British Perceptions and Responses to Sultan Ali Dinar of Darfur, 1915–16

Slight, John (2010). British Perceptions and Responses to Sultan Ali Dinar of Darfur, 1915–16. Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 38(2) pp. 237–260.



This article illustrates how British perceptions of Sultan Ali Dinar of Darfur, in the context of the First World War, led to the downfall of his sultanate in 1916. It shows how the paranoia of the ‘imperial mind’ amplified the threat of militant Islam, personified by Ali Dinar, through the conviction that he was involved with outside enemy forces. British certainty of Ottoman and German complicity in the sultan's belligerence was presented with great intensity by officials, a conviction which formed a central justification for this extension of British rule in Saharan Africa. British officials actively propagated the idea of outside forces having a pernicious influence on Ali Dinar's bellicosity. Through their dogged insistence on this interpretative trope, the British elided other complex factors that informed the sultan's defiance, and misunderstood the internal divisions and stresses in Darfuri society that limited the effectiveness of his jihad. This article goes beyond existing studies by presenting a close analysis of the colonial record to examine in greater detail these two perceptions of Ali Dinar as ‘Muslim fanatic’ and ‘Turco-German co-conspirator’. In a new departure from existing works, this article analyses British views of Ali Dinar after Darfur was occupied, explores the sultan's motivations for his declaration of jihad against the British, and sheds light on the responses of ordinary Darfuris to their sultan‘s doomed defiance of the region's dominant power.

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