The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory Against European Colonialism

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9780875864136: The Battle of Adwa: Reflections on Ethiopia's Historic Victory Against European Colonialism

Ethiopia's warriors earned an outstanding reputation over a hundred years ago.

In the 19th-century Scramble for Africa, when the Europeans carved up an entire continent for exploitation, Africans won a solitary, shocking, glorious victory at Adwa (Ethiopia). The most celebrated military operation involving the Africans and the Europeans since the time of Hannibal, this emblematic victory still resounds in the minds of Africans and the African diaspora as promise of potential and an illustration of the dictum, strength in unity.

Nine scholars analyze the unique Ethiopian victory at Adwa, pondering the factors that brought success, the putative missed opportunities for securing the future integrity of the Ethiopian territory, and the lessons to be learned.

Rising above their regional rivalries and local concerns, all facets of this multi-ethnic society pulled together to defeat the Italian invaders who were armed with vastly more sophisticated technology and had the support of all of Europe.

For the victors it was decisive; for the vanquished, catastrophic. The Italian colonialist soldiers were crushed. Their casualty figure was 70%; all their artillery pieces were captured, one out of four of their generals was taken prisoner and two of the remaining as well as almost half of their staff officers were killed on the battlefield.

The event and its implications have much to say about Ethiopia s subsequent development, the secession of Eritrea, and relations with external powers. It also reveals much about the machinations of global powers and the dangers they pose to weaker nations, and most specifically international influence in Africa.

The Ethiopian victory at the Battle of Adwa has remained a very important event in the shared recollection of the entire African people. It is the only secular episode in the whole history of Africa that has been celebrated for more than a century with unabated popular enthusiasm.

A phenomenon such as Adwa is a complex nexus of various historical processes with wide ranging but as yet not fully explored meanings. The contributors to this collection show that Adwa does not only reflect its time, but that it also transcends it, and that the aspirations and meanings that flow from it have been a powerful constitutive force in the rise and evolution of modern Africa Indeed, it is an event that awakened the hope for emancipation and the struggle against colonialism and racism among Africans in the colonies and in the Diaspora.

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About the Author:

Paulos Milkias, a former Canada Council Doctoral Fellow, is a professor of Humanities and Political Science at Marianopolis College/Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. He is Co-editor of the Journal of North-East African Studies and others. Getachew Metaferia, co-editor, teaches political science and coordinates the graduate program in International Studies at Morgan State University. Contributors include:
Richard Pankhurst
Zewde Gabra-Selassie
Negussay Ayele
Harold Marcus
Theodore M. Vestal
Maimire Mennasemay
Mesfin Araya

'The historic victory of Ethiopia under Menelik over Italian invaders at the 1896 Battle of Adwa ended Italy's self-proclaimed 'protectorate' over Ethiopia, even if the Italians remained in Eritrea. The nine chapters presented here by Milkias (humanities and political science, Marianopolis College/Concordia U., Canada) and Metaferia (political science and international studies, Morgan State U., US) explore the historical and present-day significance of this defeat for European colonialism. Topics include continuities and discontinuities in King Menelik's foreign policy, humanitarian considerations in the aftermath of the Wuchal'e Treaty negotiated between Ethiopia and Italy, the role of Ethiopia in the Pan-African movement, British colonial reactions to the Battle of Adwa, and the application of critical theory to the analysis of Adwa.'
-- Booknews

Review:

Is The Successful Military Resistance To European Colonialism In Late Nineteenth-Century Ethiopia Still Significant Today?
The present book is meant not for Africanist pundits but for the general reader (p. 15). Indeed, this book is essentially a collection of reflections and interpretations of the significance of Adwa for the divisive present politics of Ethiopia. As such, it makes an important contribution to that issue, but it is not in sum a new analysis of the conflict itself, and is based on only a limited selection of. Chapter 1 by the political scientist, Theodore Vestal, a leading critic of the post-Mengistu era after 1991, really summarizes the perspective of the book itself: 'Reflections on the Battle of Adwa and Its Significance for Today.' The significance is that a unified Greater Ethiopia (p. 21) made possible the defeat of Italy and that the country needs to be reunified today... --The Journal of African History (2007), 48: 344-345 Cambridge University Press The Battle of Adwa in 1896 has attained mythic proportions among Africans and the diaspora, as it was the only time during the European conquest that an African country defeated a European colonial power. Ethiopia affirmed its independence and negated the notion of European invincibility with a decisive defeat of Italian forces. This anthology by Ethiopianists delves into the diplomatic, historical, cultural, and political dimensions of the battle and its implications for Ethiopia in particular and Africa in general. They look at the internal and external conditions that contributed to the source of the clash and the factors in the Ethiopian success. Of particular note are the extension of Adwa to the present time and its role in the creation of pan-Africanism and "Ethiopianism" (independence). The pieces are of varying quality, but two that stand out are Negussay Ayele's contribution comparing Ethiopian and European behavior and Getachew Metaferia on pan-Africanism. The only other volume on Adwa is editors Abdussamad Ahmad and Richard Pankhurst's Adwa Victory Centenary Conference (1998). The individual selections are well documented, but a more extensive bibliography and index would have been useful. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels/libraries. -- T. Natsoulas, emeritus, University of Toledo --Choice

The Battle of Adwa in 1896 is considered one of the most important events in modern African history, not only because of Italy s failed attempt to secure Ethiopia as a protectorate. This collection dissects Adwa as a social, political, national, religious, and military event broadening its scope to begin a new evaluation of this African victory.

The book outlines each of the historical faces of ancient Ethiopia, including the Axumite Empire of Ezana, the Christian state of Zagwe, and the Solomonian Empire that traces its lineage from King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, to the emerging modern nation. This approach solidifies both context and contacts within world history. By focusing on the vastness of the territory that will become modern Ethiopia, they establish that these were people of different ethnic and religious affiliations that were still in the process of unification at the time of the victory at Adwa.

Sections include 'Reflections On The Battle Of Adwa And Its Significance For Today,' 'The Battle of Adwa: The Historic Victory of Ethiopia over European Colonialism,' 'Continuity and Discontinuity in Menelik's Foreign Policy,' 'Adwa 1896: Who Was Civilized And Who Was Savage?' 'Ethiopia: A Bulwark Against European Colonialism and its Role in the Pan-African Movement.' 'British Reactions to The Battle of Adwa (as Illustrated by the Times of London for 1896)', 'Contemporary Ethiopia in the Context of the Battle of Adwa, 1896, 'Ethiopian History --Horn of Africa Journal, Rutgers University

The Battle of Adwa was central to the history of Ethiopia, and...after the one-hundred-year anniversary...The celebrations marked a turning point in mainstream Ethiopian historiography, by attributing both the beginning of the modern nation-building process and the power centred on the Amhara core-power to the great victory.
The Tigrayan-led government, in power since 1991, fostered a revisionist interpretation, focusing on all-Ethiopian-peoples contributions to Adwa and stressing its pan-African importance.
...The introduction
states that the volume is addressed to casual readers , and that it is meant to provide a comprehensive history of the battle and its repercussions to a wider audience than an exclusively scholarly reading public. To popularize Adwa is not the only aim of this collection. The thesis running through all the chapters links a re-examination of the forces that shaped modern Ethiopia in the past with the present and engages in a critique of the Ethiopian government's responses to the current domestic and regional political situation in the Horn of Africa."

...Overall, the contributors present a vision of contemporary Ethiopia that is neither hopeful nor unduly pessimistic. Their disapprobation of the existing government revolves around their concern that the institutionalization of the rights of ethno-cultural groups can be expected to do little more than solidify ethno-regional-based patterns of national politics. The Ethiopian society of today appears to them at a crossroads. The answer they offer is democratization.
The volume includes a map, a glossary of Ethiopian titles and an appendix with the Amharic version of the Wacale Treaty. --Aethiopica - International Journal of Ethiopian and Eritrean Studies

The Battle of Adwa in 1896 has attained mythic proportions among Africans and the diaspora, as it was the only time during the European conquest that an African country defeated a European colonial power. Ethiopia affirmed its independence and negated the notion of European invincibility with a decisive defeat of Italian forces. This anthology by Ethiopianists delves into the diplomatic, historical, cultural, and political dimensions of the battle and its implications for Ethiopia in particular and Africa in general. They look at the internal and external conditions that contributed to the source of the clash and the factors in the Ethiopian success. Of particular note are the extension of Adwa to the present time and its role in the creation of pan-Africanism and "Ethiopianism" (independence). The pieces are of varying quality, but two that stand out are Negussay Ayele's contribution comparing Ethiopian and European behavior and Getachew Metaferia on pan-Africanism. The only other volume on Adwa is editors Abdussamad Ahmad and Richard Pankhurst's Adwa Victory Centenary Conference (1998). The individual selections are well documented, but a more extensive bibliography and index would have been useful. Summing Up: Recommended. All academic levels/libraries. -- T. Natsoulas, emeritus, University of Toledo --Choice

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