An Introduction to the Economic History of Ethiopia [978-1-59907-081-0]


Author : Richard Pankhurst

ISBN Code : 978-1-59907-081-0
Language : English
Pages number : 454
Format : Paperback; 6”x9”; Illustrations

Ethiopia, lying on the sea route between the great civilizations of the East and Egypt, played no mean role in the history and economic life of ancient times. Its relations with the Hellenic world—both cultural and economic—were particularly close. The importance of the Aksumite empire, which produced the famous stone obelisks of Northern Ethiopia, was recognized not only by the rulers of the Eastern Roman Empire but by the prophet Mohamed, whose followers fled thither from the Arabian persecutions.

Converted to Christianity at a very early period, Ethiopia during the Middle Ages had much in common with the warring feudal kingdoms of Medieval Europe, though an examination of the economic and political structure of this ‘Land of Prester John’ reveals interesting contrasts.

Because of its long-established institutions, the chronicles of its kings, and the testimony of foreign visitors, Ethiopia offers fertile ground for the study of African history, which is receiving increasing attention throughout the world.

Dr. Pankhurst’s exhaustive study, the first attempt at a comprehensive economic history of the country, examines such topics as the system of government and taxation, the organization of the army, the mode of land tenure, the extent of urban development, the state of agriculture and farming, the utilization of forests and minerals, problems of communication, the direction of trade routes, the division of labor and the role of foreigners, health and medicine, the various types of currency and ‘primitive money’ employed, the character of internal and external trade, including the slave trade, and the question of access to the sea.





The Red Sea and ‘the Land of Punt’ in Ancient Times… Indian Trade… The Periplus of the Eritrean Sea… The Adulis Inscriptions… The Inscriptions of Ezana… Aksumite Currency… The Conversion to Christianity… The Christian Topography… Aksumite Control of South Arabia… The Rise of Islam… The Decline of Aksum: Gudit and the Zagwe… The Solomonic Restoration… The Realm of Prester John in the Middle Ages… European Christendom and the Ottoman Turks… Ahmad Grañ and the Portuguese… The Galla Wars… The Later Portuguese… The Expulsion of the Jesuits… The Establishment of Gondar and the Decline of the Monarchy


The Geography and Frontiers of the Realm

Government, Administration, and Justice

The Seclusion of the Royal Family

The Absence of a Fixed Capital and the Organization of the Court

Population and Towns

The Establishment of Gondar

The Army

The Effects of Warfare

State Revenues, Taxation, and Land Tenure

Church Property in Land

Church Schools




Mineral Wealth

The Peasant’s Difficulties

Diseases and Medicines

Food and Drink



Nile Waters

Problems of Communication

The Division of Labour

‘Franks’ and Other Foreigners

Internal Trade and Trade Routes

Ethiopia’s Access to the Sea

The Ports and Foreign Trade

Trade in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean

Chinese Trade

The Slave Trade



APPENDIX A. List of Aksumite Kings who issued Coins

APPENDIX B. Analysis of Aksumite Currency

APPENDIX C. Urban Population Estimates 1520- 1773

APPENDIX D. Chinese Coins Found in East Africa

APPENDIX E. The Habshis of India

APPENDIX F. Ibrahim Hannibal, Ancestor of Alexander Pushkin

APPENDIX G. Bibliography on Aksumite Currency




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