Professor Richard Greenfield: Historian with specialty in African studies, dies





Richard David Greenfield, historian: born London 10 January 1931; Professor of History, University of Asmara, Eritrea 1999-2007 (Emeritus); Senior Consultant, Eritrean Research and Documentation Centre 1999-2008; died Oxford 1 June 2008.

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Richard Greenfield had an unparalleled grasp of the history and politics of the countries of the Horn of Africa, and will perhaps be best remembered for his 1965 book Ethiopia: a new political history.

From 1999 until 2007 he was Professor of History at the University of Asmara in Eritrea, supervising with painstaking thoroughness many history, law and political science students' research theses. When he joined the university, he also became senior consultant for the Eritrean Research and Documentation Centre in the city, and there deposited his comprehensive personal library and extraordinarily rich archives, now known as the Greenfield Collection. Among his treasures were first editions of James Bruce's Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1790) and James Theodore Bent's The Sacred City of the Ethiopians: being a record of travel and research in Abyssinia in 1893. He proved an inspiration to the young archivists and worked closely with the director of the documentation centre, Dr Azeb Tewolde.

Greenfield had first visited Eritrea in 1958 shortly after he had joined the staff of the University of Addis Ababa. A supposedly autonomous state, Eritrea was already on the way to an illegal annexation by Ethiopia. Later Greenfield was appointed dean of students and was in Addis during the attempted coup against Emperor Haile Selassie in 1960. He sheltered a number of student activists from the military when the coup was repressed and thus saved their lives. He stayed in Ethiopia until 1962 although subject to periods of harassment and house arrest.


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