Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia: Monarchy, Revolution, and the Legacy of Meles Zenawi

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Understanding Contemporary Ethiopia: Monarchy, Revolution, and the Legacy of Meles Zenawi
Edited by Gérard Prunier and Éloi Ficquet
Hurst, 2015
416 pp.
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Ethiopia’s 100 million people make the country Africa’s second most populous, after Nigeria. But it remains a poorly understood place. Prunier and Ficquet’s excellent collection of essays is thus welcome, and it provides a great introduction to the country’s people, history, and politics. Ethiopia’s Orthodox Christian roots stretch back to at least the fourth century, but today, more than a third of the population adheres to Islam, and the fastest-growing religions may well be the evangelical Protestant and Pentecostal denominations to which perhaps a fifth of the population now belongs. The book’s historical sections compellingly narrate Emperor Haile Selassie’s failed attempts at modernization and the disastrous revolution of 1974 that overthrew him and resulted in the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam. Mengistu himself was deposed in 1991 by the guerilla leader Meles Zenawi, whose subsequent regime was characterized by more comprehensive and relatively successful attempts at modernization and economic development.

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