Britain’s Secret Theft of Ethiopia’s Most Wondrous Manuscripts – Atlas Obscura

One of the manuscripts from the Battle of Maqdala, now housed in the British Library. JAMES JEFFREY

One of the manuscripts from the Battle of Magdala, now housed in the British Library.  JAMES JEFFREY

IN THE BASEMENT OF LONDON’S British Library I was led into a small well-lit room, marking the end of a journey that began in the Ethiopian Highlands at the Addis Ababa home of a remarkable British historian.

In that home, over strong Ethiopian coffee and English biscuits, Richard Pankhurst, who dedicated his life to documenting Ethiopian history, told me the story of the…

via Britain’s Secret Theft of Ethiopia’s Most Wondrous Manuscripts – Atlas Obscura

You Can Blame the Italians

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Ask any moderately intelligent person to name the bane of the 20th century and nine out of ten will probably answer “Adolph Hitler”.  A few might answer Joe Stalin or Chairman Mao but Hitler is the lens through which we view the carnage of mid-century.

On the other hand, a young millenial might answer “Madonna”.  So much for public education.

Our understanding of the Second World War and the preceding years are refracted through our comprehension of the “mad Fuhrer”.  It is the ghost of Adolph Hitler who carried the world to total war and with pseudo-scientific fanaticism exterminated millions.

It is the ghost of Adolph Hitler who shapes our understanding of the world; that persuades us that our opponents comprise “The Other” – the imponderable, fundamentalist crazies.  The ghost of Adolph Hitler shapes what we think about all dictators and the societies they rule; that each is a replica…

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Fascist Italy, Adowa and the Conquest of Abyssinia

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Most folks know of fascist Italy’s conquest of Ethiopia in the 1930’s. The conquering of Abyssinia was greeted in Rome with wild celebration culminating in Il Duce’s famous balcony speech from the Palazzo Venezia – “I have given you empire!”.

It was wildly celebrated because the war against Ethiopia was the second conflict between Italy and Abyssinia.

The First Italo-Abyssinia war occurred in 1895 – 1896 when Italy as we know it today was only 35 years old.  Italy, the least of the “great powers” was seeking her “place in the sun”.

The Italy of the late nineteenth century was barely a “nation”.  The northern cities of Turin and Milan cultivated the intellectual elite while south of Rome, Italy was a country of peasants and land owners. The intellectuals didn’t even speak the same language as the peasants. Millions of the destitute were illiterate. Malaria and cholera regularly…

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