From Empire to International Development: Fascism, Italian Colonialism, and the International Institute of Agriculture

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 1:50 PM
Maryland Suite C (Marriott Wardman Park)
Angelo Caglioti, University of California, Berkeley
This paper bridges the history of Italian colonialism and international development. Historians have recently highlighted how colonial policies paved the way to post-war notions of economic modernization, but their analysis has especially emphasized the legacy of British and French imperialism. From the beginning of Italian colonialism, engineering agricultural development was a crucial challenge for scientific colonial experts. Could the dry regions of Eritrea, Somalia, Libya, and ultimately Italy itself become self-sufficient in food and agricultural production? Italian colonialism required the promotion of agriculture despite unfavorable environmental and economic conditions.

The International Institute of Agriculture (I.I.A.), the first international institution devoted to promoting agricultural development in the world, shared with Italian colonial experts the same research agenda, namely planning agricultural production from above. Established in Rome in 1905 to gather world-wide statistics about agriculture and climatology, the I.I.A. became under Fascism Italy’s proxy empire for the expansion of fascist corporatist economic policies and the collection of scientific data beyond Italian colonies.

By comparing the scientific practices and political economy of the I.I.A. in Rome and Italian colonial experts, the paper argues that the I.I.A. projected Fascism’s influence beyond Italy’s colonial empire through a scientific internationalism that focused on state intervention in agricultural production and research. Additionally, the I.I.A.’s legacy continued in the scientific practices of the F.A.O. (Food and Agriculture Organization) of the United Nations, still in Rome today.