failure –or rather, cultural success- of the expedition on the military incompetence of the French; which came quite surprising considering the Napoleonic wars that took place shortly before the French entered Egypt. One could say that perhaps the French were unused to Middle Eastern weather and terrain, among various other reasons, and were therefore stronger in Europe than they were in Egypt. British intervention is also a prime factor in the departure of the French forces from Egypt only 3 years after their arrival, in 1801. Thus, this paper aims to argue that the failure, or quick departure, of the expedition was due to their military incompetence and unpreparedness, which is perhaps a result of orientalism. The paper will discuss some of the French’s strategies, and what they were expecting upon their arrival. Then, it will examine some of the glitches that faced them military-wise, and how that aided the English in defeating them and, as a form of causality, forced the French to retreat in 1801.
Somehow I think the Royal Navy had more to do with it then French incompetence (though you could argue for French naval incompetence).