The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire

Raymond Jonas. Harvard Univ, $29.95 (412p) ISBN 978-0-674-05274-1
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. As University of Washington historian Jonas so deftly observes in this nimble and artfully crafted work, the events at Adwa cast doubt upon Europeans’ unshakeable certainty that Africans would eventually fall under their rule. Jonas draws vibrant portraits of the personalities at the center of these events, from the shrewd Ethiopian monarch Menelik and his bold, aggressive wife, Taytu Betul, to the unfortunate Italian general Oreste Baratieri, the leader of the defeated Italian forces. As Jonas points out, the African victory at Adwa commenced the crumbling of European dominance of Africa; Ethiopia thus became a source of pride and lineage often indistinguishable from Africa itself, and writers such as W.E.B. DuBois based their own model African states on Ethiopia. Weaving a colorful account from the stories of a dazzling array of characters, Jonas skillfully recreates this now mostly forgotten event that determined the color of Africa. 38 b&w illus., 6 maps. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/26/2011
Release date: 11/01/2011
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