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Distributed for Haus Publishing

King of Kings

The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

Translated by Peter Lewis
With a Foreword by Thomas Pakenham

Distributed for Haus Publishing

King of Kings

The Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia

Translated by Peter Lewis
With a Foreword by Thomas Pakenham
Haile Selassie I, the last emperor of Ethiopia, was as brilliant as he was formidable. An early proponent of African unity and independence who claimed to be a descendant of King Solomon, he fought with the Allies against the Axis powers during World War II and was a messianic figure for the Jamaican Rastafarians. But the final years of his empire saw turmoil and revolution, and he was ultimately overthrown and assassinated in a communist coup.

Written by Asfa-Wossen Asserate, Haile Selassie’s grandnephew, this is the first major biography of this final “king of kings.” Asserate, who spent his childhood and adolescence in Ethiopia before fleeing the revolution of 1974, knew Selassie personally and gained intimate insights into life at the imperial court. Introducing him as a reformer and an autocrat whose personal history—with all of its upheavals, promises, and horrors—reflects in many ways the history of the twentieth century itself, Asserate uses his own experiences and painstaking research in family and public archives to achieve a colorful and even-handed portrait of the emperor.

480 pages | 6 color plates, 25 halftones | 5 x 8 | © 2015

Biography and Letters

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“A multifaceted picture of the so-called Father of Africa.”

Publishers Weekly

“A thorough and in-depth view of this larger-than-life figure. . . . Intertwines history, geography, politics, religion, and human interest to form a fascinating narration that covers much of the landscape of the twentieth century.”

Foreword Reviews

“A tautly written, remarkably even-handed account of successful autocracy.” 


“Haile Selassie is one of the most bizarre and misunderstood figures in 20th-century history, alternately worshipped and mocked, idolised and marginalised. This magnificent biography by the German-Ethiopian historian Asfa-Wossen Asserate (a distant relation of Selassie), and translated by Peter Lewis, is diligently researched and fair-minded; he is at last accorded a proper dignity.”


“This rather splendid book . . . can best be described as a sober and rational assessment of the extremely long and complex life of the most eminent African ruler of the 20th century.”

Literary Review

“The value of Asfa-Wossen Asserate’s biography is that it is an insider’s account. . . . Asserate provides a clear-sighted, dispassionate appraisal of the Emperor’s life.”

Times Literary Supplement

“Provides an authoritative, insider’s perspective and a refreshingly balanced look at this fascinating international figure who was the global face of Ethiopia for most of the 20th century. . . . King of Kings: Triumph and Tragedy of Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia is full of captivating details that only an insider could share; it is written with great poise and warmth for the enigmatic leader while at the same time cognizant of the swelling unhappiness and criticism the Emperor faced from his own people impatient with the pace of change.”

Tadias Magazine

“This moving and commanding work of literature, a perspective from inside the subject’s world and yet with full recognition of the world which surrounded it, is a litany of lessons, and a signal reminder of the human components of leadership.”

Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis

"this biography is a useful study of a significant African statesman."

Chartist Magazine

"The impressive, dazzling and complex personality of Haile Selassie, King of Kings and Conquering Lion, is conveyed in this biographical portrait by Asfa-Wossen Asserate, his great-nephew."

New African

“A superior biography.”

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, on the German edition

"This is a superb, magnificent and totally gripping biography."

Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The Romanovs

"Today, after centuries of oppression, a billion Africans are finally winning back the substance of their freedom but it is proving a long, vexed and sometimes violent fight. Asfa-Wossen Asserate’s masterful, insider’s account of Haile Selassie, the African emperor who led Ethiopia’s struggle against colonial fascism only to deny liberty to his people, stands as inspiration and warning to an entire continent."

Alex Perry, author of The Rift: A New Africa Breaks Free

Table of Contents

Prologue: Who Was Haile Selassie?
Notes on the text

1. A childhood in Harar
2. Two Cousins vie for power
3. The Ethiopian Machiavelli
4. The Elect of God
5. The darkest of God
6. The Lion of Judah returns
7. Shots across the bows
8. Shaking hands with history
9. An empty house
10. Haile Selassie’s legacy
Ethiopian Imperial Titles, in descending order of rank
Family tree
Picture credits

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