The Siege of Magdala: The British Empire Against the Emperor of Ethiopia

In 1867-68, a petty diplomatic dispute between Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II and Queen Victoria led to one of the strangest and most dramatic military campaigns in history. The British Indian Army, with 60,000 men, 30,000 elephants, mules and horses, and a bevy of “embedded” journalists, observers and translators — as well as artists and photographers whose images of the campaign are reproduced in this book — marched into the Ethiopian highlands, advancing on the mountain fortress of Magdala to rescue a small group of European hostages. The campaign, described by the British as the world’s first major humanitarian intervention, saw the emperor’s army annihilated, the hostages freed, and Ethiopian treasures shipped to British museums. But Ethiopian independence was retained. And yet despite its tremendous significance in the history of Afro-European relations, military strategy, and journalism, the small war has received little attention outside England and Ethiopia. Here, for the first time, Volker Matthies lays out the full story of the Magdala campaign in thorough detail, reprinting and discussing Ethiopian primary sources for a balanced account.

Volker Matthies, author is on the faculty of the Institute of Political Science at the University of Hamburg, with a specialization in peace and conflict research. For many years, he was co-editor of the Jahrbuch Dritte Welt (The Third World Almanac). He has written many books and articles on peace and conflict issues and on the region known as the Horn of Africa.

Richard Pankhurst, foreword is the leading scholar in and about Ethiopia. In 1962, Dr. Pankhurst founded the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at the University of Addis Ababa and was its first director. Pankhurst has coauthored 22 books and has edited or compiled 17 books on Ethiopia. In addition, he has written more than 400 scholarly articles about Ethiopian history, culture, and tradition that have appeared in numerous academic journals, magazines, and newspapers throughout the world.

Steven Rendall, translator is Professor Emeritus of Romance Languages at the University of Oregon and the author of numerous books and articles about French and European literature. He is also editor emeritus of Comparative Literature and has translated over 50 books and 50 articles from French and German. Rendall has been awarded both the National Jewish Book Society’s Sandra Brand and Arik Weintraub Award and the Modern Language Association’s Scaglione Prize.