Martin Plaut

Martin Plaut

It is remarkable is quite how well the history of Eritrea was captured in early photography. Eritrea’s colonial masters were keen to celebrate their successes via photos. These are from my collection.

For the Italians the use of images had been an important element of the Risorgimento, with Garibaldi’s campaigns photographed and distributed by popular carte de visite. The British too had an appetite for colonial photography, both to illustrate the extent of their imperial conquests and to capture the ‘ways of the native.’

My earliest photograph dates from 1868. Britain, furious that the Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II imprisoned several missionaries and two representatives of the British government, sent a vast army to release them. Some 13,000 British and Indian troops arrived from Bombay on 280 vessels they landed at Zula on Eritrean coast 48 km south of Massawa.

Here their camp is seen preparing to attack…

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