About the lecture:
Magdala 1868 was a 'mini-event' in the history of the imperialist competition of the European powers, whose echoes in the Orient also included the Ottoman Empire with its satellite Egypt and, marginally, Christian Abyssinia: The history of Ethiopia provides only the regional background: in 1855, the militarily gifted Kassa Hailu from the province of Quara had assumed imperial power - and with the coronation name Tewodros the political vision of unifying the empire, which had disintegrated in conflicts between feudal rulers. The trigger for Magdala in 1868, however, was the arrest of the English consul and several other Europeans - a reaction to the lack of answers to his pleading letters to Queen Victoria for military support against Islam.
This provocation presented the government of the English Empire with a tricky decision: The years of Palmerston's gunboat policy were over, the reputation of English troops tarnished after the Crimean War and the Sapoy Revolt. But Napoleon's Egyptian adventure and the experience of the Continental Blockade had shown the vulnerability of the important trade routes to India, and so London decided on a military solution: the Bombay Army and Ltn. Gen. Sir Robert Napier as commander-in-chief were charged with liberating the prisoners.
The lecture will describe the effort and outcome of this military enterprise - the capture of Magdala, Tewodros' suicide and the looting of his unusual collection of Abyssinian cultural property - and highlight issues for further research, including in particular problems of reconstructing Tewodros II's collection, now scattered in museums around the world.