Culture and Imperialism in a 'Backward' Nation? the Prima-Guerra-D'Africa (1885-96) in Italian Primary Schools
Title: Culture and Imperialism in a 'Backward' Nation? the Prima-Guerra-D'Africa (1885-96) in Italian Primary Schools
Author: FINALDI, Giuseppe
Publisher: Routledge Taylor & Francis Ltd
Citation: Journal of Modern Italian Studies, 2003, 8, 3, 374-390
This article attempts to tackle the problem of how a colonial culture that was elaborated through the written word may have impacted on an Italian society that was significantly more 'backward' than its western European counterparts. The Prima Guerra d'Africa (1885-96) has often been seen as a military campaign desired exclusively by an isolated Italian government in a society that was incapable of using the occasion to develop cultural themes that impacted on the desires and aspirations of the 'real' Italy. This supposed societal dysfunction meant that Italy failed to create a 'culture of Imperialism' in the years of the Scramble for Africa in a way that has now come to be considered of such central importance for the histories of France, Britain or even Germany. Through an analysis of the role played primary schools in Italian culture in these years, this article attempts to reverse this view, arguing that even taking into consideration Italy's 'backwardness' there was not only a great awareness of what Italy was supposedly doing in Africa but also a serious attempt to load the events that occurred there with a meaning that had a much more intimate relationship with Italy's population. Although defeat in Africa meant a major setback in this process, imperialism as a cultural phenomenon continued to be of fundamental importance to the progress of nation building and the development of nationalism in Italy and Finaldi argues, it should therefore be assigned a place in Italian culture that is much more on a par to that which culture and imperialism are deemed to have held for other European nation-states.
Subject: Italy; colonialism; culture; primary schools; nation building; literacy
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