Resisting Decolonization: Italian Imperialism in the Second World War

Thursday, January 4, 2018: 2:10 PM
Maryland Suite C (Marriott Wardman Park)
Eileen Ryan, Temple University
Italy lost its claims to African colonies (with the exception of the fiduciary protectorate of Somalia) through the occupation by enemy forces during the Second World War and through the more gradual process of negotiating terms of the postwar peace treaties. Italy’s imperial dreams—a component of Italian nationalism since the early years of unification—seemed to disappear along with the fascist regime. But for many living in the Italian colonial system, the dream died hard. This paper examines the strategies of a variety of people caught in the bureaucratic chaos of the end of empire in the context of war: colonial soldiers who found their status as Italian citizens thrown into doubt; business owners cast into the role of reluctant refugees; civil servants facing unemployment; children of colonial elites once welcomed to Italy as students, facing a withdrawal of financial and administrative support. Building on my previous investigation into strategies employees of the Ministry of Italian Africa used to try to maintain a functioning bureaucracy in the face of an uncertain future, this paper looks at perspectives on the end of Italian colonialism from a wider variety of perspectives. Who sought to hold on to Italy’s empire and why? To what extent can we attribute their attitudes to the practicalities of property ownership and the benefits of citizenship status? Or what can their attachment to the colonial system tell us about the ideological boundaries between fascism and imperialism in Italy at the end of the Second World War?