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A Victorian Gentleman and Ethiopian Nationalist

A Victorian Gentleman and Ethiopian Nationalist: The Life and Times of Hakim Wärqenäh, Dr. Charles Martin

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 336
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    A Victorian Gentleman and Ethiopian Nationalist
    Book Description:

    This is the first full biography of ‘Hakim’ Wärqenäh Eshäté, or Dr Charles Martin (1865-1952), who was Ethiopia's first western trained physician as well as a statesman, administrator, diplomat, author and a major progressive force in modern Ethiopian history. Yet he had overlapping identities as a world citizen, citizen of the British empire and Ethiopian nationalist, living in many different countries but never wholly belonging in any one. The child of Ethiopian aristocrats, he was found on the battlefield of Magdala by a British officer and raised and educated in India. First employed in the Indian civil service he subsequently served as a physician to three Ethiopian emperors. The key turning point in his life came with his marriage to an Ethiopian aristocrat, closely related to two Empresses, a marriage which greatly enhanced his influence at court. This is as much a family biography as his biography, and focuses especially on his work as an educator, governor of a model province and, finally, the climax of his career when, as Ethiopian ambassador to England, he was a key international figure in protesting the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and mobilizing world opinion against Italy and for Ethiopia. He became a spokesman for the African diaspora during the 1930s and an Ethiopian elder statesman in the 1940s, and his extended family (and many of those he mentored) had an impact on modern Ethiopian history. The biography is based on Charles Martin's unpublished diary and autobiography and archival research in Ethiopia and Europe.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-968-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Transliteration
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Note on the Ethiopian Calendar
    (pp. x-x)
  6. Glossary
    (pp. xi-xii)
  7. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiii-xiii)
  8. [Maps]
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  9. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    Hakim Wärqenäh Eshäté’s¹ life was one full of change, often dramatic change. A statesman, administrator, author and Ethiopia’s first western trained physician, he was a major progressive influence on modern Ethiopian history. He played a significant role in influencing twentieth century medicine, education, diplomacy and economic development in Ethiopia. His appointment in 1935 as Ethiopian ambassador to London marked the climax of his career. Although born an Ethiopian, he spent most of his life outside his home country. He was a product of his Victorian upbringing and the British educational system - more international than national, living in many different...

  10. 1 Youth & Education ETHIOPIA, INDIA & BURMA (1865–1896)
    (pp. 7-22)

    Wärqenäh Eshäté was born in Gondär, Ethiopia, on October 22, 1865 into an important Gondarine family, descended from Emperor Fasilidas (1632-1667).¹ Fasilidas had founded Gondär and Wärqenäh’s immediate family remained there until the reign of Emperor Téwodros (1855–1868). His uncle, Aggedäw, was the Näggadras of Gondär (until the late nineteenth century) and the future Näggadras of Addis Ababa, an important and lucrative municipal and national position (literally, head of merchants), commensurate with his family’s influence in Ethiopia’s capital from the seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century. Many members of his family were important merchants. Later these ties to important northern...

  11. 2 Return to Ethiopia (1896–1901)
    (pp. 23-34)

    On March 1, 1896 Ethiopia defeated the Italians at the Battle of Adwa, perhaps the single most important event in modern Ethiopian history. News penetrated even to the small town of Katha in northern Burma where Wärqenäh was district medical officer. Then and there he decided to return to Ethiopia in order to help take care of the casualties from the first war between Ethiopia and Italy. During the second war between these two very different countries from 1935 to 1941, he would play a much more significant role. In both wars, he was forced to think deeply about where...

  12. 3 Campaigning in the Ogaden & Return to Burma (1901–1907)
    (pp. 35-50)

    There followed a unique period in Wärqenäh’s life, which happened quite by chance. After Emperor Menilek stopped paying his salary, he packed up to return to Burma. Ras Mäkonnen, the emperor’s cousin and ruler of the rich eastern Ethiopian province of Harar, raised the possibility of his staying and working in his province, but after Wärqenäh arrived in Harar that prospect slowly faded. Then fortuitously, he was asked to treat a sick Englishman recently arrived in Harar, a Major A. Hanbury-Tracy. Hanbury-Tracy shortly thereafter asked him to join a joint British-Ethiopian military expedition against Sayyid Muhammad Abdille Hasan, known incorrectly...

  13. 4 Transitions in Life FROM BURMA TO ENGLAND TO ETHIOPIA (1907–1910)
    (pp. 51-72)

    A major transition occurred in Wärqenäh’s life from 1907 to 1910. Wärqenäh’s identity as a citizen of the British Empire, as a man who very much wanted to be assimilated into the imperial elite began to significantly change. This affected not only his intellectual and public life, but also, to a larger degree his private and family life. Major themes in the public and the private spheres of his life intersect during the years when he left for Britain on leave from his Burma position to further his education, until his marriage to an Ethiopian, Qätsälä Wärq Tullu in 1910....

  14. 5 A Man of Substance in Ethiopia & Burma MARRIAGE & POLITICAL INFLUENCE (1910–1919)
    (pp. 73-100)

    The fall of Empress Taytu as the defacto leader of Ethiopia in March of 1910 was a major turning point nationally and in Wärqenäh’s life and fortunes. Menilek’s illness and Wärqenäh’s subsequent appointment to a three year government contract and assignment to care for the emperor had given Wärqenäh a degree of access to the highest levels of the Ethiopian elite that he had not previously enjoyed. He was able to interact on a daily and weekly basis with the most powerful people in Ethiopia. Privately, his personal position in Ethiopia had changed subtly but radically. He was no longer...

  15. 6 Return of a Progressive to Addis Ababa (1919–1924)
    (pp. 101-123)

    Hakim Wärqenäh and Qätsälä’s return to Ethiopia in 1919, which should have been a joyous occasion, turned out, to be a time of death, sickness and pain. While traveling home from Burma Wärqenäh was informed that Qätsälä’s mother had died and upon arrival in Ethiopia that her father had also passed away. This must have been a devastating shock to them both. Their first few days and weeks back in Addis Ababa were filled with preparations for funerals and memorials but also a most symbolic act, the freeing of their family’s slaves. Within a few months Wärqenäh himself became gravely...

  16. 7 An Increased Pace of Modernization (1924–1930)
    (pp. 124-152)

    After Wärqenäh’s return from his trip with Regent Täfäri to England, he played a larger and more important role in the modernization of Ethiopia and was clearly much closer to the Regent as an increasingly trusted advisor and administrator. Qätsälä was also much closer to Wäyzäro Mänän after they had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1923. Täfäri entrusted Wärqenäh with more than seven significant modernizing tasks. These were: first, as principal of Täfäri Mäkonnen School (1925); second, as a founder and the leading member of the Feqrenna Agälgelot Mahbär (Love and Service Association) in 1926 and its school for...

  17. 8 International Diplomacy, Education & Recruitment WÄRQENÄH IN BRITAIN, THE USA & INDIA (1927–1931)
    (pp. 153-172)

    The 1927 trip to England and the USA, the 1929 & 1931 trips to England and the 1930 trip to India, all reveal Wärqenäh’s broad global range. He had traveled widely throughout his life and knew a remarkable range of individuals in most parts of the world. All three trips involved using his lifelong collection of friends and contacts. His 1927 trip focused on diplomacy, which was also important in his other trips. Most, except for his 1930 trip to India, also had education at their center. During all of the trips he made a large number of purchases for...

  18. 9 Governor of a Model Province, Chärchär (1930–1935)
    (pp. 173-203)

    When Wärqenäh was appointed as governor of Chärchär province by Emperor Haylä Sellasé, he approached his new responsibility with energy and enthusiasm, despite his sixty-five years. One of the emperor’s major goals after his coronation in 1930 was to improve local administration and he began by focusing on improving the administration of a small number of ‘model provinces’, of which Chärchär was one. That Chärchär has been described as a ‘most notable example’ of a model province¹ is due to the efforts of two successive governors: Fitawrari Täklä Hawaryat and Azaj Wärqenäh. Täklä Hawaryat had laid a foundation upon which...

  19. 10 Ethiopian Ambassador to the Court of St. James (1935–1936)
    (pp. 204-236)

    The period of the Italian invasion of Ethiopia from 1935 to 1940, marks the climax of Wärqenäh’s career. From his arrival in London in July, 1935 he proved to be a hard working and talented ambassador for Ethiopia who not only transformed Ethiopia’s relationship with Great Britain but also mobilized a wider, global audience encompassing: the British Empire (especially India), Europe, Africa, the worldwide African Diaspora and the Middle East. He was at the center of Ethiopia’s efforts to counter Italian propaganda and played a significant role in the Ethiopian negotiations to raise money via loans to pay for the...

  20. 11 London & India ‘SO THE WHOLE THING IS F INISHED’ (1936–1942)
    (pp. 237-275)

    The turning point in Wärqenäh’s ambassadorship to Great Britain and in Ethiopia’s relationship with Italy came in July 1936. The League of Nations lifted sanctions on Italy, refused to give Ethiopia a loan and the Spanish Civil War began, shifting world attention from Ethiopia to Spain. Ethiopia’s global prominence in the newspaper headlines declined significantly and Wärqenäh increasingly lost favor in the emperor’s eyes. Wärqenäh still struggled mightily to put Ethiopia’s case forward as strongly as he could, but blow after blow hurt her cause on all fronts. The tide only began to turn when Italy declared war on Britain...

  21. 12 Ethiopia FAMILY & ELDER STATESMAN (1942–1952)
    (pp. 276-300)

    Wärqenäh returned home to Ethiopia with World War II still raging in North Africa, the Middle East and throughout the world. Worldwide the news had been full of stories of the liberation of Ethiopia from Italian rule; significant because the empire was often described as ‘the first to be freed’ from Fascism. Wärqenäh, at that time, was a prominent critic of the British, accusing them of refusing to give Ethiopia the full independence she had been promised. Now nearly seventy-seven years old, he returned to an Ethiopia much changed by the Italian occupation. With his retirement to India in 1940,...

  22. Conclusion
    (pp. 301-303)

    Wärqenäh’s stature as a major progressive in Ethiopian history has been underestimated in the past. It perhaps takes a biography to put his life in full perspective. It was as a progressive, both domestically in Ethiopia and internationally that he made his greatest contributions. Beyond that his life, so often, was the stuff of fiction rather than a life normally lived. First the dramatic events of the siege of Mäqdäla, an emperor’s suicide and then his own ‘kidnapping’ at the age of three, followed by a peripatetic youth in north India leading to a plodding medical career in Burma. All...

  23. Bibliography
    (pp. 304-310)
  24. Index
    (pp. 311-320)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 321-321)