The Italian Invasion of Abyssinia 1896

A.) The Situation Preceding the Rebellion

Ever since the BERLIN CONFERENCE of 1885, Italy regarded ABYSSINIA as within its sphere of influence. Yet Abyssinia was a highland separated from (Italian) Eritrea by the Danakil abyss which gave the country its name, and separated from(Italian) Somalia by the Ogaden desert. FRANCE came to contest Italy's claim when she developed the concept of a line from DAKAR TO DJIBOUTI, which necessarily had to cross Ethiopia. France had acquired Djibouti in 1888. The construction of a railway line from Djibouti into the highlands of Ethiopia was planned.
In 1889 Negus MENELIK I. of Abyssinia had signed the TREATY OF WICHALE (UCCIALI) with Italy (after a FIRST ITALO-ABYSSINIAN WAR 1887-1889), in which he ceded some territory on the border to Eritrea to Italy. The Italian side interpreted the treaty as transfering sovereignty over Abyssinia to Italy.

B.) The Cource of Events

Italian forces under General ORESTE BARATIERI, Governor of Eritrea, invaded in Dec. 1896, c. 25,000 men strong, more than half Italian troops, remainder Askaris commanded by European officers. The Abyssinian army was an estimated 196,000 men strong, equipped (by the French, from Djibouti) with modern rifles. At ADOWA (Adua, Adwa) the Italian army was routed on February 28th to March 1st. The Italian side lost c. 5,200 dead, over 3,000 of them white soldiers. (figures on size of armies, on losses vary from publication to publication).
The Italians retreated; on October 26th 1896 the TREATY OF ADDIS ABABA was signed, in which Italy recognized Abyssinian independence.

C.) Legacy

The Battle of Adowa secured Abyssinian independence for decades to come; Abyssinia (= Ethiopia) would join the League of Nations in 1923. The shear existence of the country was a living proof that black African states were not in principle inferior to European states. Abyssinia was to give hope to all Africans, living under colonial rule, longing for independence.
The battle of Adowa had destroyed the myth, that white armies, in Africa, were invincible.

Greg Blake, Ethiopia's decisive victory at Adowa, from The History Net : Military History
Donald N. Levine, The Battle of Adwa as a Historic Event
The Battle of Adwa, by Mary Dread
First Italo-Abyssinian War 1895-1896, from Armed Conflict Events data
Battle of Adowa, from John Farnam's Quips
Prof.Dr. J. Abbink, Chronologie Ethiopie-Eritrea, from studybuddy, in Dutch, very detailed
DOCUMENTS Sketch of the Battle of Adowa, from awtarnet

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on November 17th 2004

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