Nafka Documents

Scope and Content

Volume of 83 collected documents, 1887-1902, comprising notes, reports, memoranda and dispatches, relating to the Habab and related societies of the Red Sea littoral, Italian colonisation, and colonial administration during the period of Italian rule of Eritrea.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the late 19th century European powers including Italy sought to extend their influence in East Africa. Italy extended its influence sufficiently to proclaim the colony of Eritrea in the 1880s. Dispute over the meaning of a treaty signed by Menelik II (d 1913) of Ethiopia with Italy (1889), whereby Italy claimed it had been given a protectorate over Ethiopia, led to an Italian invasion in 1895 which resulted in Italy being defeated. Under the Treaty of Addis Ababa (1896) Italy recognized the independence of Ethiopia, but retained its Eritrean colonial base.

Nafka is a town in north-western Eritrea, a commercial centre of the Habab people and the site of an Italian Residenza.

Access Information

Closed pending conservation. Readers should use the published version.

Restrictions Apply

Acquisition Information

Deposited in SOAS Library by Anthony D'Avray in May 2000

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Requires conservation before material is opened. Paper is fragile, and has sellotape attached.

Conditions Governing Use

Not permitted during closure.

Custodial History

The documents appear to have been collected together and bound into a volume by an unidentified Italian officer. They were located by Anthony D'Avray in 1943 in the archives of the Italian Residenti of the Nafka district (the last of whom had left his post following Italian defeat in 1941).


Published unabridged, with commentary, as The Nakfa documents: the despatches, memoranda, reports and correspondence describing and explaining the stories of the feudal societies of the Red Sea littoral from the Christian-Muslim wars of the sixteenth century to the establishment 1885-1901 of the Italian colony of Eritrea, ed Anthony d'Avray in collaboration with Richard Pankhurst (Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 2000). The documents were also among the sources for Anthony D'Avray, Lords of the Red Sea: the history of a Red Sea Society from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries (Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 1996).

Geographical Names