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One House: The Battle of Adwa 1896–100 Years, edited by Pamela S. Brown and Fassil Yirgu, Nyala Publishing, Chicago, 1996, $37.00.

Of all the battles fought in Africa in the 19th century, Adwa (or Adowa) was unique. Prior to that battle, European armies had suffered setbacks at the hands of native Africans–the most famous being the Zulu victory over the British at Isandlwana on January 22, 1879–but those setbacks had always been followed by swift reprisal, and ultimately defeat for the Africans. On March 1, 1896, however, Italian General Oreste Baratieri repeated the mistake made by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer at the Little Bighorn 20 years earlier–he divided his 20,000-man expeditionary force three ways in the face of an Ethiopian host that, unknown to the Italians, numbered some 100,000 warriors. The result was the first decisive rout of European troops by Africans, after which Ethiopia became the first African nation to be afforded legitimate recognition by European powers. Italy would ultimately avenge her humiliating defeat at Adwa–40 years later.

Compiled and edited by Pamela S. Brown and Fassil Yirgu, One House marks Adwa’s centennial with a collection of essays dealing with the battle’s military aspects, as well as its far-ranging effects on world history. Presented from several perspectives, One House is an unusual but worthy treatment of the subject, well supplemented by an equally wide variety of drawings, maps, photographs and paintings.

Jon Guttman