A Political History of National Citizenship and Identity in Italy, 1861-1950

By Sabina Donati | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
“O migranti o briganti”
Italian Emigration and Nationality
Policies in the Peninsula

Between 1876 and 1914, Italy witnessed the largest mass exodus of expatriates ever registered in its entire post-unification history. Those years represent the epoch when “the beautiful country” (il bel paese) was a land of emigration, and more particularly when the Italians were “the Albanians” of many destination countries, to paraphrase the title of a recent Italian publication about migration and xenophobic stereotyping.1 Millions left the peninsula as permanent or temporary migrants, pushed by a despair that was well summarized at the time: “What do you want! Here I cannot have hope […], I cannot have any hope of improving my condition; I have only my hovel as a palace and, my father as a lord, ‘poor farmer in the fields of others’.”2

The increasing number of Italian emigrants abroad as well as the growing size of the second generations born in the countries of destination created “beyond the sea and over the mountains, among foreign peoples […], a new great Italy outside Italy,” which by 1910 had to confront a complex process of accommodation and integration within the host countries as well as raised fundamental citizenship and identity issues in the peninsula.3

After providing a short historical excursus on Italian mass emigration during the liberal era, this chapter analyzes—on the basis of Tintori’s and Pastore’s works—Italy’s citizenship debates and changes of policy concerning the national membership status of its Italian communities living outside the country.4 Also, by providing additional related evidence, this study shall demonstrate that in line with our findings regarding the immigrant non regnicoli, the concepts of citizenship, nationality and Italianness were linked in a peculiar way when thinking and talking about the Italian emigrants and that Mancini’s teachings shaped citizenship policies not only on immigration but also on emigration. Finally,

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