Eventos Académicos, 39 ISCHE. Educación y emancipación

Tamaño de fuente: 
The representation of non-European countries in Italian textbooks and the reasons of colonization (end of 19th-beginning of 20th century)
Paolo Bianchini

Última modificación: 2017-07-17


The paper aims to investigate how colonization was presented and justified in Italian school between the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. In this meaning, I will analyze a hefty sample of textbooks used in primary and secondary schools. The analysis will focus on the theme of colonization and his presentation to the pupils. Especially in the geography textbooks, in fact, the theme of colonization appeared very frequently. Just achieved the national unity, Italy fell immediately in the fight to conquer territories that would guarantee wealth and influence in the European political arena. For that reason, Italy tried to insure a role among the European powers inaugurating a colonial policy in Africa. It was necessary, therefore, to explain to young Italians, many of whom do not even speak the national language, why it was necessary to go and fight (and die) in Africa or why French and English, until a few years before people considered friends, were instead to be regarded as competitors, if not enemies, more than of the Austrians, the eternal enemies.

To illustrate to the young readers what colonization was and why Italy would need to occupy new territories outside Europe, the authors could not avoid referring to the political, social and economic situation of the time, referring to some central themes in the European culture, like nation, homeland and race. The judgments expressed in the textbooks were very sharp and able to foster indelibly the attitudes of the younger generations.

Moreover, during the same decades, Italy knew an extraordinary population growth, which forced millions of people to migrate not only to other European countries but also in the rest of the world and especially in the so-called “New World” and more precisely in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and United States. Really the emigration was presented at school as a potential brake on the growth and expansion of the country, unless it was used as an instrument of influence in the countries of destination, by the creation of “ethnic colonies”, that is Italian enclaves in foreign countries, alternatives to the “occupation colonies”, created and maintained by the military occupation of a region.

Right on these issues I will focus my attention, trying to reconstruct more precisely the ideological horizon attributed in schools to the colonization, an epoch-making event which had a great influence on the idea of otherness with which generations of Italians grew up.