Start reading The Barefoot Emperor: An Ethiopian Tragedy on your Kindle in under a minute. Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here or start reading now with a free Kindle Reading App.

Deliver to your Kindle or other device


Try it free

Sample the beginning of this book for free

Deliver to your Kindle or other device

Sorry, this item is not available in
Image not available for
Image not available

The Barefoot Emperor: An Ethiopian Tragedy [Kindle Edition]

Philip Marsden
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £10.99
Kindle Price: £4.66 includes VAT* & free wireless delivery via Amazon Whispernet
You Save: £6.33 (58%)
* Unlike print books, digital books are subject to VAT.

Free Kindle Reading App Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.

To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition £4.66  
Hardcover --  
Paperback £10.99  
Kindle Daily Deal
Kindle Daily Deal: Up to 70% off
Each day we unveil a new book deal at a specially discounted price--for that day only. Learn more about the Kindle Daily Deal or sign up for the Kindle Daily Deal Newsletter to receive free e-mail notifications about each day's deal.

Book Description

A fascinating narrative excursion into a bizarre episode in 19th century Ethiopian and British imperial history, featuring a remote African despot and his monstrous European-built gun.

Towards the end of 1867, Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia burnt his own capital, took his vast mortar – named 'Sevastopol' – and began a retreat to the mountain stronghold of Mekdala. For months thousands of his followers struggled to build a road for the great gun, levelling the soil of the high plains, hacking out a way down into mile-deep gorges. At the same time, a hostile British force, under General Napier, was advancing from the coast. It was the climax to the reign of one of the most colourful and extraordinary rulers in African history.

Discovering traces of the road in the highlands, and drawing on years of involvement with Ethiopia, Philip Marsden recounts the story of Tewodros. From his spectacular rise – from camel-raider to King of Kings – Tewodros was a man who combined a sense of Biblical destiny with personal charisma and military genius. He restored the fortunes of the ancient Christian kingdom, introduced reforms to his army and to the church, and dreamed of an alliance with the great powers of Europe.

But as his reforms stalled and the British Foreign Office lost his letter to Queen Victoria, Tewodros's behaviour became more and more violent and erratic. When he imprisoned the British consul, years of negotiation culminated in one of the most bizarre – and expensive – campaigns of the Victorian age.

'The Barefoot Emperor' is history at its most thrilling and dramatic. Using narrative skills proven in such acclaimed books as 'The Bronski House' and 'The Chains of Heaven', Philip Marsden recreates scenes and characters of glittering intensity – and the intriguing paradoxes of a central figure grappling not only with his own people and his own demons, but with the seductive and unstoppable approach of the modern world.

Product Description


‘A masterly account…Marsden's compelling narrative is full of gems… “The Barefoot Emperor” 'warms the insides' in specifically Ethiopian ways. It's a triumph; a work of entirely unpredicted necessity.’ Independent

‘Compelling…a balanced, full-bodied account…of these extraordinary events…Marsden, an expert on Ethiopia, is also a gifted storyteller and his narrative has pace and, above all, suspense.’ Sunday Times

‘Marsden has done an amazing job of reconstruction… wonderfully strange.’ Daily Express

‘An amazing story…a page-turning narrative of a sort I haven't read in years.’ Spectator

‘Marsden has combined his outstanding skills as a travel writer – his intimate knowledge of a foreign clime, his instinctive sympathy for a lost culture, his wonderfully evocative, almost poetic prose style – with the research talents of a first-rate sleuth to produce a quite spellbinding work of historical biography ’ Sunday Telegraph

‘Marsden first visited Ethiopia in the 1980s; his understanding of the country is manifest on every page. His narrative … is beautifully paced, and his story is incredible.’ Daily Telegraph

‘It is Philip Marsden's achievement that he has made Theodore central to his theme…as always, Marsden manages to handle his research material with a light touch and lets the story develop its own momentum. This is imperial history told without an imperial perspective.’ TLS

‘There are few, if any, historians who can match the wit, pace and flair of Philip Marsden. It reads less like history than a rip-roaring novel with a cast of chatracters as extraordinary as any fiction-writer could devise.’ Mail on Sunday

‘Philip Marsden is a wonderful writer who tells the tragic story of Tewodros with sympathy, elegance and a knowledge of Ethiopia that few Western writers can match. His book makes a fine present for Christmas.’ Literary Review


'(This) history of Tewodros II, emperor of Ethiopia (has) the drama of a finely honed thriller...(a) thoroughly researched account.'

'Engrossing historical biography'

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1030 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (4 Sept. 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9QN0
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #202,712 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
  •  Would you like to give feedback on images?

More About the Author

PHILIP MARSDEN is the award-winning author of a number of works of travel, fiction and non-fiction, including Rising Ground, The Bronski House, The Spirit-Wrestlers, and The Levelling Sea. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and his work has been translated into fifteen languages. He lives in Cornwall.

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

3 star
2 star
1 star
4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In the footsteps of a tyrant 6 Jan. 2008
I loved this book. The short chapters combined with the fluid and easy writing style make it a very easy read - especially if you have to grab your reading in bite sized chunks as I do. Its a great achievement to make a small episode in history into such a great yarn - the stuff of films. A tinpot emperor has annual play fights with his rebellious "neighbours" / subjects but is in the thrall of the imperial Victoria who he (quite rightly) believes is ignoring him, but in a desperate bid to maintain his ties to her country, Tewodros detains her envoys. What follows is an abject lesson in how gunboat diplomacy can't work if there is no coast off which to park your gunboat, the terrain is inhospitable, the warlord driven by religious fervour and a belief in his own divine rectitude - who says we don't learn the lessons of history? In any case, Marsden's book is clearly meticulously researched and he has great knowledge of and sympathy for Ethiopia. History has rarely been made this interesting and easy on the eye. George Macdonald Fraser had a go at this story with Sir Harry Flashman (who undertook to rescue the envoys in "Flashman on the March") - but this altogether more rigorous and yet no less enjoyable version of events cannot be too highly recommended.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read 27 Oct. 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I ordered this book as part of my research into my own family history as one of the main protagonists is an ancestor of mine. Not only did it prove useful in that respect but also described a fascinating event in British colonial history. Well written and easy to follow, exciting, shocking, horrifying, it's got the lot really. In case you're wondering Capt Speedy is my GG uncle.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the barefoot emperor 6 Mar. 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This excellent book deals with the life and times of Tewodros the second (1818c-1868) who was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1855 until his death.
Born from aristocratic parents he was cast out on thier divorce leaving him and his mother penniless. He began adult life as an outlaw but after many battles with warlords and princes he unified Ethiopia and became Emperor.Asemperor hewas desporate to modernise the country and wrote to Queen Victoria to send workers and aid.His letter was unanswered for 2 years so he abducted the British consul and all Europeans and took them to Magdala.Eventually the British sent an army. The battle that ensued saw the release of the captives while the Emperor comitted suicide-his wife and son were sent to the U.K. The wife died before arrival but the son went to Rogby school spossored by the Queen but he died aged 19 never seeing his country again.
A marvellous book to be highly recommended but the illustrations are abysmal.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Barefoot Emperor: An Ethiopian Tragedy 3 Nov. 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It is a brillian account of an Ethiopian emperor who was struggling to unite his country as one and his desperate attempt to bring the most coveted civilisation to his home contry.
Comment | 
Was this review helpful to you?
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Were these reviews helpful?   Let us know

Customer Discussions

This product's forum
Discussion Replies Latest Post
No discussions yet

Ask questions, Share opinions, Gain insight
Start a new discussion
First post:
Prompts for sign-in

Search Customer Discussions
Search all Amazon discussions

Look for similar items by category