A Companion to Medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea

Volume Editor:
Choice Outstanding Academic Title 2020

Winner of the 2021 African Studies Review Prize for the Best Africa-focused Anthology or Edited Collection

A Companion to Medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea introduces readers to current research on major topics in the history and cultures of the Ethiopian-Eritrean region from the seventh century to the mid-sixteenth, with insights into foundational late-antique developments where appropriate. Multiconfessional in scope, it includes in its purview both the Christian kingdom and the Islamic and local-religious societies that have attracted increasing attention in recent decades, tracing their internal features, interrelations, and imbrication in broader networks stretching from Egypt and Yemen to Europe and India. Utilizing diverse source types and methodologies, its fifteen essays offer an up-to-date overview of the subject for students and nonspecialists, and are rich in material for researchers.

Contributors are Alessandro Bausi, Claire Bosc-Tiessé, Antonella Brita, Amélie Chekroun, Marie-Laure Derat, Deresse Ayenachew, François-Xavier Fauvelle, Emmanuel Fritsch, Alessandro Gori, Habtemichael Kidane, Margaux Herman, Bertrand Hirsch, Samantha Kelly, Gianfrancesco Lusini, Denis Nosnitsin, and Anaïs Wion.

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Samantha Kelly, Ph.D (1998, Northwestern University) is Professor of History at Rutgers University. She is a specialist of medieval Italian history and of Ethiopian-European relations to the mid-sixteenth century.
"Here we are well served by Samantha Kelly's Companion to Medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea. Each chapter conveys a sense of discovery. As Kelly reminds us, we are dealing with a field marked by "the continual expansion of the available source base" due to the ongoing digitalization of Ethiopic manuscripts in Ethiopia itself and in libraries throughout the world. Yet perhaps the most exciting contribution of the Companion is a new view of Ethiopia itself. Christian Ethiopia has tended to be treated as an isolated mountain hideaway where time stood still; Edward Gibbon, at his most sonorous and most wrongheaded, wrote, "Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Aethiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world, by whom they were forgotten". The reverse was true. Medieval Ethiopia (which includes much of modern Eritrea) was a frontier society, penetrated in all directions by routes that led from the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean deep into Equatorial Africa. This reenvisioning of medieval Ethiopia is, perhaps, the most challenging aspect of the Companion. In the words of one contributor of Kelly's volume, "Let us hope that the image of an archaic, never evolving and isolated country is no longer acceptable". "The Glories of Aksum", by Peter Brown, in The New York Review of Books, October 2021, accessible here.

Winner of the 2021 African Studies Review Prize for the Best Africa-focused Anthology or Edited Collection. The awarding committee made the following statement, accessible here:
"The ASR Prize for the Best Africa-Focused Anthology or Edited Collection recognizes editors and contributors to an anthology of original scholarship, cohesive in structure and interdisciplinary in nature, that advances African studies in new theoretical and/or methodological directions. The award recognizes the editor(s) and also the contributors as a whole. In making its selection, the prize committee pays particular attention to significance, originality, and quality of writing, and the anthology’s contribution to advancing debates in African studies. [...] This stellar edited volume makes available recent scholarship on the history of Medieval Ethiopia and Eritrea. Comprehensive in its scope, the sixteen chapters by the international scholars Alessandro Bausi, Claire Bosc-Tiessé, Antonella Brita, Amélie Chekroun, Marie-Laure Derat, Deresse Ayenachew, François-Xavier Fauvelle, Emmanuel Fritsch, Alessandro Gori, Habtemichael Kidane, Margaux Herman, Bertrand Hirsch, Samantha Kelly, Gianfrancesco Lusini, Denis Nosnitsin, and Anaïs Wion bring to light various dimensions of the history and culture of this region. The chapters explore various dimensions of the history of the Ethiopian-Eritrean region from the seventh to the sixteenth century, including Christianity, Islam, and local religions, women, trade, literature, and visual culture. In addition to providing an insightful panorama of the religious and cultural contexts in the area, the diverse authors are very successful in articulating different textual and visual sources while employing several different methodological approaches. Innovative and based on extensive research, this is a unique edited volume that showcases the rich connections between the region of Ethiopia-Eritrea, the African continent, and the rest of the globe. This magisterial edited book is an important contribution to African Studies, which will be useful for scholars and students interested in the history of Africa, Ethiopia, and Eritrea."

"Ce volume propose un remarquable état des lieux de la recherche sur l’histoire de l’Éthiopie médiévale, c’est-à-dire de la période allant de la fin du royaume d’Axoum (VIIe siècle) jusqu’à celui de Gondar (XVIIe siècle). Il couvre plus parti culièrement le temps des dynasties Zagwe (à partir de 1270) et salomonide, une période de relative stabilité, sans cesse renégociée, et de prospérité durant laquelle furent façonnés des traits du pays et de son Église. [...] Complété par 5 cartes et 25 illustrations la plupart en couleurs, dans le texte (surtout pour les manuscrits et les arts visuels), une impressionnante bibliographie (82 pages !) et un bon index (noms, thèmes), ce volume n’en constitue pas moins un remarquable instrument de travail." ISTINA LXV (2020)
All interested in medieval Ethiopia, the medieval Mediterranean, global/comparative approaches to the Middle Ages, eastern Christianity (late antique and medieval), medieval Islamic history, Islam or Christianity in Africa, medieval Africa.
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