Liberal Italy’s Expansionism and
Citizenship Issues (1880s–1922)
Colonial Subjects, Citizens of Tripolitania
and Cyrenaica and Dodecanesini
Latecomer to the world of nation-states and pushed by a variety of national objectives, including pursuit of power politics and international prestige, along with the quest for markets and investment opportunities as well as the search for lands for Italian emigrants, liberal Italy undertook an expansive foreign policy from the 1880s that continued, in successive phases, during the 1910s until the end of the Great War. Throughout these forty years of post-unification history, the Savoy state acquired colonial territorial possessions in East and North Africa as well as occupying militarily some lands in the Mediterranean Orient. Through diplomacy, military adventures and war, the Italians landed on the coasts of the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Sea, thus opening an era of Italian territorial ambitions ultimately ending in 1947.
The purpose of this chapter is to provide a comprehensive account of the citizenship policies that were introduced during the liberal decades by an expanding colonial Italy vis-à-vis the native populations that lived in Eritrea, Somalia, Libya and the Aegean Islands. In this way, the still relatively unknown citizenship issues of the Dodecanese will be fully discussed, for the first time, with the citizenship situation of Italy’s African subjects on which there is already a substantial literature.1 Also, by examining the official discourse pertaining to civic incorporation of these autochthones into Italy’s institutional framework, the chapter aims at exploring the liberal variant of notions of “civilization” and “race” as they were extended from the peninsula to the African colonial natives. Finally, it will bring to light the historical reference of the “myth of