Skip to content
Home » Recent Posts » To Eritrea and Ethiopia: Retracing a Victorian Expedition

To Eritrea and Ethiopia: Retracing a Victorian Expedition

In 1868 the British Army undertook an expedition into Abyssinia (now Ethiopia and Eritrea) to rescue a group of British subjects at Magdala, who had been imprisoned by the Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II.

Photograph: Copyright of John Pilkington, 2019

They returned with the freed subjects and several objects taken forcibly after the Emperor committed suicide. Ethiopian authorities and supporters have long campaigned for the return of these looted items, including the son of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, Richard Pankhurst. 

Photograph: Copyright of John Pilkington, 2019

 Earlier this year, the National Army Museum trustees made a decision to return a lock of hair belonging to Tewodros II. However, many are now held in British cultural collections, including the gold crown at the V&A Museum in London (one of a number of crowns taken). It is an important symbol of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

In this story, our guest ‘global storyteller’, the explorer John Pilkington, retraces the route of the expedition and considers the changes that have swept through Eritrea and Ethiopia since then.

NB This resource requires the latest versions of most common desktop browsers, and works best with Chrome and Firefox. It also supports most common current iOS and Android mobile devices.

Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of The Earth Museum. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply a recommendation or endorse the views expressed within them.