Academic journal article Military Review

The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire

Academic journal article Military Review

The Battle of Adwa: African Victory in the Age of Empire

Article excerpt

THE BATTLE OF ADWA: African Victory in the Age of Empire, Raymond Jonas, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2011, 432 pages, $29.95

The Battle of Adwa is an outstanding addition to any military history library. The book provides a comprehensive and objective account of the devastating Ethiopian victory over the Italians in 1896. The Italian defeat resonated throughout the halls of power in Europe as one of the few setbacks for colonizing states in the mad scramble for African territory from 1880 to 1902. For the Italians, latecomers to the colonial race, the author shows how inept generals, hubristic politicians, and poor logistics contributed to this ignoble catastrophe. One of the most important themes throughout, which is relevant for modern U.S. operations, is the high risk associated with underestimating the enemy. The Italians fell for this error at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels of warfare. They poorly reconnoitered enemy dispositions and terrain, underestimated opponent strength, and displayed poor leadership at the tactical level.

Far from being "barbarian savages," the Ethiopians demonstrated savvy and competence throughout the campaign. …

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