Political Constraints and Military Needs. The First World War and the Role of the Italian Colonies

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in libroContributo a convegno

Abstract

The First World War had long-lasting impacts outside Europe. In China, for example, it paved to way to Japanese expansionism, which consolidated (after the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-05) with the occupation of the German possessions in Shandong (August 1914). In the British Empire, it fostered the Dominions’ rise to political independence, fuelling the process leading to the establishment of the Commonwealth of Nations (1926) and to the formalization of their new institutional status in the Statute of Westminster (1931). In Asia and Africa, it favoured the consolidation of the nationalist and indepenedentist movements, which flourished in the Twenties and the Thirties. Finally, on a more widespread and direct level, it forced the European Power (first of all the Powers of the Triple Entente) to loosen the grip that they exerted on their overseas possession, so to free human and material resources to wage the war in Europe. In Italy, the last effect was especially evident. When the country entered the conflict, on May 24, 1915, it had to withdraw a good share of troops from Libya, opening a critical phase in the campaign for the control of the reluctant colony. In the same way, in the Horn of Africa, British disengagement from Somaliland led Mohammed Abdullah Hassan’s Dervishes to increase the pressure on Italian Somalia, breaking the balance established with the treaty of Illig (1904). Trapped in an effort for which they were only partially ready, the Italian Armed Forces were thus faced with the addition task of dealing – politically and militarily – with a largely unexpected ‘colonial front’. At the same time, the impossibility to exploit the colonies as a recruitment basin, since the native military workforce was structurally limited and sometimes perceived as unreliable, made the Italian possessions a liability, rather than an asset, in the undergoing war. Moving from these premises, the proposed paper aims at shedding light on the relations existing, in Italy, between the effort on the European theatre and the security constrains that the weakness of its colonial position imposed. The country’s limited resources, the poor control that it exerted on its possessions, that fact that the same colonies were not framed as that of other Powers into a coherent imperial system are only few elements that contributed to define the terms of the problem. In fact, if on the military side the concentration of forces on the European theatre led to a loss of the control on the extra-European possessions, on the political side the unwritten rule of power politics imposed the need to promote the status of colonial power, from whom depended on the short term Italy’s international image, and in the long run the sustainability of the requests that the country set forth during the negotiation of the Treaty of London.
Lingua originaleEnglish
Titolo della pubblicazione ospiteActa of the XL Congress of the International Commission of Military History, “World War One. 1914-1918”, Varna, 31 August-5 September 2014
Pagine283-298
Numero di pagine16
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2015
EventoXL Congress of the International Commission of Military History, “World War One. 1914-1918”, Varna, 31 August-5 September 2014 - Varna
Durata: 31 ago 20145 set 2014

Convegno

ConvegnoXL Congress of the International Commission of Military History, “World War One. 1914-1918”, Varna, 31 August-5 September 2014
CittàVarna
Periodo31/8/145/9/14

Keywords

  • First World War
  • Italian Colonies

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