The Ethiopian government is mourning one of its greatest historians, Dr Richard Pankhurst, who died at the age of 90.
The country’s Foreign Ministry in a statement referred to Pankhurst as a ‘‘doyen of historians and scholars of Ethiopia,’‘ it added that he ‘‘was one of Ethiopia’s greatest friends during his long and productive life, and his scholarship and understanding for Ethiopia will be sorely missed.’‘
He received an award of recognition from President Teshome Mulatu for the crucial role he played in the campaign for the return of a historical monument (the axum stelae) from Italy. The monument was re-erected in 2008. The 1,700-year-old giant stone obelisk was taken to Italy by fascist invaders in the 1930s and remained there until it was restored to its historic site in an ancient northern town.
Pankhurst arrived in Ethiopia in 1956 and devoted his life to Ethiopian studies, he is credited with over 20 books and editing many more on aspects of Ethiopia’s history, culture and economics. He taught at the Addis Ababa University – then known as the University College of Addis Ababa.
He was the founding Director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and a leading figure within the ‘Friends of Ethiopia’ group. He left Ethiopia to his native Britain but returned in 1986 to continue work with the Institute he founded.
He was also awarded the Order of the British Empire by the Queen for his services to Ethiopian studies. He is survived by Mrs. Rita Pankhurst and two children, Helen and Alula. The late academician was the son of Sylvia Pankhurst, a staunch supporter of Ethiopia’s struggle against Italy in the 1930s.