Antiqua Print Gallery Italian colonization of Eritrea
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Italian colonization of Eritrea

The boundaries of modern Eritrea and the entire region were established during the European colonial period between Italian, British and French colonialists as well as the lone landlocked African Empire of Ethiopia which found itself surrounded and its boundaries defined by said colonial powers. Ethiopia was, for a time until the Italian conquest of Ethiopia in 1935, the only independent country in Africa (with the exception of Liberia). The Kingdom of Italy created Eritrea at the end of the nineteenth century, using the classical name for the Red Sea.

Italian occupation of Massawa and formation of the colony

Later, as the Egyptians retreated out of Sudan during the Mahdist rebellion, the British brokered an agreement whereby the Egyptians could retreat through Ethiopia, and in exchange they would allow the Emperor to occupy those lowland districts that he had disputed with the Turks and Egyptians. Emperor Yohannes IV believed this included Massawa, but instead, the port was handed by the Egyptians and the British to the Italians, who united it with the already colonised port of Asseb to form a coastal Italian possession. The Italians took advantage of disorder in northern Ethiopia following the death of Emperor Yohannes IV in 1889 to occupy the highlands and established their new colony, henceforth known as Eritrea, and received recognition from Menelik II, Ethiopia's new Emperor.
The Italian possession of maritime areas previously claimed by Abyssinia/Ethiopia was formalized in 1889 with the signing of the Treaty of Wuchale with Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia (r. 1889–1913) after the defeat of Italy by Ethiopia at the battle of Adua where Italy launched an effort to expand its possessions from Eritrea into the more fertile Abyssinian hinterland. Menelik would later renounce the Wuchale Treaty as he had been tricked by the translators to agree to making the whole of Ethiopia into an Italian protectorate. However, he was forced by circumstance to live by the tenets of Italian sovereignty over Eritrea.
During the 19th century, along with much of the African coast of the Red Sea, Massawa was ruled by Egypt with Ottoman consent. Following the Egyptian defeat at the Battle of Gura, Egyptian control of the port withered, and with the help of the British, Massawa came under Italian control as part of their colony of Eritrea in 1885.

(Source Wikipedia)