On 19 May 1798, Napoleon Bonaparte's fleet set sail for Egypt. The reasons behind the expedition were both political and emotional. Besides the desire to break the British power base in the East and exact revenge for the losses suffered by France during the Seven Years War, the desire to tread in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and the fascination that Egypt held for Europeans in the second half of the eighteenth century also played a role. In addition to soldiers, many scientists, architects and artists were on board the ships, their goal being to study the antiquities, flora, fauna and current social circumstances in Egypt and to record them for posterity.
After conquering Malta en route, Bonaparte arrived in Alexandria on 1 July 1798. He captured that city on the following day, and on 21 July the conquest of Lower Egypt became a reality with victory over the Turks at the Battle of the Pyramids and the entry of the French into Cairo. By occupying Egypt, Napoleon hoped to block the English trade routes to the Far East. Although Napoleon lost Egypt to the English a short time later, sufficient information was gathered by the members of the expedition to produce what became the greatest publication in the world at the time. 'La Description de l'+gypte', originally published in several parts between 1809 and 1829, consists of 11 books of plates and 26 volumes of texts, compiled by the top scientists of France. It marked the start of Egyptology as a scientific discipline. In addition to this important work, Napoleon's expedition to Egypt resulted in another important building block for the development of Egyptology - the Rosetta Stone was discovered during the expedition, the key which enabled Jean-Fran_ois Champollion to decipher the hieroglyphic script.