Ethiopian e-Journal for Research and Innovation Foresight (Ee-JRIF), Vol 2, No 2 (2010)

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Who were the “Young Ethiopians” (or “Young Abyssinians”)? An Historical Enquiry

Richard Pankhurst

The late 19th and early 20th centuries witnessed the beginnings of modern, or “western”, education in Ethiopia. This came about partly as a result of the dispatch of students abroad, and partly through the establishment of modern schools within the country itself. Both developments combined to create a small, but growing, class of foreign-orientated Ethiopians (including many Eritreans resident in Ethiopia). This was a class entirely new in Ethiopian history: a class whose, means of employment, skills, values, and modes of thought, differed markedly from those of their traditionally-minded and more conservative contemporaries.


Members of this newly emerging “modernizing” class, were often referred to – though  mainly by foreigners - as Young Ethiopians, or Young Abyssinians. The usage of both terms, as we shall see, varied considerably over time, for they were used in different contexts to refer to widely differing categories of individuals

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