Profile: Habtamu Tegegne

Assistant Professor

Department of History

Habtamu Tegegne earned his BA (1998) and MA (2003) from Addis Ababa University, where he also held faculty position, and his doctoral degree (2011) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Habtamu has been teaching at Florida Gulf Coast University between 2011 and 2016. He is currently teaching at Rutgers-Newark. His teaching interests are African history, Middle East history and global history. His research has been focused on a critical understanding of the broader historical development of the Ethiopian state, its administration, social dynamics, and agrarian organization. While his temporal and geographical focus remains early modern Ethiopia, Habtamu’s research is informed by comparative perspectives on agrarian societies and a theoretical concern with the nature of property and its myriad intersection with issues of power, labor, class and state.

Habtamu’s work includes Lord, Zèga and Peasant: A Study of Social and Agrarian Relations in Rural East Gojjam (Addis Ababa, 2004). He is also the author of “Rethinking Property and Society in Gondärine Ethiopia,” African Studies Review 52–3 (2009), 89–106. This article is based on his paper that won the 2007 Graduate Student Paper Prize of the African Studies Association. This publication also won the Joseph Ward Swain history prize given for the most outstanding published paper in 2010 by the History Department at the University of Illinois.

Currently, Habtamu is working on a book project provisionally entitled Land, Social Structure and Power in Ethiopia1636-1974.  The study is based on extensive archival research in Ethiopian churches and monasteries. Its purpose is an analytical and interpretive history of land tenure and its dynamic interaction with class, social and political structure of Ethiopia from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries. By using land registers, surveys, charters, and private property transactions, it seeks to radically revise conventional understanding of the historical social dynamics of the profoundly agrarian society of Ethiopia. Ethiopian ruling classes emerged as true landlords, if not hands-on cultivators, more deeply interested in land and the organization of agricultural production than received wisdom has allowed. The study also uncovered and brought back to life a social class hitherto unrecognized in the literature, zegoch, whose social condition reflects the essential elements of medieval serfdom, but shorn of its more rigid and formalist features. In these contributions his research rewrites several generations of scholarship.

  • Courses Taught

    African History I

    African History II  

    East and South African History

    The Horn of Africa

    The Middle East 1300-1914

    The Middle East since 1918

    Interdisciplinary History of Modern Africa (Honors seminar)

    Understanding the Current World (Honors Reading)

    World Civilizations 1500-1812

    Seminar in World History (graduate seminar)

    The Making of the Global Order (graduate seminar)

    Theories and Methods in History

    Pro-Seminar in History (History Senior Seminar)

  • Education

    Ph.D., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Publications

    Lord, Zéga and Peasant: A Study of Property and Agrarian Relations in Rural Eastern Gojjam. Addis Ababa: United Printers, 2004.

    “Rethinking Property and Society in Gondärine Ethiopia.” African Studies Review 52, no.3 (December 2009): 89-106.

    “Recordmaking, Recordkeeping and Landholding: Chanceries and Archives in Ethiopia 1700–1974.” History in Africa: A Journal of Method 42 (June 2015): 433-461.

    “The Edict of King Gälawdéwos against the Illegal Slave Trade in Christians, Ethiopia, 1548.” The Medieval Globe [forthcoming].

    “Dispute over Precedence and Protocol: Memory, Hagiography and Forgery in Nineteenth-Century Ethiopia.” Afriques: Débats, méthodes et terrains d’histoire (Afriques: Historical debates, methods and fields) [forthcoming].

  • Awards

    African Studies Association’s prize for the best paper presented by a graduate student (2007)

    Laurence M. Larson Scholarship for Studies in Medieval or English History, University of Department of History, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2004-2005)

    Joseph Ward Swain prizes given for outstanding publications submitted in the last year, Department of History, University of Illinois (2010)