Paths toward the Nation — 2014

Islam, Community, and Early Nationalist Mobilization in Eritrea, 1941–1961

By Joseph L. Venosa

“In my considered opinion, Paths toward the Nation is an excellent scholarly work that tells the story of the evolution and struggle for survival of Eritrean nationalism .… Venosa’s work represents a significant contribution to the study of Eritrea’s national struggle for independence”

Bereket Habte Selassie, professor of African Studies and Law, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“This work is very well written and organized, and Venosa makes excellent use of primary documents to reconstruct a history of activism and sociopolitical transformations taking place among Eritrean Muslim populations during the period under analysis.”

Tricia Redeker Hepner, Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of Tennessee

In the early and mid-1940s, during the period of British wartime occupation, community and religious leaders in the former Italian colony of Eritrea engaged in a course of intellectual and political debate that marked the beginnings of a genuine national consciousness across the region. During the late 1940s and 1950s, the scope of these concerns slowly expanded as the nascent nationalist movement brought together Muslim activists with the increasingly disaffected community of Eritrean Christians.

The Eritrean Muslim League emerged as the first genuine proindependence organization in the country to challenge both the Ethiopian government’s calls for annexation and international plans to partition Eritrea between Sudan and Ethiopia. The league and its supporters also contributed to the expansion of Eritrea’s civil society, formulating the first substantial arguments about what made Eritrea an inherently separate national entity. These concepts were essential to the later transition from peaceful political protest to armed rebellion against Ethiopian occupation.

Paths toward the Nation is the first study to focus exclusively on Eritrea’s nationalist movement before the start of the armed struggle in 1961.


Joseph L. Venosa is an assistant professor of African history at Salisbury University in Salisbury, Maryland.

Table of Contents

  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • Abbreviations
  • Note on Language, Terminology, and Translation
  • Introduction: Islam, Community, and the Cultural Politics of Eritrean Nationalism
  • 1. Early Rumblings: Muslim Activism in British-Occupied Eritrea, April 1941–November 1946
  • 2. Founding Success: The Muslim League and the Early Nationalist Movement, November 1946–December 1947
  • 3. Navigating Rough Seas: The Muslim League’s Internal Challenges, January 1948–September 1949
  • 4. Maintaining Momentum: The Muslim League and Its Rivals, September 1949–December 1950
  • 5. Holding the Line: Institutional Autonomy and Political Representation on the Federation’s Eve, December 1951–September 1952
  • 6. Struggling for Autonomy: The Disintegrating Federation, October 1952–December 1957
  • 7. New Beginnings at the Federation’s End: Muslim Mobilization, Popular Resistance, and Diaspora Activism, January 1958–September 1961
  • Epilogue
  • Notes
  • Glossary
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Index
Cover of 'Paths toward the Nation'

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