- The reunification of Ethiopia, an ancient east African kingdom also known as Abyssinia, was begun in the nineteenth century by Lij Kasa, who conquered Amhara, Gojjam, Tigray, and Shoa, and in 1855 had himself crowned emperor as Tewodros II. He began to modernize and centralize the legal and administrative systems, despite the opposition of local governors. Tensions developed with Great Britain, and Tewodros imprisoned several Britons in 1867, including the British consul. A British military expedition under Robert Napier, later Lord Napier, was sent out and easily defeated the emperor’s forces near Magdala in 1868. To avoid capture, Tewodros committed suicide.A brief civil war followed, and in 1872, a chieftain of Tigray became emperor as Yohannes IV. Yohannes’s attempts to further centralize the government led to revolts by local leaders. In addition, his regime was threatened during the years 1875– 1876 by Egyptian incursions and, after 1881, by raids of followers of the Mahdi in Sudan. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 increased the strategic importance of Ethiopia, and several European powers - particularly Italy, France, and Great Britain - vied for influence in the area. Italy focused its attention on Ethiopia, seizing Aseb in 1872 and Massawa in 1885. In 1889, Yohannes was killed fighting the Mahdists. After a brief succession crisis, the king of Shoa, who had Italian support, was crowned Emperor Menelik II.Menelik signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with Italy at Wuchale in 1889. In response to a dispute over the meaning of the treaty - Rome claimed it had been given a protectorate over Ethiopia, which Menelik denied - Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1895 but was decisively defeated by Menelik’s forces at Adowa on March 1, 1896. By the subsequent Treaty of Addis Ababa, signed in October 1896, the Treaty of Wuchale was annulled, and Italy recognized the independence of Ethiopia while retaining its Eritrean colonial base. During his reign, Menelik greatly expanded the size of Ethiopia, adding the provinces of Harar, Sidamo, and Kaffa. In addition, he further modernized both the military and government and made Addis Ababa the capital of the country in 1889, developed the economy, and promoted the building of the country’s first railroad.Thus Ethiopia was the only independent sub-Saharan African state at the end of the nineteenth century. In October 1935, Italy invaded the country. Addis Ababa fell to the invaders, and in May 1936, Mussolini proclaimed Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III Emperor of Ethiopia.See also <
>; < >; < >.FURTHER READING:Marcus, Harold G. A History of Ethiopia. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994;Zewde, Bahru. A History of Modern Ethiopia, 1855-1974. London: J. Currey, 1991.MOSHE TERDMAN
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.