Menelik II, Emperor of Ethiopia

(1844–1913)
   The Ethiopian emperor who secured Ethiopian independence in the midst of the scramble for Africa by defeating Italian colonial aspirations at the Battle of Adowa. Menelik began his political career in 1865 by ousting a usurper and reclaiming his birthright as king of Shewa, one of the many semi-independent kingdoms in central Ethiopia. Over the next 15 years he concentrated on consolidating his position while simultaneously strengthening his claim to the imperial throne by negotiating with European powers, many of whom sold him modern weaponry for use in annexing neighboring kingdoms and safeguarding important trade routes.
   Upon the death of Johann IV in 1889, Menelik declared himself emperor and signed the Treaty of Wachali recognizing Italian claims to Eritrea. Menelik met Italy ’s subsequent claims that the treaty also established an Italian protectorate over Ethiopia with vigorous denials and, in 1896, a crushing military defeat at Adowa that guaranteed Ethiopia’s continued independence. He spent the remainder of his reign working to suppress the slave trade and modernize Ethiopia via the construction of railroads, telephone lines, and the creation of a new capital at Addis Ababa. In 1909, Menelik was forced to relinquish the throne to his grandson Lij Yasu after a series of paralytic strokes left him incapacitated.
   See also <>; <>.
   FURTHER READING:
    Darkway, R.H.K. Shewa, Menelik, and the Ethiopian Empire . London: Heinemann, 1975;
    Henze, Paul B. Layers of Time: A History of Ethiopia . New York: Palgrave, 2000;
    Marcus, Harold G. The Life and Times of Menelik II: Ethiopia, 1844–1913 . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975.
   KENNETH J. OROSZ

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

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