Abyssinia


Abyssinia
   A largely mountainous and desert country in northeast Africa, also known as Ethiopia. Abyssinia was a Christian country associated in the European mind with the mythical Prester John and the Queen of Sheba, and it remained throughout the period of high imperialism the only independent native African state. It was invaded by a British punitive expedition under the command of Lord Robert Napier in 1868 in retaliation for the imprisonment of British diplomats, but the British had no intention of staying, and having liberated their prisoners and sacked the Emperor Theodore’s fortress at Magdala, Napier’s army marched back to the coast.
   Abyssinia was again invaded in 1896, this time by the Italians. They suffered a humiliating defeat at the battle of Adowa, on March 1, 1896, which stands alongside the battles of Isandlwana and Little Big Horn as one of the few battlefield defeats of Western forces by native armies in the nineteenth century. Adowa was never avenged, a fact that rankled Italian nationalists until Mussolini’s invasion in 1935.
   See also <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Farwell, Byron. Queen Victorias Little Wars. New York: W. W. Norton, 1972.
   MARK F. PROUDMAN

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.