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The Chewa Warriors, Ethiopia's Ancient Army

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Room B202, Brunei Building, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS)

Thornhaugh Street

London

WC1H 0XG

United Kingdom

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The Chewa Warriors, Ethiopia's Ancient Army

Tsehai Berhane-Selassie


The history, practices and principles of chewa warriors, each of whom had the crucial role of defending Ethiopia against invasion, shows a national army that persisted for more than two millennia. Since ancient times, when the Agew people established the kingdom of Axum, to the medieval period when the monarchs became peripatetic and then settled in urban areas, chewa warriors defended land, society and state. Often self-trained, the soldiers joined as individuals who were involved in protecting communities that they saw as Ethiopian. Their leaders structured them to fight in defence of the country’s independence, and the strong influence of the principles of that army still resonates with Ethiopian political identity and social infrastructure. The sociology and history of that military background is illustrated with reference to nineteenth century structure of the chewa, and its defence against the Italian invasions of 1896 and 1935-41.

The talk draws largely on the speaker's book, Ethiopian Warriorhood: Defence, Land and Society 1800-1941 (James Currey/Boydelland Brewer, October, 2018).


The Anglo-Ethiopian Society is affiliated to the University of London’s Centre of African Studies (CAS) and all of our events at SOAS are co-hosted with CAS.

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Room B202, Brunei Building, School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS)

Thornhaugh Street

London

WC1H 0XG

United Kingdom

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