Italo-Abyssinian War


Italo-Abyssinian War
(1887–1896)
   An imperial African misadventure of the newly unified Italian state. Having secured a foothold on the coast of Abyssinia during the 1870s, Italy in the 1880s sought to add to its territory either by purchase or conquest. In 1887, the Abyssinian chieftain of the Shoa defeated a small Italian force at Dongali, and by the spring of 1888 more than 20,000 reinforcements had arrived from Italy. There was only scattered fighting, but after the Italians redeemed themselves at Gallabat in March 1889, Menelik II signed a treaty with them giving Italy the coastal colony of Eritrea. A dispute over the wording of the treaty led to a new round of conflict in which Italian forces under Oreste Baratiera were initially successful but then overplayed their hand and were beaten at Amba Alagai in late 1895.
   The stage was thus set for a showdown when in February, 1896 Baratiera’s army was reinforced and set out to attack Menelik’s much larger force established in a strong defensive position in mountainous terrain near Adowa. The engagement was a disaster for Italy and led ultimately to the Treaty of Addis Ababa in which Abyssinian independence was acknowledged and Italian efforts for territory beyond Eritrea Abandoned.
   See also <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Berkeley, G.F.H. The Campaign of Adowa and the Rise of Menelik. London: Archibald Constable, 1902.
   CARL CAVANAGH HODGE

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

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