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Casimir Mondon-Vidailhet, pionnier de l'amitié franco-éthiopienne / Pioneer of the French-Ethiopian friendship (1847-1910)

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Alain Rouaud

Casimir Mondon-Vidailhet. Pioneer of the French-Ethiopian Friendship

Introduction

Texte intégral

1Three French people played an important role at Menelik's side (1889-1913): Léon Chefneux, a businessman, Casimir Mondon-Vidailhet, an unofficial agent of the French government, and Léonce Lagarde, its first official representative.

2The lives and works of these three men have not been studied in detail yet. The works of Lagarde and Chefneux have neither been published nor studied. No trace was found of Mondon-Vidailhet if we refer to an article published in 1969 which reads: "It seems therefore that Mondon's personality has not left much of a mark either in current events or in the scientific world". This opinion seems reasonable because his biography was at the time a bit blurred, his influence on topical events of Menelik's reign was uncertain and his works were abundant but forgotten. Research concerning Chefneux and Lagarde is at a standstill. On the other hand, new information on Mondon-Vidailhet has since permitted the obtention of some results exposed below.

3Mondon-Vidailhet, or Mondon as he himself agreed to be called, is known by Africanists and Africa's historians mainly for the translation he did in 1905 of Tewodros II's chronicle, which is his least forgotten text. Geographers do consider him - but probably wrongly - as the introducer of the eucalyptus into Ethiopia. For the Ethiopianists, he is no more than a name on the plaque to the memory of teachers, together with the greater names of Orientalism, in the former "Salle d'Assemblée" of the Institut national des Langues et Civilisations orientales (Inalco, formerly École des Langues orientales or Langues O'). But they have not forgotten that he started the teaching of Amharic ("abyssinian" as it was called at the time) in France and that he brought back from Ethiopia an important collection of manuscripts written in this language, currently at the Bibliothèque nationale. A quite discreet achievement to say the least.

© Centre français des études éthiopiennes, 1997

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