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Italian colonists in Africa

Immagine di copertina tematica Coloni Italiani in Africa (Credits: Archivio Diaristico Nazionale)

The stories of the Italian colonists in Africa are told in Area 08 of the Museum, Italians on the move.

The period between the two world wars marked the end of mass emigration for Italy. The new restrictions imposed by the immigration countries and the advent of the fascist regime redesigned the routes of Italian emigrants, severely limiting their right to mobility. After initially taking up the legacy of liberal governments, from the end of the 1920s, Mussolini launched a new migration strategy, in line with the regime's demographic policy and strengthening the link between emigration and foreign policy. The General Emigration Commissariat was abolished in 1927 and replaced by the General Directorate of Italians Abroad.

The lexical choice reflected the desire to hide the economic problems that drove Italians to leave Italy. In the 1930s, the myth of the “Fourth Shore” was consolidated and rural emigration to Libya was promoted by the government; celebrating the glories of the reborn Italian empire, after 1936, the transfer of people and business to the territories of Italian East Africa was encouraged. Both operations turned out to be unsuccessful: despite the plans of the hierarchs, the 1939 census revealed that there were only about 118,000 Italian colonists in Libya; the demographic colonisation project in East Africa saw the departure of about 180,000 people from Italy.

In both cases, most Italian colonists were forced to return to Italy during the Second World War and never returned overseas.