This book differs from most volumes I have read in the Men-at-Arms series in that a large section of the book is devoted to an account of the historical events it covers and the background to them. We start with a look at the earliest Italian involvement in East Africa, including an earlier Italian defeat at Dogali in 1887. This is followed by a short section on the impact of the Mahdi and his movement in the Sudan, both on the Italian colonies and on the Mahdi's Ethiopian neighbours.
We then move on to the events that led up to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and the advance to Adowa. The chapter on the battle is actually the largest in the book, taking up eighteen of the forty eight pages. McLachlan looks at the reasons for the Italian defeat as well as the course of the battle, making this a useful account of this famous battle.
Finally the last ten pages look at the two armies. There are some interesting photographs of both sides, although admittedly there are only a handful of photographs of Ethiopian soldiers of the period. The most interesting of these shows an Ethiopian chief and one of his men and was taken in 1890. Here we see the mix of ancient and modern that confused the Italians and led them to fatally underestimate the Ethiopians - the follower is carrying a traditional round but is armed with an imported Italian Vetterii M1870/87 rifle.
The examination of the campaign and the battle of Adowa make this an interesting addition to the Men-at-Arms series, and a useful short standalone account of the biggest defeat suffered by European troops at Africa hands during the entire nineteenth century.
Italy's East African Ambitions
The Mahdist Challenge, 1890-94
Confrontation with Ethiopia, 1895
Adowa: The Italian Advance
The Ethiopian Army
The Italian Army
Author: Sean McLachlan