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xii THE BREAKDOWN OF THE CONTROL 217
with, and thus to have a pretext for abolishing the Khediviate altogether.
To these arguments it is scarcely a sufficient reply that if, before the war, British control had been pushed to unwise lengths and exercised sometimes with little tact or intelligence, we could at least show unbroken records of material prosperity. For it was that material prosperity that helped to disguise the effects of the hopeless blurring of powers and responsibilities inherent to a system that had certainly no parallel elsewhere. So for a time did martial law during the war, as the military authorities themselves assumed all power and responsibility. In so far as they did not actively interfere with the administrative machine, it went on working, driven mainly by the momentum it had retained from peacetime. But when under the pressure of military necessity a crisis came that placed upon the administrative machine a strain which had to be borne chiefly by subordinate officials released from British supervision, it broke down badly because the excessive centralisation of British control had tended to discourage rather than to promote amongst them a sense of responsibility proportionate to the unaccustomed power suddenly devolved upon them.
The breakdown cannot in fairness be imputed to the rank and file of British civilians, who never worked harder than during the war. The Anglo-Egyptian Civil Service, as it has developed since Lord Cromer's days, may be open to criticism, but one cannot but sympathise with the impossible position in which it was then placed. At the outbreak of war there was, of course, the greatest keenness to go to the front, and too many of the younger men were actually allowed to volunteer for active service. Then new organisations had to be created to deal with special war demands. Every department that had scouted the idea of any possible reduction of its British staff in normal peace times found itself suddenly and enormously depleted just when abnormal war duties made the severest demands upon it. The work to be done byrely to a.general (Jeterioration of the British personnel. Theyptians, jit