Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia

Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia : The Reformist Intellectuals of the Early Twentieth Century

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Ethiopia's political independence, won in part by adaptation to modern forms of warfare at the end of the 19th century, allowed it to control, more than any other contemporary African state, its further economic and political engagement with the West, and to chart for itself its own patterns of "modernization". Under Menilek's direction and encouragement a steady stream of Ethiopians was sent around the world to study in many different countries. They returned with the skills of their new education in Europe and America, and at home they began to lay the foundations of a new literature and political philosophy. Intellectuals were not just the servants of the state under Menilek and his successors, but increasingly they were its critics. Their numbers were decimated by the Italian reprisals after the Graziani massacre in 1937; the surviving intellectuals formed the nucleus around which Emperor Hayla-Sallase rebuilt his administration after the Italian defeat in the Second World War. Bahru Zewde, one of the foremost historians of modern Ethiopia, has constructed a collective biography of a remarkable group of men and women in a formative period of their country's more

Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • James Currey
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English, Amharic
  • 0852554524
  • 9780852554524
  • 2,061,607

Table of contents

Modernization & the role of intellectuals - The expansion of modern education - The intellectuals - Ideas of reform - Social & political impact - Conclusionshow more

Review quote

'Students of history will be aware of late nineteenth and early twentieth century reformist groups such as the Young Turks or Young Italy, youthful intellectuals in their respective societies, of strong nationalist inclination who recognized the need for change if their nations were to survive and thrive in the modern world...Less well known is the group of intellectuals known as the Young Ethiopians. Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia seeks to enlighten us on this important group of young men. 'Until now, information on this group has been scattered and rather sketchy...Bahru contributes organization, definition, and clarity to this data, and by doing so, brings new perspective to bear on the politics and policies of emperors Menilek II and Haile Sellassie I. Bahru is intrepid, to say the least, in his quest for documentation...Bahru produces a masterful analysis...He is to be congratulated on a work well done, and one deserving wide readership.' - Charles W. McClellan in H-Africa 'This is one of the most important books on Ethiopian history to appear during the last couple of decades... This study is the first to attempt to convey the full sweep of early twentieth century intellectual history, and that in that role, it will no doubt become foundational for Ethiopian studies. But it could be argued that Bahru's work has, as well, a relevance far beyond. Scholars of Africa and of South Asia may not be able to understand colonialism fully without pondering the contradiction that Pioneers of Change describes. Sometimes, it is only an absence that illuminates certain aspects of a presence.' - Donald L. Donham in Journal of African History 'Filling a void in the study of Africa in general and of Ethiopia in particular...' - T. Natsoulas in Choice 'Zewde does a remarkable job of analyzing the rich literary material produced by his subjects, some in the form of books and other creative works and others in the pages of the Berhanena Salamweekly. The portrait presented is that of a group of modernizing intellectuals who attempted, directly and indirectly, to prod the aristocracy to modernize Ethiopia... Nevertheless, this splendid history is well worth attention of serious students of Ethiopian and African intellectual history.' - Edmond J Keller in American Historical Review 'These new reformists and their impact on the society were of considerable importance and their legacy was preserved in revolutionary Ethiopia. Bahru Zewde's book is thus an effort to establish a continuous intellectual link in twentieth century Ethiopia and the material it contains is a valid support for scholars in the country and abroad. This is an important volume, on a peculiar intellectually stimulating society, in a context of African historiography in which intellectual history usually remains a minor subject.' - Irma Taddia in ARAS 'This fascinating and well-written book is a major contribution to modern Ethiopian history, highlighting the earliest background of the tragic and incomplete process of modernisation in Ethiopia.' - John Abbink in Modern African Studies 'Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia is the fascinating story of the lives, ideas, and legacies of these extraordinary men of purpose and vitality. By drawing on a vast range of documentary sources and direct interviews, Bahru Zewde has written a slender but substantial book with admirable concision, clarity and even-handedness...Pioneers of Change is a fine tribute to these visionary men who, though different from each other in terms of social background, temperament, education, region, and ethnicity, shared a boundless and animated commitment to a gradual transformation of their country and society, only to be frustrated by shortsighted politicians. By refusing to accept reform, the holders of power made revolution inevitable, a subject that the author hopes to take up as his next scholarly project. We will await it with anticipation.' - Gebru Tareke in African Studies Review 'The incidental detail of the lives and writings of these intellectuals offers a fascinating (albeit at times rather tantalizing) picture of the early "national"life of modern Ethiopia. Striking also, as a backdrop to modernization and elaboration of Ethiopia's modern sovereignty, is the discernible struggle over the sovereignty over the modern institutions of Ethiopia - particularly education - between the state (monarch and nobility), the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, external Christian missions and foreign powers. One of the most important contributions of Pioneers of Change, however, lies in its extensive use of documents written by Ethiopians (in Amharic and European languages), presenting an authentic record of internal reformist discourse at the birth of modern Ethiopian sovereignty, often alluded to but rarely cited or quoted. ...Pioneers of Change clearly situates the tension between tradition and modernity in the struggle to create and preserve the sovereignty of the Ethiopian state in the modern world.' - Cedric Barnes in African Affairs 'Bahru's Pioneers of Change in Ethiopia, on the whole, makes an important contribution worthy of a place in everyone's library.' - Berhanu Abegaz in International Journal of Ethiopian Studies 'Dr Bahru's important work. ...displays unique mastery of his sources,...displays unique mastery of his his impressive work which should be a "must" for all students of Ethiopian history.' - Richard Pankhurst in African Affairs 'Nous avons donc un livre dense et tres riche, articulierement bien documente, ou sont livres des extraits de texte judicieusement selectionnes en langue amharique, suivis de leur traduction en anglais.' - Collette Dubois in Outre-Mersshow more