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Larebo, Haile M. (1990) The Myth and Reality of Empire Building: Italian Land Policy and Practice in Ethiopia, 1935-1941. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Apart from being Italo-centric, the vast majority of scholarly work on the short-lived period of Italian occupation of Ethiopia is mainly preoccupied with political events and particularly with their repercussions on international diplomacy. With the exception of a few pioneering studies, Italian rule and its impact on Ethiopia is given marginal importance. The present thesis confines itself to one specific key area of Italian policy - land. Search for an outlet to settle Italy's excess population and deploy its surplus capital, had sustained Italian imperialist ambitions from the 19th century and justified the conquest of Ethiopia against quasi universal international opposition. With the conquest of Ethiopia, Italy claimed to have become one of the 'satisfied' nations. Unlike the older Italian colonies that were described as a useless "collection of sand", Ethiopia, with its varying climate and fertile soil, was portrayed as an El Dorado where Italy's long-standing imperial aspirations could be effectively fulfilled. Yet impressive land colonization programmes, aiming at settling Italian colonists with a mission to transform, within a short time, the agricultural sector into "the granary of Italy" and the Ethiopian Empire into an extension of a Magna Italia, were an unmitigated failure. The building of the Empire proved extremely difficult, largely because realities on the ground had vastly hampered practical results. Nevertheless, the attendant policies accelerated the process of change already set in motion and had a lasting effect on traditional Ethiopian social structure. Each chapter discusses key aspects of these policies, highlighting the forces contributing to the great contrast between their formulation and their actual achievement and, particularly in the conclusion, their impact on an independent Ethiopia.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2020 17:20

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