Sunday, May 21, 2017

Battle of Adwa: Africa's Victory over Europe

Fig.1: Africa in the late 19th century was like a game of Bingo: 
not a lot of free spaces.

We know the story by now: from the late 15th century onward, Europeans came, saw, and conquered whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted. The Americas, Australia, Asia, Africa; anyplace that began with an A could expect to be taken over by European explorers (look out, Andromeda Galaxy, they're coming!). Believe it or not, there have been a few exceptions of non-European nations who violently resisted respectfully declined the exploitation opportunity of colonialism. Africa's major example (okay, really only example) of retaining their independence in the face of a European attack also began with an A: Abyssinia, known more commonly today as Ethiopia. In 1896, Ethiopians defeated a European military force set on conquering East Africa, and successfully pushed the invaders out of their territory. The fact that the European country in this instance was Italy, which was essentially considered a D-League power at this time (even Denmark had more colonies around the world than they did), has not contracted from the significance of the event. Ethiopia's victory at the Battle of Adwa destroyed preconceived notions that Europeans were inherently better than Africans, and would inspire other nations throughout the continent to try and shake off colonialism during the 20th century. Taylor Swift would be proud.