Bounded by Sudan to the west and north, Kenya to the south, Somalia to the southeast, and Eritrea and Djibouti to the northeast, Ethiopia is a pivotal country in the geopolitics of the region. Yet it is important to understand this ancient and often splintered country in its own right. Bahru Zewde is a senior lecturer in history at Addis Ababa University. Permission to reprint Permission to photocopy or include in a course pack via Copyright Clearance Center.
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This work is protected by copyright and may be linked to without seeking permission. Permission must be received for subsequent distribution in print or electronically. Please contact mpub-help umich. For far too long, the absence of a general history of Ethiopia has been acutely felt by specialists engaged in Ethiopian studies, by educators in institutions of higher learning, and by many readers interested in Ethiopia.
Yet few historians have turned their attention to the writing of such a general history, although Ethiopian historiography has made remarkable advances in the last two and a half decades. The dramatic changes that Ethiopia has been going through, particularly in the last twenty years, have made the need for a background history leading up to those events more urgent. The time span of this book provides perspective on current political history. Events after the fall of Haile Selassie in , however, are only presented in brief introductory remarks.
This history should challenge both journalists and policy makers to broaden their insights and to relate today's political struggles to the past. The central narrative of the book concerns the struggles around the creation of modern Ethiopia—beginning with Emperor Tewodros' first efforts to unify an Ethiopian state—and around the preservation of its independence over the ensuing decades.
Zewde shows how the death of Tewodros re-opened the issue of the throne, and how Yohannes IV followed substantially different policy of unification from that of his predecessors.
In contrast with Tewodros' head-on collision with regional powers, Yohannes was ready to devolve power to clients and subordinates who recognized his claims as "King of Kings. Zewde provides a narration of the complex history of struggles during the s and s among ethnic groups, local chiefs, and the throne—and the context of colonial rivalries—that culminated in the Italian invasion and the creation of the modern Ethiopian empire-state.
Menelik's claim to historical distinction was that he presided over the realization of an idea that had first been kindled in the fiery mind of Tewodros. Menelik pushed the frontier of the Ethiopian state close to its modern boundaries, a shape consecrated by the colonial powers after the battle of Adwa. A decade of consolidation and the settlement of the Tripartite Agreement followed. With the exception of Eritrea—which was federated with Ethiopia in and united in —the territory of the state was integrated and defined under Italian colonial rule and British administration The years after Menelik's death were marked by intense rivalries and power struggle within the royal family.
This modern phase of Ethiopian political development is most intriguing and, although the Italian Occupation has been dealt with in numerous studies, Zewde's clear presentation opens a highly complex part of Ethiopia's recent political history that has not received adequate attention. These struggles, and the reign of Haile Selassie, receive a critical contextualization of real depth.
This is a model for an African history that bridges the audiences of specialists and general readers. Zewde's book is a balanced, scholarly, and brave contribution that informs directly current political and social developments in Ethiopia.
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A history of modern Ethiopia, 1855-1991
A History of Modern Ethiopia