An Expedition With Negus Menilek
By J.-G. Vanderheym
Translated by Dominque Lussier
December 2012, paperback, 134 pp.
Studies in the African Rift Valley
Publication of this title was supported by THE CHRISTENSEN FUND
With his book An Expedition with Negus Menilek, (published here in an English translation for the first time) J.-G. Vanderheym provides a rare eye-witness account, by a European, of everyday life at the court of Emperor Menilek towards the close of the nineteenth century.
Vanderheym describes the unfolding of life around the emperor in graphic – and photographic – detail; sixty-eight illustrations add to the sense of reality which is so poignant in the book. His description is raw, often intimate, and covers nearly everything that came under his scrutiny. The author is not in pursuit of a political agenda and enjoys a freedom of action to an extent that would not be granted to official representatives of foreign governments; it is hard to imagine what embarrassing facts he could have concealed, compared to other writers of that era.
First published in 1896, An Expedition with Negus Menilek is still relevant today, not only for its descriptions of momentous events which help to reassess the traditional and imperial historiography of the region, but also for anyone who wants to understand the price paid for political expansion and control.
A Note on the Translation
A Note on the Illustrations
Chapter I: From Paris to Obok — Obok — Djibouti — From Djibouti to Harar — Harar — From Harar to Addis Ababa (Shoa) — Our trading post in Addis Ababa
Chapter II: Menilek’s palace — I am introduced to the negus — The market — Abyssinians
Chapter III: The Gebbi or imperial palace — The lebashay — The king of Jimma and Ras Mengesha come to Addis Ababa — Colonel Piano, Italian envoy — I leave on an expedition to Wolamo following the negus
Chapter IV: In Wolamo country — The Zerafa — The invasion — End of the expedition, review and return to Addis Ababa — From Addis Ababa to Djibouti across the desert