The whole story of Ethiopia from past upto 1991


Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
Even current Ethiopia is an interesting case:
It is the second most populous country after Nigeria.
Apart from brief Italian occupation, it was never colonized.
It had its attempts for modernization under Haile Selassie; its successes were questionable.
Haile Selassie received mixtures of reverence and criticisms.
The Derg is blamed for much of the plights of Ethiopia.

Then, there are many questions here:
How successful were the ancient Ethiopian kingdoms and empires?
How was the relative standard of living?
In spite of its independence, why Ethiopia failed to industrialize?
What led to the rise of the Derg?
The list of questions seems endless for a country with 3000 years of recorded history.


Ad Honorem
Dec 2015
D'mt is considered the first kingdom in the area around 8 century BCE.
From my studies, famines were already common during the reign of Menelik II, why was it the case?
May 2018
On earth.
I've done alot of researching into the history of Ethiopia lately, so I'll try to answer some (though, admittedly, I won't be able to answer all) of your questions.
Before I talk more, I have to mention that I'm going to talk about the history of the Habesh in this post (the now-christian Semitic language speaking Northern and Central Ethiopians). Some of the bigger Habesh groups include the Amharans, and Tigray.

The most famous of these ancient states was the Axum Empire, who I'm sure you might've heard of before, even if in passing. Axum was moderately successful, even being mentioned as one of the four Greatest Empires of it's time by a notable Iranian prophet: Mani.
It's economy as far as we know largely was based around trade from it's lucrative position on the Red Sea trade, along with local Agricultural industries, and it controlled land not just in Ethiopia but also Southern Arabia, along with the modern countries of Eritrea, Djibouti.
One of the most notable of the leaders of Axum was Ezana, who converted to christianity not too long after emperor Constantine of Rome. Along with that, Ge'ez a local Ethiopian script attained widespread use under him, and the empire of Kush was conquered (though Axum's control over Nubian land would be short lived).

Ge'ez script:

Axum coins these have been found across red sea trade ports:

Standard of living? I wouldn't be able to say... Seeing as to how Ethiopia usually used a feudal type system, for much of it's history, that is, I'd assume that the majority of the population was not living in exactly happy situations, similar to Medieval Europe.

Why did Ethiopia fail to industrialize? Well, it is industrializing right now. Why didn't it do it with the rest of Europe? Granted, I'm less able to talk about this in depth, but I'll say what I can.
Ethiopia had isolated itself for a long time during a time period known as the Gonder period starting in the 1600s if I remember properly. Isolated nations do not lend themselves well to Industrializing. This period lasted until the mid 1700s (around 1770) with the death of emperor Iyoas, which spiralled Ethiopia into the "Zemene Mesafint", a nearly 100 year period of fighting similar to the Sengoku Jidai in Medieval Japan.
During this period, local nobility all vied for power, while the in power leader, possibly a Ras, would exert control over a puppet Emperor from the Solomonic dynasty, who held great symbolic value for Ethiopians, often ruling from the capitol city of Gonder.

As the setup might imply, local nobility would've been more focused on not getting conquered / conquering others than industrializing, but, while Japan had the Meiji restoration period in 1868, resulting in the permanent removal of Shongunates, and power being put back with the Emperor (and some other people), and was then able to enjoy some peace and to focus on industrializing, Ethiopia kind of had to go from threat to threat to threat, possibly not allowing themselves enough breathing room to industrialize (this atleast applies up to Menelik II, I'm unaware of why they didn't fully industrialize after his successful war against the Italians).

The emperor, Kassa Hailu (Tewodros, or Theodore), the ruler often credited with ending the Zemene Mesafint in 1853 (or 1855, depending on who you ask), tried to modernize Ethiopia, and arguably achieved some success, but also was arguably too ambitious, especially considering that many of the nobility still would rather that they controlled Ethiopia as opposed to him, and too hotheaded, and his efforts would result in the British sending British and BritishIndian troops to sack Magdala and capture him. He killed himself before he could be captured. That was in 1868.
The Ethiopians were also being constantly enroached on by the Egyptians (Ottomans?) during this time period, and would have to defeat them in a war in 1876, this time under Yohannes IV. They ALSO had to deal with the Mahdi and his followers, who would ultimately kill Yohannes in a battle.
And, of course, we all know of the Italian war. It is important to mention though, that the Ethiopians had gotten their hands on some of the most up-to-date weapons for the time, and in some cases had more modern pieces of weaponry than the italians during the conflict. Following the conflict, Ethiopia did see some degree of modernization under Menelik, though I have no idea why this didn't catapult into full industrialization then and there.

Derg? No idea.

Famines under Menelik? Multiple reasons. If I recall correctly, one of them was poor weather.
Another was that, besides Menelik's home region of Shewa, which was noted by travelers to be in pretty good shape, the Zemene Mesafint had seriously hurt Ethiopian Economics, as constant warring on your own soil tends to do.

Sorry that I wasn't able to get everything down for you, I myself am still learning this stuff. Hope I helped though.