Caesar in Abyssinia

G. L. Steer
Date Published
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Caesar in Abyssinia, published in 1936, was the first of G. L. Steer’s three books about Italy’s invasion, occupation of, and final removal from Ethiopia. Steer wrote the official history The Abyssinian Campaigns (1942) as well as Sealed and Delivered (1942) which is also being reissued in Faber Finds.

Nick Rankin, in his introduction, describes Caesar in Abyssinia as Steer’s ‘remarkable – and partisan – account of the last great episode of armed colonial conquest in Africa, the Italo-Ethiopian war of 1935-36.’ Italy had first tried to meld an Africa Orientale Italina in 1895. It failed with the humiliating defeat at the battle of Adowa in 1896. Mussolini was keen on revenge and creating a new Roman Empire abroad.

In literary terms the war is best known through Evelyn Waugh’s Waugh in Abyssinia and Scoop. Steer and Waugh were rivals and could hardly be more different in outlook. Nick Rankin says of their first meeting, ‘their trains went in opposite directions, and so did their dispatches and politics.’
Waugh championed the Italian cause, Steer the Ethiopian. Steer now seems not only more admirable but more right, too.

G. L.Steer

G. L. Steer (1909-1944) was one of the great war correspondents of the twentieth-century. Born in South Africa, educated at Winchester and Oxford, after an apprenticeship in journalism he went to Ethiopia in July 1935 to cover the forthcoming Italian invasion. He remained loyal to the Ethiopians and their emperor, Haile Selassie ’till the end’ and helped in the latter’s…

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G. L.Steer