Italy as part of the scramble for Africa obtained colonies in East Africa. The Kingdom of Italy itself was declared in 1861, after Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia had annexed Kingdom of Lombardy and Venice (this Kingdom was not independent, but controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and Kingdom of Naples (including all South Italy and Sicily). Rome became Italian only in 1870. Italy was a poor country. Many Italians emigrated to North and South America. The colonial effort was a attempt to share in the partition of Africa. This was both a matter of national pride as well the result of the widly held opinion that colonies were needed for a healthy economy. An Italian company (Rubattino) bought the rights to Assab Bay from the local Sultan (1869). The Italian Government bought these rights from the company and declared Assab an Italian colony (1882). This was Italy's first territorial acquisition in Africa. Assab became the primary port in what was to become the colony of Eritrea. The Italians also seized Somaliland and established a small protectorate (1889). Some resistance was encoutered as the Italians expanded their new colony (1889-92). The Italians assisted Ethiopian Emperor Menelik expand his territory in East Africa. The Italians claimed that in exchange Menelik had agreed to a protecorate and invaded Rthiopia. The Ethiopians decisively defeated theItalians at the battle of Aduwa/Adowa (1895). This was a rare African victory over European colonizers. Italy was forced to recognize the independence of Ethiopia. After the war with Memelik, Italy declared the colony of Eritrea in the coastal area they still controlled. I do not have details about Italian colonial policies at this time. Italy next seized Libya after a brief war with the Ottomans (1912). Ethiopia remained independent until the Italians under Mussolini invaded (1935), causing a major international incident. The young Emperor Haile Salassie appealed to the League of Nations, but half-hearted anctions were quickly abandoned. The Fascists organized youth groups in their African colonies. Mussolini dreamed of seizing Egypt and Suez after declaring war pn Britain and France (1940). Subatantial Italian forces were stationed in both Libya and Italian East Africa. The massive Itlaian invasion from Libya was defeated by a small British force (1940) and only German intervention prevented the fall of Libya (1941). Another small British Commonwealth force attacking from Sudan and Kenya seized Italian East Africa (1941).
The Kingdom of Italy itself was declared in 1861, after the Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia had inified Italy. Piedmont annexed the Kingdom of Lombardy and Venice (this Kingdom was not independent, but controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and Kingdom of Naples (including all South Italy and Sicily). Cavour cleerly engineered a war in which Austria was defated by a combined Piedmontese-French allied force. With Austria's defear, smaller Astrian dominated principalities like Parma, overthrew the lruling family and joined Piedmont in its effort to uify Itaky. Southern Italy ws acquired as a result of Garabaldi's expedition. Rome only became Italian in 1870 after Prussia defeated Fance in the Franco-Prussin War. .
Italy was a poor country. Many Italians emigrated to North and South America. The colonial effort was a attempt to share in the partition of Africa. This was both a matter of national pride as well the result of the widly held opinion that colonies were needed for a healthy economy. Another important factor in Italy was arpidly growing population in a country that already had a large, landless peasantry. Declining agriculturl production combined with a risiing population was fresulting in the late 19th century in growing levels of malnutrition. Italian emigration reached substantial levels in the lte 19th century. At the turn of the 20th century, 0.5 million Italians were emigrating annually. Thus African colonies had the advantage of providing land on which Italins could settle.
Italy was finally unified (1861). And the new laeders saw colonies as part of the dignity of appropriate for a European power. The preceived over population was a major concern. Italy joined other European poewers in the scarambleb for Africa. Italy focused on East Africa. This was an area of Africa in which the British and French were also interested. The area attracted colonial interest because of the importance of Suez. East Africa juts out into the Indian Ocean south of Suez and control the entrance to the Red Sea. It began when sn Italian company (Rubattino) bought the rights to Assab Bay from the local Sultan (1869). The Italian Government bought these rights from the company and declared Assab an Italian colony (1882). Italaian Somalialamd was established (1880s). The Italians also attempted to add Ethiopia to their East African colony, , but were miitarily defeated at Adwa (1896). This was the only colonial army defaeted by an Africa force and Ethiopia rbecame the only independent African country in a continent dominated by Europeans. Later Libya in North Africa was added (1912), but took severl years and a brutal camapaign ordered by Musolinin to pacuify. Mussolinialso added Ethiopia to the Italian colonial empire and another brutal campauign shocking internatioanml public opinion (1935). It was the first Facist aggressiion that would ultimately lead to World War II. The War that Mussolini thought would expandf his empire would in afew short years leads to its disintegration (1941-42).
We do not have details about Italian colonial policies in East Africa at this time. We believe they were realtively similar throughour East Africa. Libya was somewhat different becuse it was more accessable to Italiam migration.
Balilla units were almost certainly established in Italy's Italian colonies, including Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Libya. HBU has no details, but presumes only Italian children could join and not the children of the colonial people.Interestingly, Missolini's Fascist regime set up youth organizations also in invaded countries. There were the "Gioventú Albanese del Littorio" (Albanian Youth of Littorio) in Albania, the "Gioventú Araba del Littorio" (Arabic Youth of Littorio) in Libya and the "Gioventú Etiopica del Littorio" (Ethiopic Youth of Littorio) in Ethiopia. I'm less sure about Italian policies in occupied areas f the Balkans other than Albania. The fez was used as the uniform cap in all these organizations. The interesting aspect here is the difference between the Italian and German approach. Unfortunately we have little information at this time on the progrm and activities of the Italian colonial youth groups.
Mussolini dreamed of seizing Egypt and Suez which would have staked or a huge colony in East Africa and North Africa. It was one of the enducements leading him to declare war on Britain and France (June 1940). He waited until it was clear that the Germans had defeated the French Army. Substantial Italian forces were stationed in both Libya and Italian East Africa, virtually surrounding the small British force Egypt guarding the Suez Canal. The Italians struck first from Libya (September 1940). The massive Itlaian invasion from Libya however stalledand was defeated by a small British force (December 1940). Only German intervention prevented the fall of Libya (1941). Another small British Commonwealth force attacking from Sudan and Kenya seized Italian East Africa (1941). The campaign in the Western Desert sea-sawed back and forth after Hitler committed Erwin Ronnel's Aftrika Korps. The British after the decisive El Alemain victory (October 1942) moved west and seized Libya (November-December 1942), ending Italian colonial dreams of empire in Africa.
Palumbo, Patrizia. A Place in the Sun: Africa in Italian Colonial Culture from Post-Unification to the Present (Berkeley, California, University of California Press, 2003). 332p.
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