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…

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Magna Carta: past, present and future

Culture and Anarchy

painting-john-unknown-49805If you’re anything like me, you’ll be vaguely aware of Magna Carta and – in a vague way – that it is important as a historical document, and that it was written 800 years ago. I must admit I’d never given it much thought, though, so the British Library’s new exhibition, Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, taught me a lot. On the first Sunday of the Easter holidays, it was packed and probably the slowest-moving exhibition I’ve ever visited (partly because you need to look closely and read every information panel), but it’s well worth spending time here. The exhibition shows documents from well before 1215 which were precursors to the Charter granted by King John at Runnymede, and it’s fascinating to have the opportunity to look at the tiny script and often rather scrappy documents of these hugely significant papers (I enjoyed mentally comparing them to official papers…

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