A Victorian Gentleman and Ethiopian Nationalist

A Victorian Gentleman and Ethiopian Nationalist

The Life and Times of Hakim Wärqenäh, Dr. Charles Martin

Peter P. Garretson


James Currey



Hakim Wärqenäh Eshäté (Dr Charles Martin), born into a family of Ethiopian aristocrats but adopted by a British officer and raised in India, played a significant role in influencing medicine, education and economic development in Ethiopia throughout the first half of the 20th century.
This is the first full biography of Hakim Wärqenäh Eshäté, or Dr Charles Martin (1865-1952), who was Ethiopia's first western trained physician as well as a statesman, administrator, diplomat, author and a major progressive force in modern Ethiopian history. Yet he had overlapping identities as a world citizen, citizen of the British empire and Ethiopian nationalist, living in many different countries but never wholly belonging in any one. The child of Ethiopian aristocrats, he was found on the battlefield of Magdala by a British officer and raised and educated in India. First employed in the Indian civil service he subsequently served as a physician to three Ethiopian emperors. The key turning point in his life came with his marriage to an Ethiopian aristocrat, closely related to two Empresses, a marriage which greatly enhanced his influence at court.
This is as much a family biography as his biography, and focuses especially on his work as an educator, governor of a model province and, finally, the climax of his career when, as Ethiopian ambassador to England, he was a key international figure in protesting the Italian invasion of Ethiopia and mobilizing world opinion against Italy and for Ethiopia. He became a spokesman for the African diaspora during the 1930s and an Ethiopian elder statesman in the 1940s, and his extended family (and many of those he mentored) had an impact on modern Ethiopian history. The biography is based on Charles Martin's unpublished diary and autobiography and archival research in Ethiopia and Europe.

Peter Garretson was educated in Ethiopia (the Sandford School), London (Westminster School and SOAS) and the United States (Haverford College). He has taught at the University of Khartoum, Swarthmore and Florida State University, where he is now Associate Professor of History and Director of the Middle East Center.


June 2012
8 black and white, 2 line illustrations
336 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781847010445
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
James Currey
BISAC HIS001000, HIS037060, SOC056000
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Table of Contents

Youth & Education: Ethiopia, India & Burma (1865-1896)
Return to Ethiopia (1896-1901)
Campaigning in the Ogaden & Return to Burma (1901-1907)
Transitions in Life: From Burma to England to Ethiopia (1907-1910)
A Man of Substance in Ethiopia & Burma: Marriage & Political Influence (1910-1919)
Return of a Progressive to Addis Ababa (1919-1924)
An Increased Pace of Modernization (1924-1930)
International Diplomacy, Education & Recruitment: Wärqenäh in Britain, the USA & India (1927-1931)
Governor of a Model Province: Chärchär (1930-1935)
Ethiopian Ambassador to the Court of St. James (1935-1936)
London & India: "So the Whole Thing is Finished" (1936-1942)
Ethiopia: Family & Elder Statesman (1942-1952)


Once again the historian has presented us with an excellent work. The narrative is fluent, the interpretation objective and the sources are well selected. AETHIOPICA

A goldmine for readers interested in the social and political transformation of Ethiopia into a modernizing polity. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORICAL STUDIES

Students of Ethiopian history are greatly indebted to Garretson for this comprehensive account of the life of a unique member of a fascinating generation of Ethiopian intellectuals. JOURNAL OF AFRICAN HISTORY

This detailed (...) narrative illustrates much that is important about this turbulent period in Ethiopian, and indeed global, history. REVIEWS IN HISTORY