cover image Emperor Haile Selassie

Emperor Haile Selassie

Bereket Habte Selassie. Ohio Univ., $16.95 (156p) ISBN 978-0-8214-2053-9

In this volume of the "Short Histories" series, Selassie, University of North Carolina African Studies professor and former Ethiopian attorney general, summarizes the life and legacy of Emperor Selassie, born Tafari Makonnen, and his efforts to bring Ethiopia "kicking and screaming... to the light of modern times." After the death of the progressive Emperor Menelick II, his successor Lij Iassu grew increasingly unpopular, resulting in a coup with Makonnen at the forefront. His administration would be marred by wars with Italy and neighboring Eritrea, exile, famine, and the December revolt led by his own son and close associates. Selassie outlines the Emperor's many successes: making education a priority, introducing a constitution with democratic tendencies, and establishing Ethiopia as a U.N. charter member. Still, while Selassie is partial to his subject, he reminds readers that Makonnen was indeed "an absolute monarch with absolute power," who ultimately did not have the courage to fully realize his own vision. He accomplished enough, however, to create the instruments of his own downfall: the students and labor unions that would lead the revolution that "consigned a man of history to the dustbin." This is an informative guide, with an insider's perspective, on a pivotal piece of African history, but the extreme brevity does not lend itself to creating a full picture. For another picture of Selassie, Ryszard Kapuscinski's book The Emperor has no competition. (Nov.)