Russian Officer with King Menelik’s Army

Ethiopia Through Russian Eyes; Country in Transition 1896–1898 by Alexander Bulatovich, translated & edited by Richard Seltzer (Red Sea Press, 2000). Reviewed by Cynthia Salvadori Despite its bland title, this is the most important book on the history of eastern Africa to have been published for a century. And it was written over a century ago!      The book consists of translations of two books, From Enttoto to the River Baro, originally published in 1897, andWith the Armies of Menelik II, published in 1900, both written by a Russian cavalry officer named Alexander Bulatovich, Lieutenant of His Majesty’s Life-Guard Hussar Regiment. It is the second book which we are reviewing here. Based on his day-by-day diary, it is not only the sole but an astonishingly vivid first-hand description of how Menelik II created his Ethiopian Empire.      The Berlin Conference of 1884 was the crux of the infamous ‘Scramble for Africa’, whereby assorted colonial powers carved the continent up amongst themselves. Among the Europeans there was one sole African scrambler; Menelik II, the king of Shoa in the highlands of Ethiopia. The Russians, not being among the European scramblers, deemed it advisable to frustrate those who were and thus were sympathetic to Menelik and his policy of expansion. As Bulatovich says, “In striving to extend the bounds of his possessions, Menelik is only carrying out the traditional mission of Ethiopia as the propagator of culture . . . . These are the motives which led Menelik to aggressive acts; and we Russians cannot help sympathizing with his intentions, not only because of political considerations, but also for purely human reasons. It is well...

Missionaries Murdered at Golbanti

1886 Maasai warriors, armed with long heavy spears and terrible clubs, met Methodist missionaries, John and Annie Houghton, just outside the stockade of their mission station at Golbanti on the Tana River. A second group of Maasai joined the first on the open road and surrounded the Houghtons. John Houghton, born in Sherington, Lancashire on March 26, 1858, had become involved with the Methodist Church at the age of 15. At 22 years of age he became a full time working member. In July 1884 the Methodist Church set of goal to raise a special fund of 1,000 pounds Sterling to place European missionaries in Galla country in East Africa. The missionary committee of the Methodist Church issued an appeal for men to apply for this service. John Houghton volunteered and was accepted. At the time he was engaged to be married to Miss Annie Brown of Craigmore, Denton, Lancashire, who was also a church member. She readily agreed with his decision to go as missionaries to the Galla in East Africa. They married on September 4, 1884, and departed for Mombasa on October 22, 1884, on board the SS Kerbela. The journey through the Suez Canal took five weeks. The Houghtons first went to the mission station at Jomvu not far from Mombasa until April 1885. They then volunteered to take charge of the mission station at Ribe, where they stayed until their move to Golbanti in January 1886. They enjoyed their work at Ribe. In a letter Annie Houghton sent home from Ribe on May 5, 1885, she wrote, “We are now settled down in a good six-roomed...