The Fashoda crisis of 1898 was a confrontation between the British and French over control of the Sudan. The British wanted control of the water sources of the vital Nile River upon which Egypt (which they already controlled) depended.
Some British imperialists such as Cecil Rhodes also had ambitions to build a northsouth railway to traverse the African continent from the Mediterranean to South Africa. The French also dreamed of building an east-west railway from their huge empire in West Africa to East Africa. They also wanted to thwart British imperial expansion.
In the 1890s a French major, Jean-Baptiste Marchand, embarked on an ambitious expedition to walk from West Africa across to the Sudan to claim the territory for the French Empire. After two years and the loss of hundreds of men, Marchand arrived at the small settlement of Fashoda on the Upper Nile and hoisted the French flag.
At the same time, the British, led by Horatio Herbert Kitchener, had completed their conquest of northern Sudan, culminating at the Battle of Omdurman. When Kitchener heard that a European was at Fashoda, he immediately knew that Marchand had succeeded in his expedition; however, he was not about to let the French seize part of the Sudan.
Although there were popular demonstrations in both capitals in favor of war, diplomacy prevailed. In an 1899 negotiated settlement it was agreed that the Sudan, the largest country in Africa, would become part of the British Empire and, in return, France would receive a small compensatory territory in West Africa.