CALL FOR PAPERS: Maqdala at 150 - An International Conference on the Era of Tewodros II

Andreu Martinez d'Alòs-Moner's picture

In April 2018 the 150th anniversary of the fall of Amba Maqdala and the tragic death of Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia will be celebrated. The fate of Maqdala in 1868 was one of the defining chapters in the history of modern Ethiopia and in the wider world it became an icon of African utopia and tragedy under colonialism. In order to celebrate this episode, to ponder about its causes, its consequences and also about a wide range of related issues in Ethiopia and elsewhere in the African continent a consortium of Ethiopian and foreign institutions, including Ethiopian state and regional authorities, universities, local bureaus and NGOs has organized an international conference. In addition, preparations are underway to organize a cultural-artistic festival that shall include exhibitions, poetry, music and drama performances centred on Tewodros II and his time as well as tourist routes guided by expert historians to the sites where the Emperor spent his life and exerted his power are planned.

The international conference “Maqdala at 150” will take place during four days, from April 10 to April 13, 2018, in parallel to the historical events that led to the fall of Maqdala and the death of Tewodros II. The conference will be organized by Gondar University on its campus in partnership with three other universities: Debre Tabor University, Amba Maqdala University (to be opened yet) and Bahir Dar University.

While the main focus of the conference is an historical episode, the academic profile of the participants shall include historians as well as experts in folklore studies, literature, archaeology, anthropology, philology and political sciences and also intellectuals and heritage professionals. The topics of the conference will be related to the life and times of Tewodros, his vision for Ethiopia and the African continent, the political and cultural history of Ethiopia in those times i.e the relations of Ethiopia with foreign powers during the modern era, to the places where Tewodros lived and exerted his power and to the legacy of Tewodros and his time in modern and contemporary Ethiopian and African societies. Some of the questions, but by far not the only ones, the attendees may want to ponder are:

  • How has Tewodros II been interpreted, portrayed, and imagined in Ethiopia and beyond?
  • What is the state of the historiography on Tewodros II and his time today?
  • What was the contribution of Tewodros II and his time for the present society?
  • What has been the fate of the Maqdala treasures until the present day and what role do they play in the contemporary plea of non-western nations for the return of their national heritages?
  • What were the cultural, artistic and intellectual developments that characterized Ethiopia under Tewodros II?

Participants are invited to submit until 15 July 2017 a paper proposal in English or Amharic, including a title and an abstract with no more than 300 words, at the organizer’s official email:

Deadline for proposals: 15 August 2017

Notification of acceptance of proposals:  15 October 2017

The conference will be held mostly in English and focus on the discussion of pre-circulated papers of about 5,000 to 7,000 words. A limited number of grants covering cost of travel and accommodation of some African participants is expected to be approved.

Gondar city and its University

Gondar city and its surrounding region are blessed with a long history and diverse and rich culture. Gondar served as the centre of the Christian Ethiopian kingdom for over three hundred years, from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth century, and today is one of the major tourist destinations of the country. The University of Gondar is one of the earliest institutions of higher education in the country. It was founed back in 1954 as the Public Health Training Center at the Chachala quartier of Gondar. In 2004 the College upgraded its status to university and hereafter launched an ambitious expansion programme. Several new faculties and schools opened, including Agriculture, Business and Economics, Natural and computational Science, Social Sciences and the Humanities, Veterinary Medicine, Law, and Engineering. The College of Social Sciences and the Humanities hosts seven faculties and offers a wide range of undergraduate, and master’s programmes. Among its scientific endeavours are multiple research projects and the biannual edition of a peer reviewed journal, the Ethiopian Renaissance Journal of Social Sciences and the Humanities ( Recently the University and the College of Social Sciences and the Humanities got hold of the precious regional-provincial archives that had been hosted at the Gondar Astedader since imperial times. With this important crucial repository the College aims at opening soon a research centre that shall coordinate, disseminate and spur scholarly research on Gondar and the nation’s history, culture and society.

For more information and updates, visit the conference's website.