Wednesday, August 1, 2018


We all know that Roman legions never reached the Scandinavian peninsula. It is possible that a Roman 'Client State' existed in what is now Danemark (please, if interested read my ), but actual southern Sweden was too far to the north to have any minor link to the Roman empire. Of course, explorations were done in the region by the Romans (initially under Augustus) and the Roman merchants traded in all the Baltic sea with the famous "amber commerce".

Two rings and one coin found in 2017 confirm a theory that the Öland island was in close contact with the Roman Empire. Close by, were found pieces of Roman glass. The coin was made in honor of Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III (425-455 AD). The emperor is depicted on one side of the coin, with his foot resting on the head of a barbarian – a common motif in coinage from the period.

Indeed the Romans set up a network of hardened roads for the amber trade with inns a day’s horse ride apart, inside their empire. Many military strongholds providing safety for travelling merchants were also established (a few also in "Barbaricum" territories, according to recent researches). Travelers included not only merchants but also soldiers and officials. Settlements developed and cities sprang up at the junction of the main marching roads. The itinerary in those centuries ran from Aquileia, one of the Roman Empire’s main trading hubs (located near the northern tip of the Adriatic sea), to what is today Vienna, Brno, Wroclaw and onwards to Sambia in the area of today’s Kaliningrad/Koenisberg region (and Lithuania and Latvia), where the amber deposits were much bigger.

Roman merchants also traded with southern Sweden and the Öland island was a trading outpost, according to recent archaeological discoveries. The Romans who travelled north for ‘the gold of the Baltic’ would take with them various items to be traded, including fabrics, ceramics, metal objects, trinkets, wool, as well as bronze and brass artefacts. They brought back sacks of amber, animal skins, wax, feathers and beaver coats. Due to increasing intense economic contacts, Roman coins also were started to be used (nearly one thousand "solidii" -from the fourth and fifth centuries AD- have been found in the southern Scandinavia region, read, but actually there it is not a huge research by academics on this matter.

However, there are some interesting studies in the last years about the so called "Sweden's Pompeii": Sandby borg in the island of Öland.

In this Swedish island archaeologists have discovered many Roman coins with nice jewelry and various objects, like onions (that were not produced in Scandinavia). For example, see the video or read the interesting article, where it is written that: "...Found a 1,500-Year-Old Burnt Onion Linked to ‘Sweden’s Pompeii’...The ancient vegetable affirms a Swedish island’s ties to the Roman Empire.....Nicknamed “Sweden’s Pompeii” by researchers, Sandby Borg was the site of a mysterious fifth-century massacre. In 2013, Sweden’s Kalmar County Museum and Lund University researchers found the slaughtered remains of its inhabitants. They had been ambushed and butchered by unknown attackers in the middle of the night. Some bodies were “lying by the door as if they were running for the door and people were coming in,” said Helene Wilhelmson, one of the archaeologists. They were not buried, and left in their frozen terrorized state for centuries.It’s possible that the raiders were looking for Roman gold rings and coins found last year at the ring fort. The onion further shows that the people had close links to the Roman Empire...."

Aereal view of Sandby borg with its possible port on the east side of Öland island

Brief History

The first mention of Swedes in History comes in 98 AD from the Roman Tacitus, who calls them Suiones. Jordanes in the sixth century calls them Suehans and Suetidi (the same people but possibly in two divisions).

Indeed the long and narrow island of Öland in the Baltic Sea, close to Sweden's south-eastern coast, in the fourth/fifth century was becoming important as a crossroads for Baltic trade. Commanding it was meaning power and status. Archaeology on the island has shown that the gradual disintegration of the Roman empire has left a large number of former soldiers deposited here. Presumably this was after having followed the trade routes themselves or returning home after having offered themselves for service to Rome, as no Roman outpost had ever been established this far north. These soldiers have probably found that some degree of their experience was required on the island, but they also largely turned their hands to a more pastoral existence.

"Two thousand years ago, Öland was connected to the mainland by the Baltic, and from there to the Mediterranean via established overland trade routes. Ölanders profited greatly from long-distance trade with the rest of Europe. Archaeological excavations and chance finds have turned up hundreds of Roman coins, bronze statues, glass beads, and vessels dating to the first four centuries A.D., when Öland had extensive contact with the Roman Empire. As the empire began to decline, Scandinavian warriors from the islands of Bornholm, Gotland, and Öland found that a set of skills different from what they had sharpened before was now in demand. They had traveled thousands of miles south between A.D. 350 and 500 to work as mercenary bodyguards for the last of the Roman emperors, who paid well to guarantee their loyalty. Ölanders had long brought their wages back to the windswept Baltic island in the form of Roman solidi, gold coins commonly issued in the late empire. The solidi found on the island are distinctive, matching dies that have been uncovered in Rome. “A lot of them are very fresh, in mint condition,” without the characteristic wear of coins that have been passed from hand to hand in trade. “There’s a direct link to Rome, and later to Milan and Arles.”. Andrew Curry, "Archaeology" (

Several massive fortifications known as "borgs" (forts) have been established on the island, with earthen walls and Roman-style gates around 4.5 metres (fifteen feet) that encircle small villages and food stores. These borgs appear to be temporary residences rather than permanent settlements. Around 480 AD one such borg was attacked and defeated, its hundreds of inhabitants brutally executed, some with their mouths stuffed with goat and sheep's teeth. Greeks and Romans both buried warriors with coins in their mouths to pay for their transportation into the afterlife, but Germanic tribes also had a similar practice, suggesting a shared Indo-European origin for the practice. This version, however, seemed to be a parody of that custom.

The bodies were left unburied, rotting where they lied. None of the considerable wealth that was left behind was plundered. Leaving behind such valuable plunder, not only at the time of the massacre, but for every generation afterwards until the settlement was overgrown and hidden by nature, suggests something greater than mere political warfare. It suggests dire warnings against trespass across the generations, with parents instructing their children not to go near the cursed site. Usually only plague sites can generate such an impact, although the cause in this borg's case is still unknown.

"...A three-year-long analysis of the site has revealed the skeletal remains of at least 26 villagers, including those of children. Less than 10 percent of the decayed fort was excavated, so many more bodies may still be waiting to be found. Some skeletons were found in their houses; others were sprawled out on the fort’s main circular street. The positions of the bodies and the nature of their injuries point to a sudden, violent attack. Some were killed instantly, while others took longer to die of their wounds. Traces of half-eaten food, pots still in their hearths, and scattered possessions were also uncovered, suggesting the villagers had no idea what was coming...Incredibly, everything inside the fort—including the bodies—has been left unperturbed since the day of the massacre. “The evidence suggests that no survivors”—if there were any—“or neighbours could, or wanted to, enter the site after the massacre,” write the researchers....." George Dvorsky (

One other theory is that some sort of religious or shamanistic involvement was responsible. Fifth century Romans were mostly Christians, while Scandinavians were all staunchly pagan. If the borg with its large Romanised population has been Christianised and was attempting to 'infect' the rest of the island, the local pagan priests may have been responsible for organising an attack. Orders would have been given that nothing be touched. The priests may themselves may have gone in and taken and destroyed Christian objects, forbidding anyone else from touching anything in the fear that a cross may be found that they had missed. Such priestly commands would be even more unbreakable that a fear of disease.

Sandby borg Roman artifacts and jewerly
Other explanations about the Romanised "Sweden's Pompeii"

The Roman "amber commerce" was done mainly with a route that from ancient Roman Pannonia (actual western Hungary) reached the Baltic sea in the area of Koenisburg (actual Kaliningrad). The Swedish island of Öland is located just in front of this Prussian region and so could have been used by these Roman merchants as a trading outpost located a few miles from ancient Sweden.

Romans used to have for their commerce small outpost in islands facing some distant regions. This was the case of Ireland: in places like Drumanagh (interpreted by some historians to be the site of a possible Roman fort or temporary camp) and Lambay island, some Roman military-related finds may be evidence for some form of Roman presence. The most commonly advanced interpretation is that any military presence was to provide security for traders, possibly in the form of an annual market where Romano-British and Irish met to trade; other interpretations, however, suggest these may be distant Roman trading outposts.

Of course, the Ireland's Drumanagh/Lambay was an outpost that existed from the first to the third century AD during the 'hey day' of the Roman empire, while the possible Öland outpost was in existence in the fourth century. But the outpost could have been initially very little in the first or second century (and still to be fully discovered in future under the ruins of the Borg area). Further archaeological research will help in this matter.

Finally I want to remember that there it is also a remote (but real, IMHO) possibility that the Öland island settlement was linked to the Danish "Roman Client State" that seems to have existed even in the island of Bornholm. Indeed in 2014 Ulla Lund Hansen has written that has been discovered a nice bronze brooch in the Danish island of Bornholm, located in the middle of the Baltic sea and not far from the Poland & Sweden coast.

It was found at the ancient village of "Lavegaard", during the excavation of a Roman settlement on the island of Bornholm, located nearly one hundred miles south of Öland island. She wrote that "Larger excavation is underway, revealing an AFFLUENT ROMAN SOCIETY"...and the archaeologists hope to uncover many well-preserved remnants of this ancient community called Lavegaard. Besides the owl brooch, the archaeologists have found pottery and ancient building materials, postholes marking the sites of ancient houses, along with architectural features such as ovens and hearths (and a cemetery). All evidence of industry in the form of iron smelting or iron extraction and ceramics firing, and several well-preserved metal objects are also preserved...The excavated area now totals more than 5000 m² and so is part of a much larger settlement, which in Roman times would have had direct access to the sea via an inlet, now a wetland located just south of the settlement.In fact, all the evidence suggests that Lavegaard was a rather affluent society in its day.

With easy access to the sea and evidence of industry and coins (dating to AD 161-175) at the site, the inhabitants of Lavegaard could presumably afford to buy and produce valuable jewelry and other objects(read more at "" ). And some valuable Roman jewelry/objects have been found in the borgs of Öland island (see above image). But I have to admit that this explanation seems to be based on a very weak possibility.

Thursday, July 5, 2018


Mexico has not experienced a huge emigration of Italians (like Argentina or the USA, for example), but academics like Benigno Zilli ( calculate that in 2017 nearly one percent of the 123 millions of Mexicans are in some way -directly or remotely- descendants of Italians going back to colonial times.

Thalia Sodi (Mexican singer, songwriter and actress), who is one of the most successful and influential Mexican singers worldwide, has distant Italian roots.

For example, the famous Mexican actress/singer Thalia Sodi is considered a fully Mexican citizen, but her family name is from Italy because her father had a "nonno" (grandfather) born in Firenze (Tuscany) who emigrated to Mexico in the early 1800s.

However many of the actual Italo-mexicans have their "roots" in those who settled from Italy in the XIX century farm "colonias", promoted by the Mexican government in the 1880s. And until 2008 there were little communities in some of these former Mexico's "colonias", where was still spoken the Italian language & dialects: Chipilo, Zentla, Ciudad de Maiz and La Aldana in the capital area (

Indeed in 19th century Mexico, there were several colonization projects, although in the last two decades of this century, these projects involved federal government's establishing national or foreign population nuclei with agricultural settlers. The objectives and policies of this process can be understood by examining the case of the agricultural colonies of Italians established between 1881 and 1882, an issue that has not been studied very well.

Colonization with European people in Mexico was promoted from the beginning of independent life in the country, although the most concrete results were observed in the last two decades of the nineteenth century. The historiography has described the government of Porfirio Diaz (president of Mexico) as the trigger period of these projects.

However, it should be noted that the main federal colonization company, at least numerically speaking, took place between 1881 and 1882, during the government regime of Manuel González. In the cabinet of González he served as Minister of Development Carlos Pacheco, who organized the establishment of agricultural colonies.

Photo of Colonia Italiana Monterrey's members in early 1900s

By the end of the 19th century, immigrants of Latin origin, such as the Spaniards, Italians and French, were the most suitable because they were more adaptable to Mexican culture and conditions. The need to promote colonization with foreigners, mainly Europeans, arises from the conception that throughout the nineteenth century was built (in the Mexican & Latinoamerican society it was called "blanqueamiento" -meaning: "whitening"- of the country's population) around the superiority of the European race with respect to the indigenous race.


Indeed in the first half of the nineteenth century colonization projects were not feasible in Mexico because of the economic shortages suffered by the country, so during this period only colonies of French established in Veracruz (the first in Coatzacoalcos in 1831) stood out and the second in Jicaltepec in 1833), that finally constituted a failure due, among other things, to bad weather in the area and to unhealthiness. Also in the 1850s an Italian model colony was established in Papantla, Veracruz, where "on the other hand, the point at which it had been destined for it became ill and all the colonists who left their fields and moved to a immediate town. "

For the second half of the nineteenth century in Mexico, laws were enacted regarding colonization, such as the provision made by Antonio López de Santa Anna on April 22, 1853, with which the public administration was modified and the Ministry of Public Works was created. Colonization, Industry and Commerce. Likewise, on March 28, 1865, the empire of Maximilian decreed the creation of a colonization board with the following functions: "to study, and propose bills and regulations, regarding colonization, free and at the expense of the immigrants [...] and with regard to the discovery, demarcation and distribution of vacant land ". The main objective was to increase the population with foreign immigrants.

At the end of the 19th century, many immigrant groups entered the country covered by colonization policies although these did not necessarily correspond to the expectations of federal agricultural colonization projects, as many foreign groups were characterized by emigrating to Mexico due to other reasons, under particular projects and sponsorships or migratory chains.

It highlights the immigration of Spaniards, Catalans and Lebanese from 1880, " Cubans between 1868 and 1898, colonies of Mormons established in Chihuahua in 1886, Chinese in Baja California, Jamaicans in Campeche, Angloamericans, Swedes, Norwegians and Germans from Colnett Colony in 1886 and Guatemalans in Chiapas. In the 1890s and the first decades of the 20th century other examples can be identified, such as the Mennonites, in 1922, the immigration of Greeks to Culiacán and the great exodus of Spaniards exiled during the Spanish Civil War.

Among these examples stands out the Italian immigration registered between 1881 and 1882, which is considered as the main project of federal agricultural colonization because in just two years it was possible to bring to the country an approximate number of 2,500 Italians destined to become agricultural settlers. On the one hand, numerically speaking, it was the most important project of the late nineteenth century that occurred in a very short period and, on the other, it was possible to install them in six agricultural colonies that complied with the logistics, policies and governmental expectations of nineteenth-century colonization projects. Even the contemporary press described the project as the "only one that has recently begun under better auspices." The good success of the company, first of all, is to the peace that our republic currently enjoys.

Another important characteristic of the Italians who arrived in Mexico in those years was that they were individuals whose peasant origin had been selected to develop the social function of agricultural settlers in accordance with the expectations of the Mexican government as stipulated in the contracts of colonization and immigration of the time. The characteristics of the establishment of the Italian colonies will be explained below to illustrate the colonizing process.

The familia Melo in 1960 Chipilo (former Colonia Fernández Leal)


As part of the colonization policy, the Mexican government made advertisements in Europe through advertisements in parishes, street signs, press releases and immigration agencies. All this to convince the Italians to move to the country and form agricultural colonies. The immigration companies used agents as intermediaries between them and the population. The immigration agents, who could also work on their own, operated in places with a migratory tradition, went to the bars and fairs and gave speeches to promote the advantages of emigration and the offers made by the companies. They also used colorful pamphlets and posters and published advertisements in newspapers of the time.

The publicity that Mexico used in 1881, especially in the press, had the peculiarity of being endorsed by the Italian government and public opinion. The propaganda about the colonization programs began approximately two months before the date set for the embarkation of the emigrants (at the end of August). During all that time the newspaper notes emphasized the advantages of the trip and, above all, stressed that because it was an agreement made with the Mexican government, the trip and the colonization company were safe. First, the newspaper disclosed the characteristics of the country. For example: Although all kinds of fruits occur in these [tropical] zones, it is not here that the European settler should be established, because the hot and humid temperature does not correspond to his temperament. But the temperate lands are described as a true paradise because in them reigns a continuous spring sweetness.

In another part of the text the following was expressed: "The Mexican people are aware that the era of the revolution is over; a strong government guides the destinies of the country; material well-being, agriculture and trade have already made great progress; peace and tranquility reign - as President Manuel González declared at the opening of the last congress - to the last corner of the country".

In addition, the newspaper published the announcement of the colonization that contained the conditions of boarding, the price of the passage, the characteristics of the ship and the shipping company. In the case of Mexico, Il Raccoglitore broadcast a kind of sign or poster a month before and for ten days in a row that indicated: "Colonizzazione al Messico. Sotto la Sorveglianza del governo Messicano. Linea Livorno - Veracruz. Il vapore di I classe di bandera nazionale 'Atlantico' [...] armatori Dufour and Bruzzo [...] will start on the 31st of August. [...] Prezzi di passagio: II class L. 1000, II class L. 900, III class L. 275. Prezzi ridotto per gli agricoltori che partono pel Messico colle condizioni dalla circolare March 28, 1881 della societá concessionaria G. Rovatti y Cía. Di Livorno; L. 85 fine agli anni 11; L. 42.50 dagli anni 11 ai 2; al di sotto uno gratis per famiglia."

The announcement emphasized that the colonization of Mexico would be under the supervision of the Mexican government. Thus, immigration to Mexico, to Brazil or to any place that was promoted directly by the receiving government was well regarded, unlike the propaganda made by clandestine agents or independent agencies. The rural exodus to Mexico in 1881 was possible, among other things, because Italy received positively the propaganda of Mexican colonization.

As a result of the promotions, in 1881 the first contract was signed between the Mexican government and the Italian immigration house Rovatti y Cía. This company undertook to "dispatch from the Upper Italy to Veracruz a number of 150 families of expert and hardworking farmers from Upper Italy and the Trentino not exceeding 500 people from two years old onwards".

For its part, the Mexican government was obliged to "pay the company Rovatti y Cia or its attorney 75 Mexican pesos for any person over twelve years and 37.50 Mexican pesos for any person under this age and older than two years" . As a result of this agreement, in 1881 the first expedition of Italians left Genoa. The second contract with Rovatti y Cía., In December 1881, established the expedition of at least 800 immigrants. Again the Mexican government was forced to pay 65 Mexican pesos per person for those over twelve years and 32 for those under twelve and over two years.

From these agreements, the Italians arrived in Veracruz on three different trips, were taken to the interior of the republic and formed agricultural colonies in the states of Morelos, Puebla, Veracruz, Federal District and San Luis Potosí.

So, the Mexican government created six agricultural colonies: "Colonia Manuel González", "Colonia Porfirio Díaz", "Colonia La Aldana", "Colonia Diez Gutiérrez" (Ciudad del Maíz), "Colonia Carlos Pacheco" and Chipilo's "Colonia Fernández Leal". Of all these, the only one that remains solid (with its customs and language called "Chipileno") to this day is the one in Chipilo. The other settlers disbanded, mixed and lost their language, customs and other distinctive features.

Here it is their brief description:

Colonia Manuel González. The first of these was established in 1881 at the El Refugio ranch, jurisdiction of Huatusco, in the state of Veracruz. Later, the director of the colony sought to expand it by acquiring the land of the ranch of Socapa, in Huatusco, property of Florencio Suarez. The colony was named "Manuel González" and was formed, approximately, by 428 Italians, as indicated by a telegram received in Veracruz on October 19, 1881: "The Atlantic steam carries 428 people that make up 88 families -45 Trentino families, 19 Lombardia and 24 of the Veneto. " Particularly in this colony, the Italians received lots with an approximate area of ​​ten hectares spread over three different zones, first, second and third quality of the land. Each head of the family signed an individual contract with the federal government. With this document, they not only acquired material goods, obligations and rights, but the foreigner also acquired a new status that in turn gave him a new identity, that is, he would be considered from that moment on as a "settler". which was based mainly on the possession of a small individual property and the obligation to populate a territory. Presumably this type of individual contracts were signed with the foreigners of each of the colonies, since all of them received the same prerogatives at the time and were constituted in similar circumstances and under the same model.

Colonia Porfirio Díaz. The "Porfirio Díaz" colony was another community of Italians that as part of the same colonization project was established in the haciendas of Barreto and San Rafael Temilpa, municipality of Tlaltizapán, district of Cuernavaca in the state of Morelos. The Mexican government bought both haciendas to establish the future colony. The first had a cost of 19,000 pesos with an extension of 2 031 hectares 4 515 square meters. While the second, the Temilpa ranch, it cost 16,000 pesos and its surface measured 10,941 hectares and 7,200 square meters. This included all its annexed ranches: Temilpa, Estacas, San Vicente, El Meco, Chinameca, San Pablo, Atenanquillo and Los Dormidos. Although both haciendas were purchased for the purpose of "colonization," it should be noted that in the large area formed by the two properties, only one colony was located, probably due to the lack of continuity in the colonization project, which demonstrates the failure of the first tests.

Colonia Carlos Pacheco.In the state of Puebla, two more colonies were installed. They were named "Carlos Pacheco" and "Fernández Leal". The first was established in the district of Tlatlauquitepec and the second in Cholula, with 424 individuals. The Carlos Pacheco colony was founded in 1882 on the lands of the Hacienda de Mazatepec and the fraction of the town of Tételes. The hacienda was purchased from the testamentary of Mr. José Joaquín Vargas at a price of 12,000 pesos, while the property acquired in Tételes cost 5420 pesos and had an area of ​​2000000 square yards. Unlike its homologues, this community was composed of families that at one time were part of the other colonies. When arriving at their destination, the immigrants received free transportation, animals and farm tools, an effective daily of 25 cents for each older person and twelve for minors, for two years; however, the amount corresponding to these inputs must be reintegrated within a period not exceeding ten years. Finally, each head of the family was given an amount of five hectares of labor and, free of charge, a plot for the construction of the house. When the Italians began to emigrate from the colony, Mexican settlers were allowed to sell the land at fifteen pesos per hectare of labor and at fifteen pesos a lot to build their room. For the Mexican heads of family, ministrations and free transportation were suspended.

Colonia Fernández Leal.Better known as "Chipilo", the Fernández Leal colony was also established in the state of Puebla; as its current name indicates, it was established on the grounds of the Chipiloc estate. In the same way as the previous ones, in this community the colonists received the same prerogatives and had to fulfill the same obligations established in the individual contract; however, they were also allowed to extend their social networks by going to work to the nearest haciendas or ranches. As was so often the case, the promoters of the emigration programme oversold it and the emigrants arrived to find themselves in a situation that was nowhere near their expectations nor what they were used to. But they persevered, and changed from growing crops (hard in the dry and never-before-ploughed land they were stuck with) to raising cattle and specializing in dairy products. Over the next couple of decades, some more Italians from Veneto came and they kept on building up despite the tough circumstances and the community even survived a close call with Emiliano Zapata's forces during the Mexican Revolution (a multi-sided, decade-long civil war when roving armies of all sides would often loot, murder and rape to the extent that many small communities didn't recover; just the sort of thing these Italians had left Europe to get away from - In fact, Zapata's approach helped preserve the Venetian dialect in Chipilo, as residents "circled the wagons" in defence and closed themselves off from the surrounding community for years to come, preventing assimilation with the society around them. (At the time, most of the villages around Chipilo still spoke Nahuatl rather than Spanish.)

Colonia La Aldana.The "Aldana" colony was the smallest in number of inhabitants. It was founded in 1883 in the Hacienda de la Ascensión and land of the School of Agriculture, municipality of Azcapotzalco, in the Federal District. It was a very small group because it was established on the school grounds but it was decided so that the students could learn labor disciplines, crops and foreign agricultural techniques. Between 1880 and 1895, the National School of Agriculture passed from the Ministry of Public Instruction to depend on the Ministry of Development, it is clear that Carlos Pacheco, minister of development and in charge of regulating colonization, decided to install the colony near the "Campus" as strategy to develop a complementary project between colonization and agricultural instruction.

Colonia Diez Gutiérrez.Finally, the colony of San Luis Potosí or "Diez Gutiérrez" was established in 1882, twelve leagues from Ciudad del Maíz, head of the party that had the same name at that time. It was installed with approximately 87 Italian families on lands of the Ojo de León ranch that were owned by the Arguinzóniz family, whose members were part of the state's political class. This was a colony anchored in an isolated place and seemed to become hermetic; however, as has been demonstrated, through historiography on immigration, it was part of a very broad colonization project promoted and developed by the government, planned over time and with analogous communities, including in South America.

Photo of Italo-Mexicans Chipilo students in 2015

Additionally we must remember that there were other "Colonias italianas" in Mexico created by private emigrants without government support, like the one in Monterrey (see above photo) and in "Nueva Italia" and "Lombardia" (both created in Michoacán by Dante Cusi, an Italian entrepreneur).

Indeed in 1909 an Italian immigrant to Mexico named Don Dante Cusi (from Brescia in northern Italy) founded the town of 'Nueva Italia' (“New Italy”) in the state of Michoacan as a colony for Italian immigrants. Nueva Italia was an early success, developing the largest irrigation system in all of Latin America and becoming the leading producer of cotton, rice, melon and maize in Mexico. Dante Cusi also founded nearby the town of 'Lombardia', which is today the seat of government of the municipality of Gabriel Zamora also in the state of Michoacan.

Many of the Italian immigrants to these communities in Mexico came from northern Italy, mainly during the traumatic years of Italy's unification. Later Italian immigrants to Mexico in the late 19th and 20th Centuries would be more from the south. Most settled in central Mexico and in coastal areas. Some of the first groups came during the short-lived second Mexican Empire of Emperor Maximilian who had previously been the last Austrian Viceroy of Lombardy-Venetia. Things were often difficult for the first to settle, but over time they prospered and today Italo-Mexicans enjoy a very high status in Mexican society.

Despite the existence of various spontaneous or induced migratory flows, the immigration of Italians to the country is a particular case that clearly illustrates the colonization process of the 19th century because it was a project that fulfilled all the requirements imposed by the government to carry out the company and that discloses the expectations of the Mexican government, the Italian government and the settlers themselves. From the documentation that there is in this respect it is possible to identify how the political elite of the country tried to solve the economic, agrarian and demographic problems when receiving hundreds of foreign families.

Colonization with foreigners was not exclusive to Mexico. Different countries of South America (from Argentina to Brasil and others) also established agricultural colonies following similar patterns to each other. Latin American colonization projects seem to be linked because they have the same origin: economic and demographic crises of Europe, the international propaganda of colonization and the liberal and positivist thinking of the political elites.

Monday, June 4, 2018


The initial phase of colonialism done by the newly created "Kingdom of Italy" in the last decades of the XIX century were full of difficulties. Italy had no experience like the French and British colonial powers and the first steps were not easy to do, as happened in the Benadir region around Mogadishu. The five ports of Benadir (Chissimaio/Kismayu, Brava/Baraawa, Merca/Marka, Mogadiscio/Mogadishu & Uarsheik/Warsheik) were initially controlled by an Italian private company: the "Filonardi compagnia" (later "Benadir company"). Only in 1905, the Benadir Company's concession was revoked and for the first time the Italian government took direct control over the Benadir and created the colony of "Somalia" (with surrounding territories; read

An interesting essay about these first approaches has been written by Scott Rhymer in his "THE RELUCTANT IMPERIALIST: ITALIAN COLONIZATION IN SOMALIA". The following are some excerpts, related to the Benadir area:

Map showing the Benadir in dark green and the Benadir coast cities of Somalia in early 1900s

Italy (just one decade after the unification) in the 1870s had emphasized exploration over commerce in North and East Africa. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, the missions of various explorers like Orazio Antinori, Odoardo Beccari, Pietro Antonelli, Giuseppe Giulietti, and Antonio Cecchi (who would later play a prominent role in creating the Italian colony in Somalia) provided a surge of writings on the area, yet never reached the fevered popularity that similar works saw in England and France. Backed by groups like Italian Geographic Society, or the African Geographic and Commercial Exploration Society, these explorers traveled extensively in the Horn of Africa and the interior of the Sudan and Ethiopia. Missionary activity involving Italians was never as sweeping as that of the other colonial powers, nor did it serve as a lightning rod for imperialist ambitions. Nearly exclusively Catholic, Italian missionaries were more concerned with the spiritual “colonization” of the Africans. In fact, the animosity between the Church and the new Italian government served to work against the imperial aspirations of the government throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; Italian missionaries were oft harsh critics of imperial aspirations, and later of the policies of the Italian colonial administrations.

The real voices for colonization were the explorers, many of whom were supported by the Italian African Society, whose first colonial conference was in Naples in early 1885, coinciding with the Berlin Conference. The Italian African Society's interest in colonies paralleled that which swept through Europe in the wake of the Berlin Conference. Pamphlets and books on the subject flooded the market, including in Italy. Most were blatantly nationalistic and emotional on the issue; colonies were seen as a necessity to the modern Great Power, a club to which the Italian government desperately wanted membership. Writers like Pasquale Turiello and Alfredo Oriani advocated the use of force, but were a minority on the issue. Most writers favored alliances with existing colonial powers, and/or peaceful commercial expansion.

The Berlin Conference marked the turning point in the Scramble for Africa. By delimiting spheres of influence, the European powers confirmed gains made through exploration and commercial adventurism, and laid out a plan for how the Powers would carve up those regions as yet unexploited.... ….The conference also addressed the obligations of the powers in Africa.

Humanitarian groups had pushed for various platforms to be included in the Berlin Conference, including the most pressing - the abolition of the slave trade in Africa. Some attempt was made to also abolish the trade and sale of liquor in Africa, but a binding resolution on the matter did not surface (as Germany's main export to Africa was hard liquor.) Also, a prohibition on the sale of modern weaponry and ammunition was floated and passed by the conference, ostensibly to protect the natives, but much more likely to protect the intended colonists. Disappointingly, Italy had been left out of the partitioning process. No territories had been specifically laid out for them, including their Eritrean colony. The omission, in the aftermath of the Tunis incident, was ominous; it was also a slight to the prestige and importance of Italy, herself. Germany, a nation younger and more fragmented than Italy, had been given concessions. The slight was enough to convince the prime minister, Crispi, that the time for a more robust colonial policy was in order.

The Berlin Conference had left the Horn of Africa wide open for exploitation. The Conventional Free Trading Area in East Africa abutted the region, but sections of Somalia, and more importantly, the kingdom of Ethiopia, were excluded from the agreement. Somalia's strategic importance to the Eritrean colony was grasped by many Italian imperialists; the country provided another border with Ethiopia--the ancient and still powerful independent kingdom on the highlands abutting Eritrea and Somalia. Ethiopia had grabbed the imagination of many an explorer after the legendary city's discovery by Richard F. Burton in 1854.

European explorers and diplomats gradually opened the kingdom to the world, even touching off a conflict between Britain and Abyssinia in 1868. The area had been invaded by the khedive of Egypt in 1875, but he had withdrawn his troops in 1884 with the rise of the Mahdi in the Sudan.
The withdrawal of the troops from Ethiopia and garrisons along the coastline provided the first real opportunity for Italian colonial ambitions in Africa. The then-foreign minister, Pasquale Mancini, was pushing for Italian entre into the Scramble for Africa, despite heavy anti-colonial feelings in the country and government. His reasoning: to find "outlets for the emigration that has now attained alarming heights." Mancini already had a plan for occupying the whole of the Eritrean coast, including Massawa, a former British/Egyptian garrison town recently abandoned to shift troops to engage Madhist forces in the Sudan. The creation of this Eritrean colony would supply an access point to the interior for trade in Ethiopia. Ethiopian riches, something of a fiction (based heavily on the descriptions of Burton) when looked at from European terms of wealth, was the center point to the Mancini plan for colonization.

At about the same time, Antonio Cecchi (1849-96) enters the picture. His 1876 expedition had surveyed the area from Zeila to the Kaffa region of southern Ethiopia. An ardent imperialist, he plied the foreign ministry with extensive reports on the economic possibilities of Northeast Africa. Throughout the early 1880s, he traveled in Somalia and published accounts of his travels along the Benadir, the Somali coastline. Cecchi's colonial aspirations matched those of Mancini, who foresaw an Italian trading sphere in Northeast Africa, embracing Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. By controlling the Benadir coast of Somalia and Eritrea, the Italians could effectively control trade to Ethiopia. This would also stop French activity in the Red Sea (one of the concerns that prompted the Italians to take official control of Assab) and would position them to make themselves useful to the British against the Mahdi. Mancini was only partially successful. Internal troubles occupied much of the deputies' attention, and his colonial ambitions were tertiary to their debates. The Italians were able, however, to occupy Massawa in February of 1885.

British and Egyptian troops had been withdrawn from the garrisons in the town and retasked to confront the threat from the Mahdi, following the infamous killing of the governor of the Sudan, Charles Gordon. The Italian move sparked an official protest from the khedive in Cairo, but after some wrangling with the British (on behalf of the khedive) the Italians were allowed to hold the area.

Antonio Cecchi's Dream

The ports of the Benadir were another matter. The coastline of East Africa, the so-called Conventional Free Trading Area, was under the suzerainty of the sultan of Zanzibar, Said Bargash. The Benadir ports of Kismayu, Brava, Merca, Mogadishu, and Warsheik, as well as the sultanates of Obbia and Mijjertein, were part of this area and were under the de facto protection of the British.

The ports had a long history going back to Ibn Battuta, who saw gloriously rich commercial ports in his travels, but by this time, the once-great cities were long past their prime. The wealth had long ago been drained by Arab traders to Oman, the sultan of which had held command over the region, on and off, since 1698. Arabs living and trading on the coast had intermarried with the Somali, but there was a definite break between the Arabs and the Somali; internecine fighting was common, and it was not until 1823 that the Omani tried to exert their power over the area. Sultan Seyyid Said had moved his court to Zanzibar in 1840, and looked to extend his control to the coast. Although he was able to get acknowledgment of his sovereignty from the Arabs and Somali at Mogadishu, he could not truly exert any real power over the area until 1842, primarily through tax collection.

Tax collectors aside, the real power in Mogadishu, a busy port of five thousand souls, was the sultan of Geledi. A Zanzibari military outpost set up in 1871 under wali (governor) Selim Yaqub, but he had to pay tribute to Geledi's Ahmed Yusuf (ostensibly Zanzibar's subordinate.) The wali system slowly eroded the sultan's direct power; many of the governors worked hand in hand with local sultans or chiefs.

An example of the collapse of Zanzibari control occurred in 1882. Mijjertein, one of the local sultanates in Somalia, was having internal troubles and had run maritime trade & salvage on Cape Guardafui to fill its coffers. Yusuf Ali, a brother of then Sultan Osman Mahmud, was wali overseeing the salvage operations, and had been keeping goods and profits from the sale of the same to himself. Zanzibar protested his actions and threatened Ali, but in the end he would be bought off. The trouble between the sultan and Ali did not end there, however, and the latter established himself at Obbia as sultan and an independent ruler. Talk of war between the two rulers was bandied about, and a peace treaty signed in 1884 did not end the trouble.

Into the Somali theater came Antonio Cecchi, dispatched by Mancini to survey the area of the Juba River and determine the state of the countryside vis-a-vis commerce and agriculture. Until that time, European activity in the area had been spotty since the 1500s, when the Portuguese would stop at Mogadishu to trade. The English landing parties throughout the early part of the 1800s were raided and driven off by the Somali, save for the Burton expedition in 1854 (although his first try met with resistance and failure.) The Indian (colonial) government continued to survey the coast, but Burton's successors in the country would be French and German explorers traveling the area in the 1860s.

Cecchi's work in Somalia in 1884-85 began with a visit to Zanzibar and its possessions on the Juba River. His assignment to the area had been motivated by his 1876 expedition, the reports from which Cecchi had enthused about the Juba region and the opportunities it presented for trade and colonization. Accompanied by Commander Matteo Fecarotta of the waship Barbarigo, Cecchi had also instructed to negotiate commercial agreements with Sultan Said Bargash; talk of colonization or white settlement in general was to be avoided. To aid them in gaining an audience with the sultan, and in their negotiations, Cecchi and Fecarotta relied on the most influential of the few Italians trading in Zanzibar, Vincenzo Filonardi.

Filonardi was a trader in cloves and had been a fixture in the region since the opening of the Suez Canal. Supported by the Italian Society for trade with Africa, he operated in the area and had by 1884 managed to gain a loan from the Bank of Rome and other Roman friends to create the "Vincenzo Filonardi e Compagnia" with a starting capital of 180,000 lire.

At the time of Cecchi's arrival on the island, his trade was about 233,000 lire (approximately $50,000) a year, quite a sum for the period. He would be so helpful that Cecchi would recommend him to the post of Italian consul in the sultanate. The April 30 meeting with the sultan began well. Said Bargash was willing to negotiate a cession of Kismayu and other Benadir ports, but within days court intrigue by the German diplomats, led by explorer Carl Peters, looked to exclude Italy. Cecchi was convinced by the middle of May that the sultan would not cede territory; the German and Arab interests had effectively shut them out. The commercial treaty, however, was a success and Cecchi returned to Italy after a desultory exploration of the coast in Barbarigo and continued to pressure for governmental efforts to tap Somalian trade.

The Italians weren't the only target of Peter's aggressive actions in Zanzibar. The bookish-looking Peters, representing the "German Company for Colonization", had secretly been signing treaties with tribesmen all through the countryside of what would become Kenya and Tanganyika--from Lake Victoria across the savannah to Kilimanjaro. His plan was simple: to get the treaties, raise the German flag, and bluff the sultan of Zanzibar with naval might if he should oppose their actions. The British consul, John Kirk, and the chairman of the East Africa Association, William Mackinnon, had pressed the sultan to refuse the Germans their concessions on the coast, but a task force of German warships forced a protectorate on the sultan. An Anglo-Franco-German commission formed quickly to decide the extent of the sultan's coastal holdings, and those areas were delimited into German and British spheres of influence. Peters got what he wanted, but had been outmaneuvered by Lord Salisbury's government. The German East Africa Company got the areas it had already acquired, but were not boxed in on the north and south by British spheres of influence.

The Benadir ports that the Italians were so interested in, were included in this treaty, signed December 4, 1886. Although it fell under their sphere of influence, the British seemed unconcerned with the Benadir. Forced into carving up his possessions, the sultan began looking to play the Europeans one off the other. Remembering the German maneuvering to exclude the Italians from Somalia, the sultan indulged his dislike of the Germans and allowed Filonardi to begin pressing for concessions to Italy to spite them. In September, Said Bargash offered Italy the Kismayu concession, an offer similar to the one he had made to Cecchi before the meddling of the Germans. The sultan had learned that Somali had been refusing to aid Germans attempting to trade or explore in the area, and he saw this as an opportunity to break German hold over his coastal territories.

Filonardi reported on Oct 20, 1886 that the sultan "...would be pleased if Italy took possession of the Somali region [and]...would support it wholeheartedly." The offer, however, was declined by the Italian government.

Crispi, despite his pro-imperial stance, had to deal with a Parliament which refused to use force to make colonial policy. The sultan withdrew his offer for Italy to assume control of the Benadir. Negotiations would continue from 1887-93 for a cession of the Benadir ports, but more from the standpoint of trade. Filonardi saw the possibility of a concession as an opportunity to expand his trade in the area, and worked to keep Italian interest up.

Seeing the lack of will to use force to wield in the area, Filonardi speculated that Italy would have to operate in concert with the British or Germans. Since relations between Italy and Britain had been strong since the Risorgimento, and Anglo-Italian cooperation had already succeeded in the creation of the Eritrean colony, Filonardi viewed them as the preferable choice.

Problems in the concession negotiations were often due to misunderstandings or missteps on the part of the Italians. The death of Said Bargash on May 15, 1888 was one of these mistakes, combining both elements. Filonardi was to present the new sultan, Said Khalifa, with a letter of introduction from the king of Italy, but the month of Ramadan had suspended all official business. Filonardi's letter warning of the presentation had not been responded to. Informing the new British consul, Charles Euan-Smith, that the sultan had deliberately insulted the king, Filonardi suggested an appropriate apology should include the ceding of Kismayu to Italy.

Filonardi's impatience is understandable: his business had grown to about one million lire a year, 87 percent of which was clove trade. If he were able to enter into trade in Somalia, he might stand to gain the addition of another million in capital from his investors in Rome. His zeal caused him to stumble in a meeting with the sultan on June 5, 1888, when he demanded the unconditional cession of Kismayu in apology for the insult to Italy. The sultan had protested that the slight had been unintentional and wished to send a letter of apology. He wisely refused to cede the port town, and Filonardi lowered the Italian flag at the consulate the next morning, severing official ties with Zanzibar. The gamble was a failure. Both British and German consuls backed the sultan and the British went so far as to suggest that they would defend Kismayu from Italian aggression. Bismarck had no problem with an Italian concession freely given, but "Germany would not remain indifferent if that locality were to pass into Italian hands by violent means." Italy would not be able to stand against these powers; any colonial enterprise would have to take place under the aegis of cooperation with one power or the other.

The Imperial British East Africa and the Italian Company

As mentioned before, the Italians had been tightening their relationship with Britain over this time, having started with the Eritrean issue. Central to success of the Italian's goals in Zanzibar was William MacKinnon, chairman of East African Association. Following the dust-up over the German East Africa Company's moves on the East African coast, the Lord Salisbury had turned to MacKinnon to handle the East African Association was granted. In exchange for an annual rent equal to the customs receipts of the area, the EAA would handle the administration of what became Kenya. The concession had spurred Her Majesty's government to issue MacKinnon a royal charter, allowing the EAA to incorporate as the Imperial British East Africa Company (hereafter IBEA.)

The IBEA's main competition was the German East Africa Company (GEAC). Despite large capital infusions, IBEA could not operate a concession on the Kenyan coast and in the Benadir. Cooperation between Filonardi and the Italians on one side, IBEA and the British on the other side would be mutually beneficial. On August 2, 1888, Mackinnon addressed the IBEA opining that " the undertaking to civilise [sic] East Africa England would have the co-operation not only of German but also of a young Nation which demonstrates itself to be the heir to the wisdom and vigour [sic] of Rome." The Italian charge d'affair in London, Tommaso Catalani, also informed Prime Minister Crispi that the IBEA plan had the support of Lord Salisbury, the prime minister.

Mackinnon's plan for rapprochement between Italy and the sultan was to obtain a fifty-year concession for the IBEA on the Benadir ports, with full administrative powers and right similar on to that on the coastal strip. The company would then transfer control of the ports to an Italian East Africa Company, sponsored by the Italian government, with terms identical to the original concession. Kismayu and the adjoining Juba River would be under joint control, with the river as the boundary between British and Italian spheres of control. Crispi consulted Cecchi, at that time the consul to Aden, on the plan. The explorer was unenthusiastic, particularly over the condominium of Kismayu, and a lingering distrust over possible British involvement in his 1885 failure to secure a concession. Additionally, no Italian East Africa Company existed - the most likely candidate to handle the concession was V. Filonardi e Compagnia. Cecchi's concerns, and his discussions with Filonardi of the situation, revolved around the possible competition with the British company. Co-existence in Kismayu could hamper Filonardi's ability to raise the capital necessary to the venture.

However, before action could be taken on the plan, Said Khalifa announced a refusal to grant any more concessions in his territories. In addition to his ire and fear of the Germans and other European powers, Zanzibari Arab traders were opposed to the concessions - particularly to the aggressive GEAC - which broke their monopoly on trade on the coastline. Their animosity was exacerbated by attempts by the British consul at pressing for the restrictions mandated by the Berlin Conference on slavery and arms trading in the region. On top of this, anti-German uprisings had broken out on the coast in August 1888, and all parties waited to see what the end result would be. Crispi and Salisbury both decided to wait until the trouble passed and the time was more advantageous before broaching the subject again with the sultan.

Future cooperation with Italy on the Benadir matter was promised from IBEA director George Mackenzie and Consul-General to Zanzibar Euan-Smith, and Mackinnon continued to be actively supportive, but there was a catch: the Italians wanted Cecchi withdrawn from Zanzibar. The British found his reports overly-enthusiastic, his manner bombastic; he also had misled the foreign ministry on events in Zanzibar. Mackinnon wanted to get the project on track. He had had a vision of a massive East African and Zanzibar Company, including capital of £50 million, but the crown would not support the scale of his scheme. The Italians were necessary to realize his East African plan, even to a smaller extent, and he was eager to help them gain their concession. The Italians acceded to the British demands and Cecchi was quickly reassigned to survey the Benadir coast.

Without Cecchi upsetting the sultan (as he had with his predecessor) and stalling the British negotiations, the IBEA was able to gain a new concession in October 9, 1888--the coastal areas were transferred to the IBEA with the power to levy taxes, regulate trade, and appoint administrative officers; courts and administration needed to be conducted in the name of the sultan and under his flag. Having won the concession on the coast within the British sphere of influence, work then began on wresting a Benadir concession. The initial negotiations were heartening and it looked as if the agreement would signed by December. So confident were the parties in the speed of the negotiations that Catalani had signed an agreement for the subcontracting of the Benadir to the Italian company on the December 8, 1888. The document was predated Aug. 1, 1888.

Almost as if on queue, Cecchi arrived once more in Zanzibar from his survey mission with an alternate plan for a peaceful concession or an occupation of Kismayu by force. Cecchi's proposals were in response to the widening revolts against the Germans on the coast, and he had (mis)seen the opportunity to oust the Germans for good. The addition of the irksome Cecchi into the mix, however, derailed the concession. The sultan had been on the verge of signing the treaty and Cecchi was called to accept a letter to the Italian king. Cecchi claimed the sultan had been insolent, refused to accept the letter...the letter with the agreement to the concession. The sultan, understandably offended, still tried to send the letter through the British consul. London, which had been concerned with the Italian moves in Eritrea and the Sudan, used Cecchi's move to stall on the concession. The agreement between the sultan and the IBEA would not be signed for another seven months.

Despite the break in progress in the talks in Zanzibar, the Italian colonial moves had not slowed. A crisis in the northeast of Somalia created opportunity, where Yusuf Ali, the sultan of Obbia, had arrived in Zanzibar to request the protection of Italy. A dispute between the sultans of Obbia and Zanzibar regarding a little village, Mrurti, near Zanzibari-held Warsheik had spurred Ali to turn to the Italians to support his claim. Filonardi recognized the opportunity to strengthen their position in the area and informed Crispi so. Crispi immediately ordered a naval response, attempting to head off 26 French naval vessels thought to have been heading for the problem area (but in actuality to survey a Russian expedition at Tadjoura), "for the purpose of declaring the Italian protectorate, and, according to the circumstances, to proceed to the effective occupation of territory." Filonardi left for Obbia at the end of January, and by February 8, Yusuf Ali had placed his sultanate under Italian protection for an annual subsidy of 1200 Maria Theresa thalers.

Filonardi then headed to Aden to report the situation to Cecchi--who had once again been reassigned--and the British authorities, before returning to Obbia two weeks later. There he found Arab merchants, upset over losing their trade monopoly, had been stirring up insurrection against the sultan. Filonardi's popularity with the Somali, however, helped to quell a possible rebellion and Yusuf Ali, grateful for Italian aid, convinced his son, sultan Osman Mahmud of Mijjertein to accept an Italian protectorate. The negotiations were not immediately successful, but an agreement was reached on April 7 that was similar to the Obbia one, just with an increase of subsidy to 1800 thalers. Yusuf Ali, of course, had to be compensated the same amount. The Berlin Conference signatory powers were informed of the protectorates over Obbia and Mijjertein on Mar. 2 and May 16 respectively.

The Italian press barely covered the incident, and only the nationalistic La Nazione in Florence mentioned the possibilities of the Obbia for a coaling stations and blockading the slave trade. The Germans, however, were upset by the turn of events, and newspapers like Kreuz Zeitung felt that Italy owed Germany some form of compensation; Kölnische Zeitung suggested Germany had prior claims in the area. However, there were no existing treaties with the rulers. In fact, the Germans had been offered a protectorate over Mijertein in 1885, but the offer had been ignored.

The Italian versions of the Treaty of Uccialli, negotiated by Gen. Antonio Baldissera after the occupation of the Eritrean hinterland on the Ethiopian border, set the stage for future problems for Italy. In that version, which was to solve problems over the border between Italian protectorates and Ethiopia, established protectorates not just over Obbia and Mijjertein, but Ethiopia as well. The underhanded means of extending Italian influence convinced the British of the need for delimitation between Italian and British spheres of influence, to prevent just such an 'interpretation' of the boundaries between the two colonial enterprises. Filonardi met with Mackinnon at the IBEA offices in London to approve a draft agreement on the Ethiopian issue, as well as the Juba/Kismayu line of demarcation. The British were firm on the condominium over Kismayu, a situation that made Filonardi uncomfortable. Nevertheless, the agreement was signed on Aug. 3, 1889 (see Appendix I.) Four weeks later, Said Khalifa signed the concession of the 33 Benadir ports to the IBEA.

Crispi's imperialistic policies appeared to be a success. By November 15, 1889, Italians held a protectorate over the east coast of Africa from the northern boundary of the territory of Kismayu to the parallel 2 30' of north o latitude. The northern border of the new protectorate ended in the north at the border of the Obbia protectorate; the whole of Somalia from the Juba to Cape Guardafui.

Crispi's enthusiasm was premature. The British parliament still had to approve the deal. Lord Salisbury has concerns about the fourth clause, setting out the boundaries between British and Italian areas. The deed of transfer was signed November 18, 1889, but Foreign Office concerns over the exact borders caused negotiations on the issue to continue into 1891, when the demarcation was finalized. Despite the agreement being concluded, the 35 actual transfer of the Benadir ports did not occur for another four years. Changes in the governments of Italy and Zanzibar continually held up the transfer of the ports from the IBEA to an Italian Company's control.

Horse-trading between France, England, and Germany settled the shape of European control over eastern Africa in this period. Britain took on Zanzibar as a protectorate in November 4, 1890, and this event allowed the British to move along on establishing the sphere of influence of Italy. Filonardi, meanwhile, visited the two protectorates and the Benadir enclaves in December 1889 and May 1890. He provided the sultan of Obbia with gifts of rifles and cartridges to defend against his anti-Italian elements. His visits included the first made by an Italian vessel, HMV Volta, at Warsheik, where the first Italians were killed by hostile Somali. In March, 1891, Filonardi took possession of the area from Warsheik to Obbia and began surveying the area for a suitable port of operations. Local chiefs suggested el-Athaleh, and Filonardi agreed, renaming the town Itala. To avoid troubles like those at Warsheik, he stationed a garrison of eighty Arab ashkari in the town. In Mogadishu, he signed multiple treaties of friendship with local leaders.

Crispi's government fell in February 1891 and the new prime minister, Antonio di Rudini, came to power. His slogan of "stay at home" describes well his attitude toward colonialism; he was much more concerned with the poor economic conditions in Italy. The expense of colonization was already too high in his opinion, but the desire to remain close to Britain required him to continue work on the delimitation of the spheres of influence in Somalia. On March 24, 1891, diRudini and Lord Duferin signed the agreement, dividing the spheres in the middle of the Juba River from the Indian Ocean to 6 N, then along to longitude 35 E. Kismayu remained in British hands. oo The Italians had only to notify the new sultan, Said Ali, of the new protocol, fix the amount of the annual rent, and to form an Italian East African company. After the disastrous relations with Said Khalifa, the Italians were understandably nervous about dealing with the new sultan. However, the new ruler was completely under the thumb of the British and the acting-consul, Cottoni, found Said Ali was neither interested in the arrangements and had little knowledge of even where the areas involved in the concession were. He was, however, terribly interested in the rents that could be squeezed from the Italians for the Benadir ports.

Discussions about the rent took place in December 1892. First an assessment of the annual trade of the ports had to be estimated. The sultan's representative used documents to prove Zanzibar received 235,102 rupees for the year ending in May 1892, but that it had been a poor one due to disease. Using this, he asked for a rent of 235,000 plus 50 percent of the customs. The Italian acting-consul countered with 79,000 thalers (about 168,000 rupees.) The sultan brought up an offer by an Indian merchant offering the sultan 200,000 rupees for the concession. After much haggling, the amount of 200,00 for the first year, with 160,000 rupees annually afterward was agreed to. In August 12, 1892, the concession of the Benadir ports to Italy was signed. Italy now had clear title to all of Somalia.

Yet another government in Italy, that of Giovanni Giolitti, began negotiations with Filonardi to take charge of the concession. Giolitti was not in favor of colonial adventurism. Italy was suffering through another depression, and Africa was the first place that the new prime minister turned to in order to cut expenses. His foreign minister, Benedetto Brin, for this reason worked to postpone the approval of concession by the Italian parliament. Cottoni warned that the British might choose to farm out the concession to an Indian merchant, Kanji Ranchipur, if they did not move. Brin's response was vague, that he favored the status quo.

In December, the British agent in Zanzibar lost patience. He opined that the issue should be postponed to allow the Italians to put their house in order. The ambassador in Rome was more direct: Italy's lack of surety "...has, it appears, brought about an absolute cessation of trade, the loss consequent on which is already severely felt by the Zanzibari Government, and will also ultimately be injurious to Italy, if the King's government should decide to take up the concession." The result was to push Brin into action; the Italian ambassador in London suggested that postponement could not continue indefinitely. In March, Said Ali died and his successor, Said Hamed, though willing to grant a concession, was disturbed by the Italian procrastination and reduced the initial concession to a three-year period.

At the same time, Filonardi had made his first overture to the government. He could gain 1.5 million in lire from Credit Mobiliare if he could gain a government subsidy of 300,000 lire annually for twenty-five years. Tornielli did not like the idea of a subsidy, but Filonardi was backed by Cecchi, who also provided inflated and imaginative descriptions of the commercial opportunities of the Benadir and Somalia. On May 15, 1893, Brin and Filonardi signed the contract for administration of the Benadir with a government subsidy of 300,000 lire and an additional 50,000 for Itala. The Filonardi Company was to deliver the subsidy to Yusuf Ali and Osman Muhmud. The Italian government also had to agree to a 50,000 rupee penalty, should they abandon the concession within the period of three years; double that if they decamped in the event of war, and went into effect July 16, 1893.

Despite the stalling of the Italians, the IBEA administrator in Kismayu, Robert Simons, had been conducting treaties with the Somali chiefs in the territory that was to be Italian. Simons signed these treaties on standard IBEA forms, but wrote "This document to be exchanged later on for one duly signed by Italian authorities." Wherever "Imperial British East Africa Company" appeared, Simons wrote in "Royal Italian East Africa Company." His signature was slugged, "on behalf of the Royal Italian Company, by authority of Sig. Brusuti, Acting Italian Consul at Zanzibar."

With everything in place at long last, in September 1893, Filonardi arrived to take possession of the Benadir ports for the Kingdom of Italy.

The Filonardi Company (1893-1896)

1. An Uncertain Undertaking

Foreign Minister Brin had made it clear to the Filonardi that the Italian government wanted neither financial nor military liability in the colony; he was specifically instructed "...not [to] entail any financial burden for the State Exchequer..." The example of the IBEA, which has been seen aided in the 1 creation of the "Royal Italian East Africa Company," was an inspiration to Filonardi in his administration. That the cost to the home country could be transferred to private enterprise by having the colony administered by charter company had many examples. It was something the British had been doing since the creation of the chartered companies that ran the affairs of the American colonies, in the 1600s, or the East India Company. Even though the EIC had been dismantled in 1859 and the British crown had taken direct control of affairs on the subcontinent, the preferred method of doing imperial business in Africa was the chartered company. It was a model that the other European powers had been following on the Dark Continent. Brin's instructions to Filonardi included the following: all treaties that the concessioner made had to be approved by the government - partially to keep a tight control on the purse strings. Italian law was to be applied to Italian nationals, native law (the Muslim Shari'a) for the Somali and Arab population. Native law was an issue to be put aside for the time being; Brin and others in Rome felt the matter could be studied in the event of a permanent concession--showing even with the adoption of the colony Italy's lack of surety in the enterprise. Another example of the lack of trust in the mission, begun just before the concession, was approved by the Italian government, was the appointment of Count and Lieutenant Giovanni Lovatelli to study the Benadir situation and report to Rome. Until this point, the main source of information for the government on Somalia had been through either Cecchi or Filonardi, both men having reasons for favoring colonization made their reports suspect to Brin. Other than these two architects of the colony, the only recent information came from a mission sent to introduce Italian influence in Somalia under Commander Giorgio Sorrentino. He put together an extensive report on the population, their customs, and political situation in the port areas, as well as on the opportunities for trade. He found no political unity, each tribe ruled by local chiefs or sultans. Trade in Merca was almost nonexistent, disease was rife in Brava.

Lovatelli had been a liaison with the IBEA at Kismayu, and had been a member of several expeditions under the guise of that company. He had even saved the life of the British consul during combat with Somali at a trading station. His report declared the company's likelihood for success was aided by its small size, and pointed out that the larger companies, like the IBEA and the German East African Company were having difficulties. The German company, in particular, had gone bankrupt and only after reforming as a purely commercial enterprise had it been successful.

His assessment of the companies based solely on capital does not explain the troubles of these companies, rather it was more likely the nature of the rule they imposed. The IBEA had a much more stable political and commercial situation, having followed the East India Company model of allowing native custom and civil law to continue without interruption, focusing almost solely on trade and some level of defense, and allowing the civilizing mission of the natives to missionary endeavors. The German governance in East Africa, much like in Cameroon, Togo, and elsewhere was intensely invasive; white settlers and military interfered much more with the day-to-day lives of the natives, and brutality of the type frequently attributed to colonial rule in the works of later historians was much more likely to occur in those areas. This is covered, to a certain extent, in Lovatelli's recommendation that "...the Filonardi Company [should]...let matters stand as they are...reforms and change would only arouse the distrust of the natives..." The Somali, in general, he found amenable to Italian administration, save for Arab traders who viewed the loss of their trade monopoly as devastating. This disposition would aid the company in its work, Lovatelli thought, but he also thought them "...not men, but children, and it is necessary to treat them as such."

2. Concerns

Another area of concern was the dislike imparted to Lovatelli of Abu Bakr bin Oudh, Filonardi's interpreter, by a Somali sheik Faki Addu. The interpreter was connected with the Arab traders of Merca, already a trouble spot, and the sheik warned that Filonardi's dependence on the man could draw the Italians into Arab-Somali hostilities. The Somali had viewed the Italians as a means to break the Arab hold over the region; a man so well-disposed to the Arabs might be seen as an impediment to that. Despite this warning from Lovatelli, Filonardi would continue to use Abu Bakr for the remainder of the company's concession.

While Lovatelli was concerning himself with Filonardi's personnel, Filonardi himself was watching the situation at Kismayu with worry. An uprising by the Somali had garnered a strong British response. Filonardi fretted that the Somali might try to escape British action by crossing into the Italian sphere of control. This crossing of tribal boundaries could engender a trouble between the Somali and weaken the Italian administration in the eyes of the colonized. He wired the government to suggest Italian aid in setting a garrison at Jumbo, on the left bank of the Juba across from Kismayu. Coming only a few months after his instructions from Brin, it would seem likely that Filonardi already realized the cost of the concession might outstrip his ability to pay for it.

Administration of the Benadir

On September 21, 1893, nevertheless, the change of authority proceeded. Various wali and other tribal sheiks were summoned to Zanzibar for the ceremony investing Filonardi with rule over the Benadir ports. During this time, Filonardi drafted the provisional ordinances for the concession. All uncultivated lands outside the towns, if their owners could not be properly ascertained, were to become the property of the Italian crown. The government also had the exclusive use or granting of concessions to exploit mineral deposits. Permission to fell trees for timber in the forests along the Juba and Webi Shebelle rivers would have to come from the company, effectively controlling the main source of fuel for the natives.

The slave trade was prohibited and the abolition of the practice was to be phased in. Regulation of justice, specifically native law, was covered in Article VI: "...the law shall be applied in accordance to the standards of the Muslim shari'a..." He followed on this with the method for the administration of the courts. The company would appoint qadi (judges) and only the rulings of those approved qadi would be considered binding. Registers of proceedings and sentences would have to be maintained and court costs, derived from the nature of the case and usually falling between half and one Maria Theresa thaler, would fall on those involved. The Receipts of these costs would be divided between the company, local wali, and the qadi.

Customs and tariffs for the ports were also set. A low import and high export tax was designed to increase company profits; a five percent ad velorem tariff, save on transit goods, coal, provisions, and agricultural or infrastructure-oriented equipment was imposed. Alcoholic products were given a 25 percent import tax, with beer and wine under 20 percent alcohol by volume were taxed at the regular level. Exportation of tobacco was hit at 25 percent; ivory, copal, rubber 15 percent, and cloves--Filonardi's main trade good--a whopping 30 percent. Zanzibari goods were excluded from the tax to prevent double dipping (the Filonardi Company being, ostensibly, a contractor of that government.) All ships had to receive a certificate of permission before unloading, and the company could then inspect for contraband. Included in this was a ban on the importation fo firearms and ammunition, a central piece of the Brussels Act of 1890, Article VIII. The administration was designed to allow for indirect rule where possible, to cut expenses. Wali and qadi were central to administration in the territory, but the company still ruled by decree where it was necessary. Of note, there was no effort to unify the area as a national or even singular entity. Filonardi's goal was to keep the administrative engines simple and small, hence reducing costs. The capitalistic nature of this rule, however, did afford the average Somali a great deal of independence from the colonial government. This suggestion of government rather than the imposition, he hoped, would avert troubles like those of the British at Kismayu, and keep the countryside quiet and profitable.

His hopes were soon shaken. During his tour of the ports aboard Staffetta (under the command of Commander Incoronato) , which began with his arrival on October 5, a landing party at Brava ventured inland to assess the situation. Led by Captain Ugo Ferrandi, and manned by Lieutenant Maurizio Talmone (ship's surgeon), another crew member, thirty ashkari, and two men from Brava's five tribes, they headed toward Bardera. Within ten hours march, they found that internecine war was a constant in the countryside. Damage to infrastructure, like the canal at Webi Gof which had been blocked, impeded trade, and the agriculture was non-existent. Lieutenant Talmone's assessment was nevertheless optimistic: "Even if our Benadir establishments should not produce immediate will not have been unpleasant for us to have ben among the pioneers who prepared for future generations of Italians a convenient outlet for the overflow of our people and our products."

The view of Somalia as a dumping ground for Italian emigration and exports was still central to the goal of the colony.

Talmone's assessment of the peaceable colonization of Somalia was crushed two days later at Merca, where he was killed by a Somali spear. He had been attacked while coming ashore by a Somali who thought he could prove Somali superiority to the Italians. The murderer was killed by an ashkari moments after his attack. This direct assault to the colonial rule, however, could not have but required a response, had it been Italian or Zanzibari officials in command of the expedition.

Filonardi used a Muslim punishment - the removal of the hand that threw the spear from the dead Somali. The wali of Merca was replaced after the city was shelled and the inhabitants disarmed by Staffetta's crew. The Filonardi Company would maintain a garrison at Merca of 280 ashkari under the command of the new wali, Suleiman bin Hamed. The bombardment of Merca had another unintended consequence--the Bimal tribesmen stopped bringing their good for trade in the city. Food shortages and inflation followed, and Filonardi was forced to send grain to Merca to stave off starvation. The city would remain a problem area for the company. 8 Filonardi, who suffered from gastric troubles, fever, and jaundice during the tour, was deeply depressed by the action, as he intimates in his report on the incident.

The cost of concession was already beginning to show. Instead of a commercial and administrative enterprise, the company might be forced to adopt a paramilitary function, as well. This should not have been unexpected. All of the colonial companies that had administrative duties (of which law enforcement is one) ultimately needed to use force of arms to keep the peace, whether in India, Southeast Asia, or elsewhere. Filonardi, however determined to avoid the traps of past corporate administrations he might have been, had no choice but to bend to necessity. To defend the prestige of the company - something central to maintaining good order with the natives and the Arabs traders still hoping to destroy the rule of the company and gain back their trading rights - he realized that the construction of garrisons and town walls was needed. The cost he estimated at 25,000 thalers (or roughly £2,500 of the period) - a large investment that could not be amortized over a longer period due to the short period of the concession and the lack of guarantee of an extension. He requested, in his position as consul-general to Zanzibar, the Italian government subsidize the construction with an advance of 150,000 lire, half the subsidy for the next year.

This request sent warning signals to the government, never overly enthusiastic about the concession. The call for extra money came at roughly the same time as Staffetta's captain reported on the Somali situation. Incoronato found the Somali "...untamable and lazy..." and "...preferring to live by war and rapine..." He found the coast unsuited to the creation of ports, with the exception of Kismayu. Tribal hostility, coupled with the relative isolation of company facilities and limited capital might make Italy "...obliged to intervene..." in the rule of the colony.

His conclusions were straightforward: "1-Somalia is not a good country for emigration; Europeans could only be supervisors, not workers; 2-Cotton, though of poor quality, might provide a good export crop. Meat and grain might also be exported to Eritrea; 3-The so-called port of Itala is useless; 4-Not much can be expected from the company, inasmuch as it lacks serious guarantees and the act of concession is such that no one would want to expend large sums; 5-Yet there is promise of trade with the interior, especially if a station were set up at Lugh on the Juba."

Since capital was already committed to the enterprise, the commander suggested that the government might be compelled to take the place of the company in administering the colony. Incoronato's assessment of the difficulties in the country were further confirmed by Commander Edoardo Ruelle of the gunboat Volturno, on assignment to explore the Benadir, however, he differed on the matter of the company. " is indispensable that above all else the company establish itself securely and not require the government to intervene at any time to put down revolts, avenge insults, or subjugate rebels..."

Tuesday, May 1, 2018


The Italian foreign policy in 1938-1939-1940 was the most expansive and aggressive Italy has experienced since the fall of the Roman empire. The Italian leader Mussolini -after the conquest of Ethiopia and the creation of the "Italian Empire" in 1936- sent Italian troops into Spain to support Franco Falangism and in 1939 annexed Albania to the kingdom of Italy (read -of course- we all know that after the creation of the "Axis" he attacked France in June 1940, pushing Italy into WW2 (and in this way condemning his "Italia fascista" to an embrace with Hitler's Germany, that finished in a terrible & complete disaster in a few years).

In those years Mussolini tried to gain control of some Latin American countries with the local fascist party and Italian communities, like in Uruguay & Brasil (read for Sao Paulo: and -with the Nazi Germans- in Guatemala, but without success. In Brazil the "Integralism party" of Plínio Salgado (who admired Mussolini's fascism) nearly conquered the power in 1938, when he had the support of nearly one million brazilians: the Integralists made an attempt at achieving power, by attacking the Guanabara Palace (of Brazil's president), but police and army troops arrived at the last minute, and the ensuing gunfight ended with around twenty casualties (read and with the following destruction of the fascism in Brazil. In Argentina, after the military success of Fascist Italy in Abyssinia, Fascist sympathizers founded a so called "Comité Pro-Italia" that produced a petition against the sanctions of the League of Nations and campaigned for the boycott of British merchandise. This pro-Fascist party could draw considerable support from the ranks of the church, the military -like Peron- and the high society of Buenos Aires): in 1938 of half a million ‘Italians’ living in the capital, there were more than 2.500 active Fascists (read

Indeed Mussolini requested in 1939 from Franco a territory in Spanish Guinea Equatorial (and a military "base" in Minorca) as a compensation for his help during the Spanish civil war, but also here he got a complete refusal. He also tried to get a kind of protectorate in Afghanistan and Yemen (read and strongly promoted the Italian influence in Egypt and Palestine (read

But it was with France that Mussolini showed his foreign policy more aggressively, requesting Tunisia, French Somalia and the Italian irredentism-requested Corsica & Nizza/Savoya. These aspirations together with Malta from the United Kingdom were at the center of the Italian declaration of war in June 1940 against the Allies. But we have to remember that Italian irredentism wanted also the Dalmatian coast of Yugoslavia and Corfu with the Ionian islands of Greece. Not only that, but Mussolini wanted to control also the Suez canal and so menaced Sudan and Egypt (in order to unite in the future his empire in the Horn of Africa with Italian Libya): his foreigh minister Ciano studied the possibility of creating a Sinai under Italian rule.

As can be easily imagined, those years were extremely active for the Italian foreign policy, while at the same time Italy had to face the problem of the Brenner defense against a possible attack from Nazi Germany: a huge amount of money was spent by the Italians to create the so called "Vallo Alpino" (that sadly proved to be not useful in September 1943).

And we have also to remember that Mussolini supported in the late 1930s the Pavelic's "Ustascia" in Croatia, in order to dismember Yugoslavia (as happened in 1941) and possibly assimilate into the kingdom of Italy that region as was done with Albania: read Furthermore, he planned a possible attack on Switzerland -together with Germany- in order to unite to Italy the Ticino & Grigioni Cantons.

Last but not least, starting from 1939 and after annexing Albania, Mussolini struggled to exert a dominant influence on the right-hand circles of emigration from Georgia. The Italian government also granted the Georgian fascist organizations in Berlin, Prague and Warsaw the opportunity to convene a congress in the eternal city: in the case of the conquest of the Caucasus by the armed forces of the Axis, he intended to place the prince Irakli Bagrationi-Moukhranéli -against Hitler's wishes- on the throne of this new nation, supported by the Georgian monarchist Chalva Maglakelidzé. This Georgian politician declared in 1940 in the Italian-sponsored journal "Kartlossi" (read ), about the return to independence of Georgia with the possible introduction of the monarchy & the creation of a fascist and corporatist state, on the model of Mussolini's Italy.

Prof. Pierri of the University of Parma wrote in 2016 this interesting article on Italian Foreign Policy, with the title "Fascist Middle Eastern Policy: 1938-1940". Here it is some excerpts (resumen):

Eastern Accords and Suez Canal

Italian ships amounted to 20% of traffic across Canal, second only to British, but no Italian was member of Suez Canal Company. British stated Canal was essential mean of communication between UK and India as well as Italy and Italian colonies, fearing that Italy would seek co-responsibility in canal defence. Annex 8 was only reaffirmation of 1888 Constantinople Convention.

Convention of Constantinople

Article I, guaranteeing passage to all ships during war and peace. Article X allowed the Khedive to take measures for "the defence of Egypt and the maintenance of public order" . The latter clause was used by the British in WW2 and by Egypt against Israel after 1948. At the beginning of WW1, Egypt declared Canal would be open to ships of all nations, but Britain converted occupation into Protectorate, and barred Canal access to enemy ships.

Libya and Egypt

According to Easter Accords, Italy to reduce garrisons in Libya. Due to Spanish crisis and Italian involvement, Mussolini ordered to double garrison in Libya, while some British troops were moved from Palestine to Egypt. After Munich agreement, Mussolini appeared as European mediator. Accords ratified Nov 16, 1938, after withdrawal of Italian volunteers from Spain. Mussolini said to Ciano that Italian policy does not change: in Europe, Axis fundamental; in Mediterranean, collaboration with UK as long as possible; France is out, due to specific Italian claims.

Anti-French tide

Italians encouraged Turks to seize port of Alexandretta, despite later French recognition of Italian Empire. Ciano spoke about Italian aspirations on Tunisia, Nice, Savoy, Corsica, Djibuti. Mussolini-Laval agreements denounced

Impero and military planning

Nov 1938: Iraq, S. Arabia, Egypt recognised Italian Empire. Italian East Africa unable to support large scale attack against Sudan and Egypt. In case of war, defensive strategy on Tunisian border and offensive from Cyrenaica towards Egypt. Libya depended on support from the sea, as it was surrounded from three sides. Little could be done in Mediterranean against UK bases in Gibraltar, Egypt, Cyprus, Malta. Mussolini’s appetite shifted towards Balkans by taking advantage of Hitler’s evident intention to crush Poland. Apr 1939 Italian occupation and annexation of Albania and preparation of invasion of Greece. Mass emigration of new settlers to Libya.

Racial Policies

Jul 1935: fascism ackowledged existence of races and their differences and hierarchy, but Italy did not claim segregation and racial hatred. May 1936 proclamation of Empire: Fascism to defend racial prestige and prevent madamismo - settlers living more uxorio with indigenous women. The “madamas” were a colonial adaptation of contractual marriages or concubinage. On a higher level than prostitutes but the relationship was always one of “master – slave”. Jan 1937: Italians in Empire – full and absolute separation of races. Racial laws in Italian East Africa. 1938 Balbo’s proposal to grant full Italian citizenship to Libyans opposed by Fascist hierarchies.

Informazione Diplomatica n. 18

While other powers were able to rule colonies through small number of officials, Italy obliged to send settlers to Libya and Eastern Africa. To prevent catastrophic creation of bastard race not only through laws, but also through racial consciousness. Sort of apartheid established in East Africa. In Libya Balbo, though still racist, differed from Mussolini. Low opinion of Black in Fezzan. Inhabitants of coast viewed as descendants of great ancient civilization. Balbo aware of nationalist revolt outlook. He showed respect for religious customs and collaborated with local elite. Muslim population to elevate morally and socially to be integrated in Fascist schemes. Libyans could be appointed podestà of local communities, but not of mixed ones. Balbo’s policy defeated. In 1939 Libyans could not even touch Italian women – violation of racial prestige.


Available sources do not confirm theory according to which Mussolini implemented racial laws in Oct 1938 to please Arabs. Sept 1938: Dux personally drafted “Declaration of Race”: Grand Council does not exclude possibility of allowing free and controlled immigration of European Jews into some areas of Ethiopia. Ciano added that Italy had to avoid emigration of Jews to Palestine. Anti-Semitism was intended only for Jewish element.


Apr 7, 1939: occupation. Half population of Albania was Muslim. Ciano said they would be happy to benefit from Italian civilization. Muslims in the world criticised annexation: King of Egypt had Albanian origins, Tunisian and Syrian nationalists ridiculed Mussolini, who claimed to be protector of Islam, while conquering Muslim populations. Germany made no claims to Arab territory!

British and French Moves in Middle East

Late 1938-early 1939: UK managed to quell Arab revolt through combination of force, encouragement of intra-Arab rivalries and policy of appeasement (restriction of Jewish immigration to Palestine). France handed Syrian coastal district of Alexandretta to Turkey to ensure Turkish goodwill in case of European war. French PM Daladier visited Tunisia in Jan 1939 and met local leaders, recalling Tunisians died in WW1. Mar 1939: Daladier’s speech in Algeria honouring attachment of Muslims to France.

Italian Prestige in Middle East

Italy eclipsed by Nazi Germany. In Egypt Italy’s sympathisers restricted to extreme right wing Young Egypt. Anti-British Egyptian military in touch with Italians: Egypt to adopt racial policy to banish coloured elements to Sudan. Egypt to make sure that Italy had no intention of conquest. May 1940: Egyptian Premier expressed sympathy with Italy’s claims on Tunisia and administration of Suez Canal. British put pressure on King to replace Premier and Chief of General Staff. Egyptian lower classes did not feel sympathy for Italy: colonisation of Libya and Albania as evidence of domination on Islam.

WW2 Breakout

Most Arab countries chose to support Britain and France. Egypt and Iraq severed diplomatic relations with Germany. Anti-British press in Palestine moderated tones towards UK and denounced Nazi racial ideology. Italy’s decision not to join war applauded.

Fascist Grandeur

1939: Dux convinced that Italy could never become world power if confined in Mediterranean. Italy to break Mediterranean prison and march to Oceans. Decisions vague and broad: which ocean should Italy march on? However, Dux hoped war would not break out before 1942-43.

War Theatres

Middle East as war theatre where Dux tried to enlarge Italian possessions. De Felice – Arab policies only central to Mussolini’strategy after intervention in war. Anglo-Saxon historiography: Middle Eastern ambitions as logical outcome of previous policies in new warfare conditions – colonial stability now far less important. Once French Empire out of game (with armistice, France had kept colonies), only way for Italy to enlarge possessions was either at British expense, or independent Arab States.

Territorial Guarantees

Feb 1940: Dux confident allies would lose war. Need for Italy to gain access to open seas – only then will Italy be a real empire. Mar: allied blockade of German coal, on which Italy depended. Apr 2: Dux told his ministers he wanted to join war with Germany, but with her own aims: Mediterranean Empire. Access to oceans, but he did not specify which one. Unlike 1915, war started without specifying definite territorial compensations.

Ciano’s Design

Enlarging Albania at expense of Jugoslavia. Corsica. Protectorate over Greece, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco – French availability to talk on Algeria and Tunisia too late. Necessity to reach written agreement with Hitler on Italy’s conditions to enter war. Jun 10, 1940 – Italy’s entrance into war without any promise of territorial compensation from Germany.

Italian Armies

Mussolini: only territories conquered by Italian arms were certain to come under Italian rule. Order to attack France on Jun 15, hoping to capture Nice, Corsica, Tunisia.

Claims against Britain

Ciano said to Ribbentrop that from UK Italy would claim: Malta; Dismantling of British bases in Mediterranean; Replace of Britain in Sudan and Egypt; Syria, Lebanon and Palestine to become independent and sign mutual assistance treaties with Italy. Hitler: Mediterranean and Adriatic belong to historical Italian sphere of influence, but too much appetite might induce French navy to join British. Franco-Italian armistice signed Jun 24 without any significant battle.

Plans for Post-war Middle East

War soon to be won. Focus not on military plans to secure victory, but on geo-political plans for post-war period Huge African Empire and wide zone of influence in Middle East


Sudan to come under direct Italian control, as indispensable link between North ad East Africa. Egypt would accept loss of nominal control on Sudan in return for full independence from UK and some territorial expansion. Sinai to be ceded to Italy, in order to be able to exercise influence on Palestine and Arabian Peninsula. Suez Canal to be possessed by Italy, at least Eastern shores. Egypt to remain independent, as important Muslim country: attempt to annex Egypt would cause negative repercussions in colonies and Arab world. Egypt would have no choice but to collaborate with Italy, as it would be surrounded by Italian territories.


Whole Africa turned into German, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese sphere of influence, except independent Egypt and South Africa. Total removal of Belgium. Nearly total removal of Britain and France. Small African territory to be set aside for Jews of Europe. Italy to gain Horn, Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Northern Chad, and Tunisia in order to secure access to Indian and Atlantic Ocean, as well as satisfy economic needs.

Juridical Reasons

Claim for French and British territories as implementation of colonial compensations promised in Treaty of London 1915. Claim on Chad due to Ottoman declaration 1880, according to which Libyan territory extended all the way to Lake Chad. Claims on Tunisia due to assertion that before 1881 the country had been dominated by Italians, who had turned it into blossoming garden.

Other Claims for territorial control

Palestine & Transjordan. Holy Land's Transjordan and Palestine to be united in federated monarchy: if not the Italian king, choice among Arab princes. Only Sephardic Jews (Spanish origins) to be incorporated. Jewish emigration stopped, undesirable elements to be expelled and leave room for Arabs, better than Christians. Jewish education system to be de-Zionised.

Syria & Lebanon. Syria to become independent republic, giving complete autonomy to region of Druzes and Alawites. Independence subordinate to alliance with Italy, Italian economic domination, Italian military bases, preferential status of Italian language in schools and protection of Christian minorities. Lebanon to receive only mandate-style independence, with Italian commissioner ruling the country. Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Transjordan, Sinai to form "Levant State" with a structure like Switzerland and ethnically homogeneous cantons.Everything under Italian mandate

Cyprus. Cyprus under Roman, Venetian, and Genoan domination for 600 years. Italy fought to liberate world from British domination of seas. Three possibilities for Cyprus 1) Direct Italian domination (preferred) 2) Autonomy within Italian empire 3) Union with Greece - this only two weeks before invasion of Greece

Iraq.Iraq out of Italian zone of influence, as defined by Hitler. In Sept Foreign Ministry recommended Iraq to remain independent and sign mutual defence pact with Italy. Ethnically disunited Iraq perceived as weak country surrounded by enemies. Strong independent Iraq to serve Italian interests. Extension of Iraqi borders at expense of Iran, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey. In return of military protection, Italy to be given oil concessions at that time held by Iraq Petroleum Company.

Arabian Peninsula & French Somalia. Djibuti under total Italian control. Arabian penibsula: A) Aden under direct Italian control B) Bahrain under direct Italian control C) Yemen and Saudi Arabia independent D) Oman to become Italian protectorate