The Battle of Adwa by Raymond Jonas
African Victory in the Age of Empire

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Synopsis

In March 1896 a well-disciplined and massive Ethiopian army did the unthinkable-it routed an invading Italian force and brought Italy's war of conquest in Africa to an end. In an age of relentless European expansion, Ethiopia had successfully defended its independence and cast doubt upon an unshakable certainty of the age-that sooner or later all Africans would fall under the rule of Europeans. This event opened a breach that would lead, in the aftermath of world war fifty years later, to the continent's painful struggle for freedom from colonial rule.

Raymond Jonas offers the first comprehensive account of this singular episode in modern world history. The narrative is peopled by the ambitious and vain, the creative and the coarse, across Africa, Europe, and the Americas-personalities like Menelik, a biblically inspired provincial monarch who consolidated Ethiopia's throne; Taytu, his quick-witted and aggressive wife; and the Swiss engineer Alfred Ilg, the emperor's close advisor. The Ethiopians' brilliant gamesmanship and savvy public relations campaign helped roll back the Europeanization of Africa.

Figures throughout the African diaspora immediately grasped the significance of Adwa, Menelik, and an independent Ethiopia. Writing deftly from a transnational perspective, Jonas puts Adwa in the context of manifest destiny and Jim Crow, signaling a challenge to the very concept of white dominance. By reopening seemingly settled questions of race and empire, the Battle of Adwa was thus a harbinger of the global, unsettled century about to unfold.

 

About Raymond Jonas

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Raymond Jonas is Giovanni and Amne Costigan Professor of History at the University of Washington.
 
Published November 15, 2011 by Belknap Press. 432 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, War. Non-fiction

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On March 1, 1896, near the town of Adwa, in Ethiopia, an African army convincingly struck down the colonizing Italian army in a battle that decisively shaped not only the contours of Ethiopia but also its future and that of the continent.

Sep 26 2011 | Read Full Review of The Battle of Adwa: African V...

London Review of Books

10 · 24 May 2012 » John Davis » It should have ended with Verdi The print edition of the London Review of Books in which this book review appears and a downloadable PDF version of this book review are also available for purchase from the London Review Bookshop.

| Read Full Review of The Battle of Adwa: African V...

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