Why did the Directory think it was a good use of manpower and resources to invade Egypt in 1798, of all possible uses for those soldiers?

Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
I understand the arguments that they intended to distract the Royal Navy as well as disrupt British trade with India, but surely those are relatively limited gains compared to how useful and potentially decisive those "38,000 thousand soldiers, 13,000 sailors and 280 ships" could have been had they remained to fight in Europe. French gains in Northern Italy probably wouldn't have been reversed by Suvorov like they were, and the Austrians could have been brought to the negotiating table in 1798 or 1799 rather than in 1800. Were I in charge of the French government, I'd rather have as many experienced troops, generals and officers available to me to use against the Austrians and Russians - reaching dangerously close to French territory - rather than sending them thousands of kilometres away to grab land in Egypt, which also antagonized the formerly neutral Ottoman Empire.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,029
Sydney
It's even worst , the directory had very severe financial problems ,
this expedition was ruinous
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,525
Well firstly they were not at war with Austria or Russia for about a year after Bonaparte's Expedition left.

The French also had what 400,000 men under arms. It was not the a huge comimmentment.

Lack of other option to strike at the British.

How many men did the Ottomans commit to 2nd Coalition against French troops in Europe?

I think it was folly. As there was no real follow up move available and the Conquest of Egypt was unsupportable as the French could not control teh seas,
 
Feb 2019
878
Serbia
France wasn't at war with Austria or Russia or pretty much any continental great power when Napoleon departed for Egypt and they didn't have magical powers to predict that Suvorov would go to Italy and butcher their armies.
France had an army several hundred thousand strong so around 40.000 men and 10.000 sailors isn't much, I believe not enough to actually conquer Egypt.

The reason why they went there was because of several factors:
They wanted to disrupt the British link to India.
Napoleon wanted personal glory.
The British had pretty much abandoned the Mediterranean the year before so France had free reign to disrupt them, however they couldn't think of what to do so they sent for Egypt with Napoleon stopping at Malta along the way.

Gareth Glover, in his book The Forgotten War Against Napoleon: The Conflict in the Mediterranean 1793-1815 at the page 55 summarizes it this way:

Egypt was, at least in name, a part of the crumbling Ottoman Empire, but the real power lay with the Mamelukes (originally Circassians and Georgians imported as slaves), who ruled the country with a rod of iron, their force of 10,000 cavalrymen dominating the indigenous population. France had considered the annexation of Egypt for more than a century and the idea presently held a number of attractions for the French government. It not only threatened the British dominance of India, but even then suggestions of linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea by canal were gaining some credence. The autocratic rule of the Mamelukes was also anathema to Revolutionary France and it seemed fitting to the Directory that France should free the Egyptians from their bonds and enlighten the people of the cradle of civilisation, whilst relieving the Mamelukes of their fabled riches and establishing a permanent French colony in their place.

Attempts to form an army with which to invade England had faltered, largely through the inability of the French navy to wrest command of the Channel, and the preparations as a whole were severely and openly criticised by that rising star Napoleon Bonaparte, who had recently been put in charge of the invasion. He was now becoming an awkward distraction to the French government and so when he championed a descent on Egypt as an alternative, the Directory was only too pleased to grant him his desire, thereby removing this threat to its authority to some far-flung shore. This combination of altruistic and mercenary ideals convinced them to authorise the Expedition to Egypt. Napoleon wasted no time in his preparations.He had his ‘Army of England’ transferred from the channel ports to Toulon, and, following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, he also enlisted a large body of the great and good of French science and art, known as the ‘savants’, to accompany the expedition to rediscover Egyptian history and culture. Within three months everything had been made ready.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
5,029
Sydney
Naval expeditions seems to have been in favor
there was the Irish expedition a couple of years before
It was a disaster , it seems that the Directory lacked common sense in naval matters
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,488
Dispargum
A cursury study just now suggests it was Napoleon's idea, and he was notoriously bad when it came to understanding naval strategy. Also, the Directory was already suspicious of Napoleon's ambition and saw the Egyptian Expedition as an opportunity to get him out of France.
 
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Dan Howard

Ad Honorem
Aug 2014
4,772
Australia
Wars are fought over influence, resources, or trade. The Egyptian campaign was about all three. Regarding trade, an expedition was intended to either enhance your own trade or undermine someone else's. The Egyptian campaign was about both. It was a logical decision, but it was poorly executed. They needed a much larger navy for it to have any chance of success.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,525
Gareth Glover, in his book The Forgotten War Against Napoleon: The Conflict in the Mediterranean 1793-1815 at the page 55 summarizes it this way:
"The autocratic rule of the Mamelukes was also anathema to Revolutionary France and it seemed fitting to the Directory that France should free the Egyptians from their bondsy"

and the autocratic rule the French Directory was quite willing to impose of Ducth, Germans, Italians, or for that Matter French just shows this as words without meaning.
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
9,525
Wars are fought over influence, resources, or trade. The Egyptian campaign was about all three. Regarding trade, an expedition was intended to either enhance your own trade or undermine someone else's. The Egyptian campaign was about both. It was a logical decision, but it was poorly executed. They needed a much larger navy for it to have any chance of success.
what trade? Egyptain trade itself I don;t think was of much importance in this period.
The Idea was to threaten India. Which was pretty much a ludricous ppipedream. There was no capability to project force from Egypt to India. If France had the Naval power, how does Egypt make it any easier to transport troops from France to India? Ship go to Mediterranean Egypot drop off troops who march to the Read sea and wait for some Frnch ships to appear and pick them up. Co-ordinated how? Ships coming from where? France well they could justy taken the troops to India anyway.

The British were paranoid about any sort of threat to India so it may have worked as a imagined threat. But I fail to see how it was a concrete threat to India. So I fail to see how it is a logical decision.

The asumption I'm making is (1) there is no vaulable existing trade with egypt (2) that India was the real target (3) Egypt does not help with (2). (and these asumptions could be totally wrong regarding your post)

Whta would have a good execution have looked like?
 
Apr 2014
395
Istanbul Turkey
Directory at this point was just trying to get rid of Napoleon who was regarded extremely ambitious and making a lot of Public Relations and lobbying for power grab in France and Egyptian expedition in Orient which had been a personal project of his. Their reasoning was just sending Bonaparte somewhere far away where he could not cause any more noise in France and if by chance he suceeds in Orient (definition of sucess unmentioned here) so much the better....