Tribute to Ras Seymore McLean

HISTORY OF THE LOOTING OF MAQDALA, AND OF THE LOOT THEREFROM

We feel that to clarify the situation of the loot from Maqdala it may be useful to chronicle the story as follows:

I.  The fall of Maqdala

The British capture of Maqdala, Emperor Tewodros's mountain capital in north-west Ethiopia, took place on 13 April 1868, immediately after the Ethiopian monarch committed suicide to avoid falling into the hands of his enemies. The seizure of the citadel was described by an Ethiopian royal chronicler, Alaqa Walda Mariam, who, looking at the event from an Ethiopian point of view, states that when "everything fell into the hands of the English general . . . every [Ethiopian] soldier at Maqdala threw his weapons over the precipice and went and grovelled before the enemy". Those who failed to throw away their arms were, he claims, "considered as belligerents and many men thus perished", presumably at the hands of the victorious army. Elaborating on this assertion, he declares that "the English troops rivalled one another" in "shooting down" any Ethiopian seen carrying spears or guns, and that "when anyone was seen taking up a weapon he was shot".

The above grim picture, it is only fair to say, finds no confirmation in British official records, which, on the other hand, do not, however, provide any contradictory evidence.

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