Italian colonialism without fascism

May 2015
1,055
The Netherlands
#1
I think it's safe to say that Italy's colonial project in Africa was reinvigorated during the Interbellum. This was a result of the territories it gained as a reward after the ending of First World War - in which it had fought on the winning side - and due to the fascist take-over of the country. The latter in particular resulted in an aggressive push for colonial expansion. How would Italy's colonialism in Africa have likely developed without its entry in WW1 and the rise of fascism? I'm pretty sure an invasion of Ethiopia would not have occured, but would a democratic Italy have tried pacifying Libya, like the fascists had? Would Libya have been united or remained separate colonies? Would there be significant government-sponsored Italian settlement in Libya, Eritrea and Somaliland? Expansion elsewhere?

This is a bit of a sidetrack, but how much was Italy's de facto loss of control over Libya during WW1 related to its entry in the war?
 
Last edited:
Likes: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,936
SoCal
#2
When was Libya united?

Also, Yes, a democratic Italy would have absolutely tried pacifying Libya even without WWI. After all, why conquer a territory and waste the lives of your own countrymen doing so if you're not going to be willing to keep this territory afterwards? As for government-sponsored Italian settlement in Italy's colonies, Yes, I think that this would happen due to the fact that Italy had a lot of spare people during this time (as evidenced by the large number of Italians who emigrated) and due to the fact that Italy would want to solidify its control and rule over its colonies (in order to increase the odds of being able to permanently keep them, of course).

As for Italian expansion elsewhere, considering that the overwhelming majority of the "Old World" was already taken and considering that the US wouldn't have allowed new European colonies in the "New World," I really don't see Italy having the chance to expand a lot more without WWI. The only possibilities that I could see would perhaps be Albania--though the other Great Powers might not allow this--as well as parts of Austria-Hungary if Austria-Hungary will ever experience a revolution. Of course, the latter event could trigger an alternate World War I--which is certainly worth keeping in mind.

I don't know enough about events in Libya during World War I to answer your last question here. Sorry about that. :( Hopefully someone else with more knowledge about this would be able to answer this question, though. :)
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,936
SoCal
#3
As for Ethiopia, Yes, I do think that there was a feeling that Ethiopia earned its independence by defeating Italy back in 1896. Thus, I don't think that the Italians are going to be eager for a rematch in Ethiopia in a scenario where Italy is going to remain democratic.

BTW, do you want WWI to still occur in this scenario, but with Italy remaining neutral? Or do you want WWI not to occur at all in this scenario?
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,818
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#4
The Italian colonialism suffered of the same problem that the German colonialism suffered: Italy and Germany were the two last great countries to be unified in Europe. This meant that when they had the resources and the organization to get some colonies ... almost all the planet was already owned by the British Empire, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Netherlands ... Where to find "free" lands to conquer?

In some remote parts of Africa. Italy and Germany collected what the great powers didn't catch. This is the simple reality.

This was the context. Moreover the Italian Kingdom in its first phase, so before of Fascism, showed a quite economical attitude regarding the colonies. It happened in a way which reminded how the Sea Republics created their own little commercial empires: Italy bought concessions. An interesting detail is that Austria asked to Italy if we were interested in Borneo [there was a possibility of a concession regarding the state of Sabah], but it was too far and expensive. Italy renounced.

The Austrian consul suggested to Italy to create there a penal colony, imagine!

But the most interesting aspect of Italian colonialism is that it wasn't the nationalistic Right to start it, but the Left [the famous so called "Historical Left"]. And this is probably why it started without battles: Italy used diplomacy to buy ports and quarters in coastal cities [like the Sea Republics did in Middle Ages]. It was Crispi to have the idea to start from Massau to create a real Italian colony in the African Horn.

This first phase wasn't that bad, it was [as reminded above] when we begun to use the Army that problems came. The defeat in March 1896 was on all European newspapers: a European colonial power had defeated in Africa! Note: at Adua we lost about 7,000 soldiers, more than during all the Independence Wars ...

The Libya came well after [we were near to WWI] and it was the result of an agreement with France and Great Britain [the two powers wanted Italy to keep the Ottoman Empire busy in Africa, it's evident]. Italy declared war to the Ottoman Empire and we won that war!

And it's true that Libya wasn't a state, but two different Ottoman provinces [still today that division is well visible ...].

So, without Fascism [without committing war crimes!] the Italian colonialism would have kept on being commercial and economical [Venice style] with some exceptions based on concessions from the great powers. I cannot say if the Italian government would have unified Libya. I think that [on the base of the unification of Italy] they would have pondered very well the matter, investigating about the real wishes of the population. Probably today we would see two separated states.
 
Last edited:

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,936
SoCal
#5
The Italian colonialism suffered of the same problem that the German colonialism suffered: Italy and Germany was the two last great countries to be unified in Europe. This meant that when they had the resources and the organization to get some colonies ... almost all the planet was already owned by the British Empire, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Netherlands ... Where to find "free" lands to conquer?

In some remote parts of Africa. Italy and Germany collected what the great powers didn't catch. This is the simple reality.

This was the context. Moreover the Italian Kingdom in its first phase, so before of Fascism, showed a quite economical attitude regarding the colonies. It happened in a way which reminded how the Sea Republics created their own little commercial empires: Italy bought concessions. An interesting detail is that Austria asked to Italy if we were interested in Borneo [there was a possibility of a concession regarding the state of Sabah], but it was too far and expensive. Italy renounced.

The Austrian consul suggested to Italy to create there a penal colony, imagine!

But the most interesting aspect of Italian colonialism is that it wasn't the nationalistic Right to start it, but the Left [the famous so called "Historical Left"]. And this is probably why it started without battles: Italy used diplomacy to buy ports and quarters in coastal cities [like the Sea Republics did in Middle Ages]. It was Crispi to have the idea to start from Massau to create a real Italian colony in the African Horn.

This first phase wasn't that bad, it was [as reminded above] when we begun to use the Army that problems came. The defeat in March 1896 was on all European newspapers: a European colonial power had defeated in Africa! Note: at Adua we lost about 7,000 soldiers, more than during all the Independence Wars ...

The Libya came well after [we were near to WWI] and it was the result of an agreement with France and Great Britain [the two powers wanted Italy to keep the Ottoman Empire busy in Africa, it's evident]. Italy declared war to the Ottoman Empire and we won that war!

And it's true that Libya wasn't a state, but two different Ottoman provinces [still today that division is well visible ...].

So, without Fascism [without committing war crimes!] the Italian colonialism would have kept on being commercial and economical [Venice style] with some exceptions based on concessions from the great powers. I cannot say if the Italian government would have unified Libya. I think that [on the base of the unification of Italy] they would have pondered very well the matter, investigating about the real wishes of the population.
Very interesting explanation and analysis!

Probably today we would see two separated states.
Or we could see one or both of these territories remain a part of Italy if they will get enough Italian settlement. It's certainly easier for this than for French Algeria due to Libya's much smaller population.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,644
Portugal
#6
The Libya came well after [we were near to WWI] and it was the result of an agreement with France and Great Britain [the two powers wanted Italy to keep the Ottoman Empire busy in Africa, it's evident]. Italy declared war to the Ottoman Empire and we won that war!
In a purely historical military perspective the 1911 Turkish-Italian war is quite interesting. It saw significant disembark operations (in Lybia and in the islands of the Dodecanese), the use of planes as bombers, airship, armoured cars…

Some years ago I saw in the net a set of interesting images of the time illustrating the conflict. I think it was in a collection of cigar packs.
 
Likes: Futurist

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
26,818
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#7
Very interesting explanation and analysis!



Or we could see one or both of these territories remain a part of Italy if they will get enough Italian settlement. It's certainly easier for this than for French Algeria due to Libya's much smaller population.
Well, France at the end of XIX century had to solve the problem of the historical and massive presence of Italians in Tunisia. In early '900 there were more than 100,000 Italians in Tunisia, overall from Sicily. That colony was born in Middle Age knowing a great growth also thanks to Jewish merchants who kept its economy very alive. Still today that Italian community exists, but it's well more little [about 4,000 Italians live in Tunisia today].

France considered that natural Italian colony a threat [they called it the "peril italien" Italian Tunisians - Wikipedia].

Historian thinks that the "Italian Threat" was among the reasons why France agreed on conceding the Ottoman provinces of Libya to Italy. They probably thought that this would have allowed a redistribution of the Italian settlers.

The history of Italians in Northern Africa has been quite successful and the relationships with Muslim Lords have been almost always positive. Without Fascism the perception of Italians in those lands would be well different nowadays.

And actually, about Libya, after the end of the war against the Ottoman Empire, Italians, still under the democratic government, begun to migrate to the area of Tripoli, doing what they did in Tunisia [with even a Grand Prix of motorbikes ...]. It's possible that, following the Tunisian model, Italians would have colonized, in a pacific way, Eastern Libya, mixing themselves with the local population. I cannot say if this would have generated the conditions to keep that area in Italy or if we would have seen the "Italian Tripolitania" [like today there is the Italian Swiss].
 
May 2015
1,055
The Netherlands
#8
Thanks for the interesting answers!

Do you know if Italy differentiated between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica prior to the rise of fascism? Meaning, was one considered to be more economically valuable or more suitable for colonial settlement than the other?

Also, Italy was trying to connect Eritrea and Italian Somaliland by gaining a territorial strip between them. I know Eritrea was considered to be important, at least symbolically as Italy's first African colony, but was it also economically important? There were some vague plans in Britain to offer Italy to trade British Somaliland for Eritrea. This would have given Italy one big and connected colony in the Horn in Africa. Do you think Italy have seriously considered this?
 
Likes: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,936
SoCal
#9
Thanks for the interesting answers!
If you were referring to everyone here, thank you very much! :D

Do you know if Italy differentiated between Tripolitania and Cyrenaica prior to the rise of fascism? Meaning, was one considered to be more economically valuable or more suitable for colonial settlement than the other?
Unfortunately, I don't. :(

Also, Italy was trying to connect Eritrea and Italian Somaliland by gaining a territorial strip between them.
Yes, that was what the war with Ethiopia in 1895-1896 was about.

Ethiopia might not have been too pleased to be cut off from Djibouti, though.

I know Eritrea was considered to be important, at least symbolically as Italy's first African colony, but was it also economically important? There were some vague plans in Britain to offer Italy to trade British Somaliland for Eritrea. This would have given Italy one big and connected colony in the Horn in Africa. Do you think Italy have seriously considered this?
That I honestly don't know, unfortunately. :(
 

Similar History Discussions