|Taddesse Tamrat (1935–2013) was an Ethiopian historian and scholar of Ethiopian studies. He
is best known as the author of Church and State in Ethiopia 1270-1520 (1972, Oxford
University Press), a book which has “dominated the field of Ethiopian studies”.
He was born in Addis Ababa into “a family of Ethiopian Orthodox Church intellectuals” and
received an education through the traditional system of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, where
he was ordained as a deacon. As a young man he studied at Holy Trinity School, but his father
insisted that he study at a more traditional church school to properly learn the Ge’ez language.
He returned to Addis Ababa and graduated from Haile Selassie I University with a BA in history
in 1962. Following that, he received a scholarship to the School of Oriental and African Studies
in London where he earned his doctorate in history. As a student there, he presented a seminar
paper “Some notes on the fifteenth century Stefanite 'heresy' in the Ethiopian Church”, which
on the advice of his mentors Roland Oliver and Edward Ullendorfwas submitted to and
published in Rassegna di Studi Etiopici, his first article published outside of Ethiopia. It
demonstrated his rich grounding in traditional Ethiopian Orthodox sources and his interaction
with the broader academic world.
He taught history at Haile Selassie I University, which became Addis Ababa University after the
1974 revolution. He became the director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at the university
and was active in the organizing the meetings of the International Conference of Ethiopian
He received the Medal of Honor at the Colège de France and was named an Honorary Fellow at
the School of Oriental and African Studies. The Manuscript Department of the Institute of
Ethiopian Studies was named in his honor. He and his wife of 45 years, Almaz, both died within
a year of each other in the USA.