Sunday 7 November 2021

The Ethiopian-Adal War 1529-43


I had a vague idea that the Portuguese were involved militarily in Ethiopia in the sixteenth century, but beyond that it was all a complete mystery to me. Not quite so now, as this is a subject that the author clearly has a pretty comprehensive understanding of, and having read the book now I feel suitably enlightened. Books on the Ethiopian-Adal War of 1529-53 are not something one comes across very often (if ever before now)in English, so the fact that the author has presented such a readable and educational work based on largely Portuguese and Ethiopian sources is beyond amazing!

Adal was a Muslim Sultanate, it’s borders corresponding with the territory of modern-day Somalia. In 1529 they invaded Christian Ethiopia, and little by little the Ethiopians were driven back and on the verge of defeat, until the Portuguese (already with a presence in the Indian Ocean) stepped in to support their fellow Christians in the war against Islam and the Ottoman Empire with a small army that punched well above its weight in the battles to come.

In addition to an interesting account of the key players, the armies, campaigns and battles, we get a good bit of background into the region and it’s diverse peoples. It is clearly well researched and illustrated throughout with maps and contemporary illustrations.

For something a little different I can recommend this book highly, and I guess it has a fair bit of wargaming potential for those who like to collect figures and game the the more fringe conflicts.


  1. How very interesting? Not a war I know anything about to be totally honest.

  2. It is a fascinating book on a less-well known conflict. I am about half way through and enjoying it but I would like more information on the armies, maybe illustrations of different troop types but maybe the information just is not there (there are more general descriptions of the different forces.

  3. This reminds me of a diorama that Malcolm Forbes had at his mansion in Morocco, called the Battle of the Three Kings, which involved the Portuguese during the mid 1500s.

  4. Good review Colin.

    What miniatures recommendations could be made for 28mm (by anyone reading) for The Ethiopian Adal War?

  5. Hello all... I am the author of the book. I would have liked to have included pictures of some of the troops and some drawings of the battles, but the publisher (rightly) decided against including images which were purely conjectural. I am happy to entertain any questions about the armies as I have collected figures for the Ethiopian Adal War in 28mm and even in 15mm for the very entertaining Irregular Wars ruleset.
    Jeff Shaw