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The First World War from Tripoli to Addis Ababa (1911-1924)

 | 
Shiferaw Bekele
, 
Uoldelul Chelati Dirar
, 
Alessandro Volterra
, 
et al.

Local Agencies and the War

The Italian community of Tunisia: From Libyan Colonial Ambitions to the First World War

Gabriele Montalbano

Résumé

This paper analyses how the Italian settlers in the French protectorate of Tunisia reacted to the Libyan war and to WWI. The case of this Italian community between 1911 and 1915 is particularly interesting regarding its position in terms of migration, nation-building, and colonialism. Between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of 20th century, the Kingdom of Italy experienced mass migration of its workers to foreign countries and, at the same time, it aspired to colonial expansion in Africa. Nationalists wanted to make Italian migrants a tool for national imperialism. According to them, the large number of Italians living in foreign colonial possessions, as in the case of French Maghreb, justified colonialist claims towards Libya. Italian migrants were mobilised by homeland institutions and by the nationalist upper-class in order to take part in a wider national project that involved expatriate communities. The Libyan war and the Great War exacerbated social tensions in the Tunisian society and affected the living conditions of the Italians. Living under French colonial rule, some Italian settlers considered the Libyan conquest as an opportunity for social improvement of their migrant working-class status. After the declaration of war of Italy in 1915, the community was directly involved in the war effort, sending soldiers and money to the motherland. A kind of welfare system was created in order to provide aid to the poorest members of the community, strengthening the migrants’ nationalist feeling. Ultimately, this paper emphasises the community-building function of the war effort, highlighting how social classes and colonial dynamics are intertwined in the Italian nation-building process in Tunisia.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Gabaccia 2013; Green 2002. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers, Massimo Zaccaria and Marg (...)
  • 2 Audenino and Tirabassi 2008, 56; Morone 2011, 42, 20-35; Clancy-Smith 2011.
  • 3 Cresti 2008, 5 (12), 189-214; Fauri 2015.
  • 4 Rainero 2002; Kazdaghli Habib 2001.
  • 5 Among these cf. Choate 2008, 207-215. On the Tunisian case: Brondino 2000, 81-92. About the Italian (...)

1Mass emigration from Italy was a widespread phenomenon in the 19th and 20th centuries. It had profound consequences not only on the international labour market, but also on the social and political life of Italy and the other countries interested by the migratory flow in question.1 While most Italians migrated either to the American continent or to Western European countries, Northern Africa also welcomed its fair share of emigrants.2 In 1911, 12,000 Italians were living in Morocco, 33,153 in Algeria, 34,926 in Egypt, and 88,082 in Tunisia.3 Within this Mediterranean context, the Tunisian case is particularly interesting, especially when considered in relation to the new colonial ambitions harboured by the Kingdom of Italy during the 20th century. When Italy attacked Tripolitania in 1911, Tunisia hosted one of the biggest Italian communities in Northern Africa.4 While several remarkable works have been produced on the Libyan conflict and on the role played by Italy during the First World War, historians have rarely focused on the role of expatriate Italian communities in Africa during these two conflicts.5 In this paper I aim at filling this gap, with the hope that the study of these events that occurred between 1911 and 1919 will enhance our understanding of the history of nation-building in the Italian community of Tunisia.

  • 6 Castellini 1911; Corradini 1912; Piazza 1911. About the nationalist propaganda on the Libyan confli (...)
  • 7 Proglio 2016; Finaldi 2009; Bosworth and Finaldi 2014, 34-52.

2This research is divided into three main sections. The first part analyses the way in which the Italians in Tunisia perceived Italian expansionism at the beginning of the 20th century. On the one hand, Italy saw the French occupation of Tunisia as a shameful national defeat. On the other hand, the presence of a thriving Italian community in Tunisia legitimised Italian colonial ambitions.6 As a result of this double understanding of the French occupation of Tunisia, Libya assumed a cultural and political importance among the Italian community. The second section focuses on the reactions and the tensions caused by the Libyan war in Tunisia. This part studies how the 1911 colonial invasion affected Italians living in the French protectorate, stressing the central role of national pride and emotional motives in the Italian colonial war.7 Finally, the third section examines the Italian community in Tunisia from a social, cultural and economic point of view in the years between 1914 and 1919. The call to arms issued by the Italian state in 1915 led thousands of Italian citizens born in Tunisia to enrol in the Italian army and eventually die on the Italian front. The mobilisation, compulsory and voluntary, of human, social and economic resources proves the involvement of the Italians of Tunisia in the Great War.

A Latin Tunisia?

  • 8 Serra 1967; Grange 1994.
  • 9 We can see the diplomatic link between these two colonial questions in Archivio Storico-Diplomatico (...)
  • 10 Baldinetti 2015, 63-83.
  • 11 Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de Nantes (here after CADN), Nantes, Protectorat de Tunisie, 1er (...)

3The French invasion of Tunisia in 1881, known in Italy as the schiaffo di Tunisi, the “slap of Tunis,” created a diplomatic crisis between the two European countries. Italy did not officially recognise the French rule over Tunisia until the end of the Italo-Tunisian treaty in 1896. But the simultaneous Italian defeat in Ethiopia had several political consequences, like the resignation of the Crispi government and the end of his foreign policy.8 A colonial success in East Africa could have had a good impact on the negotiations with France regarding Italian interests in Tunisia,9 but such colonial defeat put Italy in a weak international position. Italy had to recognise and to accept the French rule over the Tunisian Regency. Nevertheless, international agreements between Italy and France guaranteed Italian citizenship to all children born from Italian parents in the Regency.10 Moreover, thanks to these conventions, Italians schools, associations, banks and hospitals could continue their activities.11

  • 12 About Sicilians in Tunisia: Melfa 2008; Campisi and Pisanelli 2015; Bono 1989. About Sardinian emig (...)
  • 13 Direction Générale de l’Agriculture, du Commerce et de la Colonisation, 1914; 1932.
  • 14 Cf. Bevilacqua, Franzina and De Clementi 2009; Renda 1977.
  • 15 About European settlers in the French colonial empire: Michel 2018.
  • 16 A beylical decree in 1898 compelled foreigners to be registered and declared to the French police a (...)
  • 17 Saurin 1900.
  • 18 Finzi 2003; Melfa 2008.

4Between 1881 and 1896 the Italians outnumbered the French living in Tunisia. Those from a working class background came mainly from Sicily, Sardinia and Southern Italy.12 This demographic balance remained constant until the 1930s.13 The 1896 repression of the Sicilian peasants’ movement contributed to the creation of an important migration wave from Sicily to the United States and other countries.14 Tunisia was one of the most popular destinations for those escaping Italy and the Italian community therefore grew rapidly. This migratory flow began in the first half of 19th century and increased thanks to the economic development brought about by French colonisation.15 The French authorities, already worried about the large number of Italians living in their Protectorate, became increasingly more suspicious16 towards this new invasion sicilienne.17 Italian workers were able to find work in public works, infrastructures, factories and mines. Many Sicilians became farmers.18 While most Italians in Tunisia were part of the small, merchant and bourgeois elite at the beginning of the 19th century, they were mainly workers and farmers by its end.

  • 19 Aquarone 1989, 257-410; Calchi Novati 2011, 25-29; Mahmud Hamdane Larfaoui 2010, 65.
  • 20 Choate 2007, 8, 97-109; Grange 1983, 3, 337-365.

5In these poor and proletarian immigrants, the nationalist upper-classes saw the legitimisation of Italian colonial aspirations in Libya which became the focus of Italian colonialists after the defeat of Adwa.19 According to them, emigration was a proof that Italians had to expand and conquer new lands. Clearly, the Italian peninsula could not contain the energy of its people: the extreme poverty and desperation that led many to flee Southern Italy became a tool for colonial-nationalist propaganda. Far from remaining a “national shame,” migration became the avant-garde of Italian expansion in the world.20 This discourse, often used to justify Italy’s colonial ambitions, made Tunisia a central point of the colonial-migrant narrative. The eagerness of Sicilian peasants and Sardinian mine-workers to move abroad was turned into a proof of the “colonial attitude” of the Italian people.

  • 21 Archivio storico della Società Dante Alighieri (here after ASDA), Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. (...)

6The beginning of the 20th century brought about an appeasement in Franco-Italian relations. Nonetheless, the official and diplomatic end of the Italian claims on Tunisia (until the fascist regime) did not go hand in hand with the end of the struggle in the colonial imagination. In May 1905 the former Foreign Affairs Minister Antonino Paternò Castello, Marquis of San Giuliano, visited Tunisia. His visit lasted 15 days, during which he stopped in several Italian centres of the country, from the bourgeois circles in Tunis to the villages where Sicilian peasants where working.21 Together with the international appeasement with France came a new approach in terms of Italian claims towards French Tunisia. Antonino di San Giuliano released his declaration at L’Unione:

  • 22 Archives du Quai d’Orsay (here after AQO), Tunisie, Correspondance Politique et Commerciale, Affair (...)

It is necessary that the two most important nations of Latin civilization are not jealous of each other for the development and the expansion they acquired in order to assure to this civilization the place it deserves in the world.22

  • 23 Cf. Prochaska 2004; Jordi 1996; Balek 1920, 153-155.
  • 24 Prochaska 2004; Jordi 1996; Balek 1920, 153-155.

7The differences of opinion between France and Italy were resolved thanks to the idea of “Latin civilisation,” which saw the two countries collaborate in Africa with the common purpose of helping the continent and its people to progress. This vague idea of humanitarian progress replaced the real colonial rivalry. The word “Latin” was used to hide the contrasts between the two colonial powers and include the Italians into the class of colonisers thanks to their common “Latin origin.” The idea of a “Latin Africa” served to legitimate the presence of Italians in Tunisia. Furthermore, for the Italian government, the notion of “Latin Africa” was used to neutralise, at least rhetorically, the French colonial primacy in the Maghreb. On the contrary, the concept was useful to France in order to affirm its leadership on other European minorities living in the French Maghreb, e.g. Italians or Maltese in Tunisia, or Spanish citizens in Algeria and Morocco.23 This rhetoric of Latin colonial friendship clearly did not end rivalries. Colonial authorities in Tunisia wanted to assimilate Italians into the French community, effectively quashing the “Italian question” in Tunisia. However, far from quietly assimilating into the French community in Tunisia, some Italian settlers harboured nationalist feelings. For example, a French officer wrote about the patriotic manifestation organised in honour of San Giuliano’s visit in Tunisia: “this speech confirms what we knew about the strength of patriotic feeling of the Italians of Tunisia. It shows, once more, how it is delicate and difficult the goal of assimilate them.”24

8San Giuliano was not the only Italian politician who visited the Italians of Tunisia: it was not unusual for political or even ordinary Italian figures to travel to the country. For instance, a few months before San Giuliano’s trip, a group of 145 students from the universities of Palermo, Messina and Catania visited Tunis and its surroundings. This was the occasion to boost the Franco-Italian appeasement and to strengthen the official rhetoric of “Latin civilisation.” However, according to the Italian nationalists of Tunisia, easing of political tensions between the two countries did not mean that Italy had to abdicate its colonial mission: on the contrary, it had to encourage the Italian government to renew its efforts in furthering the “Latin” colonisation of Africa. During a reception party, Luigi Mascia, director of the Italian high school of Tunis, stressed the relevance of the Italians in Tunisia in a colonial perspective:

  • 25 AQO, Tunisie, Correspondance Politique et Commerciale, affaires italiennes, f. 3596, 22/3/1905.

Harbours, railways, schools, hospitals, markets, theatres, buildings, if our Fatherland could not put its signature on it, remember that the Italian work is not foreign in this progress; be glad in your Latin hearts of this victory as if it were of your own, because these are the true successes of civilization (…) You have to tell others that Cartago is dead as rival and enemy of Rome, and in its place is born, full of energies and future, a Latin Tunisia, whose example evoke and wait for an Italian Tripoli! You have to say to the newspapers, in meetings and at universities: in Tunis there is no more place for our brothers, they need an Italian household.25

  • 26 Cf. Labanca 2002, 370-376; Grange 1983, 3, 337‑365.

9While maintaining friendly relations with France was indeed important, bringing Tripolitania under the Italian flag was a necessity. This time the “Latin” rhetoric served to encourage the Italian colonial expansion. Moreover, this text reconfirms that the presence of Italians in Tunisia legitimised the colonial ambitions of Italy towards Tripoli: the “success” of Italian immigration in Tunisia was a starting point for an expansion in Libya. The definition of “Latin Tunisia” pointed to the importance of an Italian colonialism. The migration of Italian workers to the French protectorate – and their fundamental role in building ports, railways and houses – was employed to stimulate the Italian colonial fantasy, enabling to compensate for the political defeat in Tunisia. In this way, the colonial trauma and nightmare of international weakness could be turned into a prophecy predicting Italy’s future conquests. This perspective on the Tunisian case perfectly fitted into part of the general discourse of demographic colonialism, which saw the massive migration from the south of Italy as an Italian colonial victory.26 This colonialist discourse exploited the success of established migrants in a colonial country to predict the success of the future colonisation of Libya.

From Tunis to Tripoli: a Greater Italy

10As it is already pointed out in the previous section, the Italian elite in Tunisia supported Italian colonial ambitions in Libya. However, the question of how Italians in Tunisia concretely reacted to the war remains open. Thanks to the records kept by the French administration, we can read about the tensions between Italian immigrants and the native Tunisian population. Days after the beginning of the war in Libya, Italians living in Kelibia – a city in Cap Bon, Northern Tunisia – took the streets in support of the invasion. This protest made the local French administrator worry about the worsening relationship between the two communities. The French colonial administration feared that the Libyan war could stir an Arab backlash against Europeans. It was therefore necessary to maintain good relationships with the Tunisians:

  • 27 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, 1er versement, article 998, Rapport au Contrôleur Civil de G (...)

Italians of Kelibia show their joy in a very evident way about the news from Tripoli. It is not cautious, there are here some hotheads and I don’t know what would happen in case of a conflict. Anyway, it could be better to have kind relations with the Arabs, who are the mass and the strength.27

11The French contrôleur civil of Grombalia was right: the outbreak of the war had a strong impact on the Tunisian society and deepened the Regency’s instability. The months following the beginning of the war were characterised by several instances of riots between Italians and Tunisians. Moreover, Italian workers in Tunis lived and worked in close contact with natives, which led to competition over jobs. An article published in a French newspaper of Tunis in October 1911 pointed out that this rivalry destroyed social harmony in the suburbs of Tunis inhabited by both Sicilian immigrants and Tunisians:

  • 28 ‘Tunisie: L'origine des troubles’, Le Temps, 19 Oct. 1911.

[Arabs and Italians] live side by side in Tunis, they stay in the same quarter, often in the same house, sometimes they speak the same language and they are constantly competing for the same jobs. From the beginning of the war in Tripolitania the two races are one against the other every time of their inter linked life.28

  • 29 Ayadi 1986, 163-221; Tlili 1974, 84-88; Kassab and Ounaïes 2010, 368.
  • 30 Julien 1967, 54 (194), 87-150. On Islamic solidarity against the Italian invasion cf. Bono 1988, 7 (...)
  • 31 Montalbano 2016, 107‑120. About the reactions to the invasion of Libya in Egypt: Baldinetti 1997, 1 (...)
  • 32 Tlili 1978, 307-314.
  • 33 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, 1er versement, Série Résidence Générale – politique intérieu (...)

12Riots broke out in November 1911, less than a month after the outbreak of the war. The so-called “Jellaz affaire” interested the south-eastern periphery of the city of Tunis. Its name comes from the Jellaz Muslim cemetery, located in this part of town, which was a habous, a term indicating a common religious property in the Muslim juridical tradition. When the French administration decided to register the land of this cemetery, the Islamic opposition protested.29 The step taken by the colonial administration was perceived by the Muslim population as the appropriation of a religious and holy place. Abd Al-Jalil Zaouche, a member of the City Council of Tunis and an exponent of the movement “Jeunes Tunisiens,”30 warned against a possible Muslim backlash in Tunis. It is unclear what the main goal of the French administration was; whether it was to register lands in order to turn them into mines or to protect them from the illegal mines around. Whatever the reason for this sudden interest was, it is revealing that Tunisian protests against the French authorities turned into anti-Italian riots. After an angry Muslim mob threw stones to the French authorities in front of the Jellaz cemetery, the police opened fire. The crowd fled, ending up in the Italian neighbourhood of Tunis. Italians started shooting at the Tunisian crowd, maybe because they were scared to be attacked, and the two parties fought against one another for almost two days. The news that Italians had killed Tunisians led to violence in the streets everywhere in Tunis. This vicious turn of the protest can be viewed as the result of the announcement of the war in Tripolitania.31 The massacre of people in Tripoli by the Italian Army had taken at the end of October 1911. In addition, two days before the beginning of the “Jellaz Affaire,” on 5 November, Italy had formally annexed Tripolitania, even if the war was far from finished. This news worsened the social tensions in Tunisia. The “Jellaz affaire” had a strong impact on Italians living in the country. A strike against all Italian tramways drivers, accused by the “Jeunes Tunisiens” of plotting to kill Tunisian people, also occurred in Tunis after a Tunisian kid died in a tramway accident in February 1912. The Tunisian political group clamoured for the firing of all Italians working for the tramway company and requested the use of Tunisian drivers instead.32 The social tensions between the two communities increased. According to Giuliano Bonacci, correspondent for the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, Italian families were afraid of letting their children go to school and many sent them back to Sicily in order to avoid being caught up in the escalating violence.33 The economic crisis and the smaller number of jobs available had already decreased migration from Italy. These events pushed the Italians to look for new destinations. Even though some workers went back to Italy, others wanted to move in the new Italian lands:

  • 34 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, 1er versement, Série Résidence Générale – politique intérieu (...)

Multitudes of Sicilian workers of the soil and Sardinian farmers of rich mines of the Protectorate look already with passionate eyes towards the East, where there is the land that our soldiers are conquering for the Fatherland with their courage and sacrifice and where our compatriots are sure they will find, a day not far, a well-paid job together, peace, security and respect under the Italian flag.34

13It is worth mentioning what the colonial conquest of Libya meant for Italian immigrants in Tunisia. It is not meaningless that Bonacci openly quotes Sicilians and Sardinians. They were the two biggest regional groups that composed the Italian community in Tunisia and they were mainly workers and peasants. In a chiastic structure, he underlined the regional and social composition of the Italian presence in the Tunisian Regency: “Sicilian workers of the soil”/“Sardinian farmers of the rich mines”. This poetic pattern is especially significant when considering that the Sardinians were miners and the farmers Sicilians. It is possible to see in this change of position of terms the desire to strengthen the imagined unity of the two groups. The rhetoric use of southerner workers to legitimate the colonial conquest was quite common in nationalist narrations. Bonacci, who was a correspondent from Tunis, was not the only one to apply this rhetoric to the Italian community of Tunisia. An article written by Luigi D’Alessandro adds several interesting aspects. D’Alessandro was a teacher and supervisor in the Italian schools of Tunis. Moreover, he was the secretary of the “Dante Alighieri” Society. Therefore, he can be considered a member of the Italian upper-class which ruled the associations of the community. A fervent nationalist, D’Alessandro knew perfectly how to present Italian presence in Tunisia in a positive colonial light:

  • 35 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, 1er versement, Série Résidence Générale – politique intérieu (...)

Italian sweat and tears jointed with capitals will fertilize the new conquest and will show it to the world. We foresee that Italian emigration in Tunisia – already stopped – will decrease and it will go to Tripolitania, where owing to its experience and acclimation will give prosperity to the country and huge advantages.35

  • 36 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, Série Résidence Générale, Affaires diverses, article 3263 “G (...)
  • 37 Liauzu 1975, 89 (90), 141-190. At that time, transnational radical movements crossed the whole Medi (...)
  • 38 The Italian-speaking international movement in Tunisia experienced an upturn during the 1920s and e (...)
  • 39 ASDMAECI, Serie Politica P 1891 – 1916, b. 339, f. “Rapporti politici 1912”, Protesta de ‘La Voce d (...)

14D’Alessandro emphasised the important social function played by Italian workers in Tunisia in order to legitimate the colonisation of Tripolitania by Italy. Once again, the migration of workers was seen as a proof of the necessity for the Italian state to expand. D’Alessandro described the Italians of Tunisia as the better kind of Italians; the one who could help the new Fourth Shore flourish. In this view, Tunisia was extremely similar to Tripolitania. D’Alessandro did not limit himself to describing how Italian workers in Tunisia were meant to become the new colonisers of Libya in newspapers; he also tried to turn this into a reality. A committee arranged by the Italian elite in Tunis organised and supervised the expedition of Italian workers to Tripoli in April and May 1912.36 The most important members of this committee were: Luigi D’Alessandro; Leodegardo Tercinod, a delegate of the teachers of the Italian schools of Tunis; Giuseppe Maccotta, a doctor; and Raffaele Gallico, a businessman working at the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Tunis. The workers, who paid for this expedition out of their own pockets, had to register at the office of the Italian Worker Society. The first expedition was made of 72 workers, the second one of 142. Those who described their departure from the harbour of Tunis said that there were at least three thousand people greeting those leaving, shouting Viva la Tripolitania Italiana. While most of those departing were workers, some members of the upper-class were at the docks greeting the forthcoming colonisers. For instance, Luigi Mascia, director of the Italian high school, and his wife Adria, director of the Italian female college “Margherita di Savoia” of Tunis, both joined. The quiet presence at the docks of the president of the internationalist socialist association Il Grido del lavoratore (“the Cry of the worker”), greeting the ship, testifies to the crisis of the leading role of Italians in Tunisia in working-class movements. Liauzu considered them as fer de lance in the working class struggle in the country,37 but the Libyan war and the First World War were setbacks for the internationalist social struggle.38 Many Italian workers in Tunisia believed, seduced by the nationalist propaganda, that Libya would solve many of their social issues. The nationalist and colonialist idea of the “proletarian nation,” and the illusion of prosperity of the Libyan land played an important role in breaking the opposition of socialist movements in Italy as well as in Tunisia. Of course, the economic crisis of the Regency, the surging unemployment and the open competition between Italians and Tunisians amplified the rupture of the internationalist workers’ movement. When the fragmentation of the social space through national boundaries became evident, another former internationalist trade union, La Voce del Muratore (“The Voice of the Bricklayer”), asked for the help and protection of Italian consular authorities, after the Jellaz riot: “[…] as the attitude of Arabs continues and increases always more, we are scared for the life of Italians.”39

  • 40 Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Casellario Politico Centrale, Roma, b. 1176, f. “Antonio Casubolo”, (...)

15A postcard sent from Homs (Tripolitania) in October 1912 to the Italian consul in Tunis is yet another example of the decline of the Italian radical movement in Tunisia. The message read: “Enthusiastic for my fatherland who proudly brings civilisation in Libya – I send you devoutly my greetings, A. Casubolo.”40 Antonino Casubolo was a former Sicilian anarchist, labelled “dangerous” by the Italian police since 1905, when accused of attempting regicide and arrested in Palermo in 1910. After being released due to lack of evidence, Casubolo settled in La Goulette and radically changed his political views. Some weeks before the departure to Homs, the Italian consul in Tunis vouched for his morality to the Italian authorities writing:

  • 41 Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Casellario Politico Centrale, Roma, b. 1176, f. “Antonio Casubolo”, (...)

I think that he has largely changed his political and social ideas judging from his public and private morality and from the patriotic-monarchic discourses that he does every time he can among his friends and people, especially at the Worker Society of that city in which he is an active member.41

  • 42 According to Brondino and Liauzu the decline of the Italian working-class movement in Tunisia happe (...)

16From a dangerous anarchist he became a devout nationalist who supported Italian colonial expansion. Social fear, colonial struggles and nationalist narration made the southern migrants a tool of Italian expansionism and weakened the Italian radical movements in Tunisia.42

  • 43 Archives Nationales de Tunisie (hereafter ANT), Tunisie, Série E, carton 550, dossier 30/15 “Gens à (...)
  • 44 Ragni considered the services rendered by Augusto Mattei as truly useful, cf. ASDMAECI, Archivio St (...)
  • 45 ‘Il contrabbando attraverso la Tunisia. La Protesta degli Italiani’, Corriere della Sera, 16 Dec. 1 (...)

17Meanwhile, the Italian upper classes acted as agents of Rome, trying to monitor the smuggling in the Regency, which could be dangerous to the Italian invasion of Libya. Several telegrams were sent from Tunis to Rome notifying the Italian government about movements of persons and weapons within the Tunisian borders. A web of espionage was settled in South Tunisia not only to gather information about the smuggling but also to negotiate an agreement to support the Italian rule in Libya with Libyan leaders. That was the case of Giambattista Dessì, local businessman and mine-owner, who was entrusted by the Italian government with the negotiation of an agreement with Suleiman el-Baruni for the submission of Jebel Nefoussa to the colonial authority.43 The quality of the services rendered by Augusto Mattei, another local informer, about smuggling in South Tunisia, was a contentious issue between the Governor of Tripolitania Ottavio Ragni and the Minister of Colonies Pietro Bertolini.44 Smuggling greatly worried the Italian elite in Tunisia. In fact, Il Corriere della Sera published an official letter of protest sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonino Di San Giuliano45 signed by twenty presidents of different Italian associations in Tunisia. They accused the government of the Regency, and therefore France, of not doing enough to fight against smugglers.

  • 46 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. 613, Letter 14 Jun. 1912. The 3 March of 1912 the Aereo Clu (...)
  • 47 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. 613, Letter 12 Oct. 1912. About the expulsion of the Italia (...)

18Moreover, the role played by this elite in the Libyan conflict is confirmed by the several fundraising initiatives launched to support Italian colonialism. On 14 June 1912 the Tunis Committee of the “Dante Alighieri” Society collected funds among the Italian upper-class in Tunisia in order to buy an airplane for the Italian Army in Tripolitania.46 In the documents of the “Dante Alighieri” Committee of Tunis one can easily find financial requests asking Rome to support the organisation of cultural activities in Tunisia. The members blamed their difficult financial situation on the general poverty of the colony and asked for a more generous contribution from Rome. But in this case they were able to raise the huge amount of 3,600 francs for the war airplane. The funds were donated by the richest Italian personalities. In addition, a few months afterwards, they raised funds for the Italians who had been expelled from the Ottoman Empire because of the war. This time they collected 3,662 francs and sent it to the Italian Colonial Institute.47 The local Italian upper-class elite, who normally asked Rome for financial support to organise its activities towards the working-class, thus actively helped the motherland and its compatriots in several ways.

The national edifice demands blood and gold.”48

  • 48 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 23.
  • 49 Arnoulet 1984, 38, 50. About the Tunisian effort in the First World War cf. also: Fogarty 2014, 109 (...)
  • 50 ‘Quel che ci ha detto il Conte Caccia Dominioni: «la Colonia italiana non ha nulla da temere: sia s (...)
  • 51 Bonura 1914. In this article, the author openly supports an Italian intervention with the Allies, h (...)
  • 52 D’Alessandro 1914, 10-13.
  • 53 Masi 1915b.
  • 54 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, b. 434, f. 613, 19/3/1911.
  • 55 On 25 May 1915 in Sfax more than 500 people, mainly Italians, demonstrated their support to the war (...)

19After the effort to support the colonial invasion in Libya, the Italian community had to deal with the outburst of the First World War in 1914. As a community living in a French protectorate, the Italians were careful not to take any definite stance regarding the conflict and tried to avoid any kind of contrast with colonial authorities. On 2 August 1914 a beylical decree announced the state of siege.49 The main Italian newspaper L’Unione published on its first page a message from the Italian consul to the community, where he exhorted Italians in Tunisia to keep calm and stay united.50 Throughout 1914, the neutrality of Italy was presented as a diplomatic attempt to a peaceful reconciliation of the European crisis and eventually as a preparation to enter the war with France.51 Meanwhile other publications tried to influence the local public opinion. In 1914 Luigi D’Alessandro published a booklet named Sempre contro (“Always against”) in which he described the necessity for Italy to enter the war in order to prove its supremacy as a young vital country over the old and corrupted ones. It is worth noting that in this writing Germany and the Austrian Empire are depicted as enemies of Italy as well as France or England. According to D’Alessandro, all these powers plotted to keep Italy in a weak international position: the solution was war at all costs, no matter with which allies or enemies, in order to achieve Italian greatness.52 D’Alessandro was not the only one who tried to stir Italians of Tunisia in the war. Corrado Masi, a journalist at L’Unione, was a nationalist and a war activist too, even though he was openly pro-Allies. He wrote several articles in 1915 in support of the war against the central powers, especially against the traditional Italian enemy: the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1915 Masi published a book called Nei margini della Grande Guerra (“at the edges of the Great War”) that was a collection of many articles and other commentaries about future scenarios of the international political situation.53 We can see in these booklets and in pro-war articles in newspapers the will to create a favourable public opinion for the war. Even though Masi and D’Alessandro had different perspectives they came from the same political side. Between 1910 and 1911 D’Alessandro and Masi directed a nationalist newspaper called La Patria in opposition to L’Unione, regarded as too moderate. The entry of Masi in the editing committee of L’Unione in June 1911 put an end to the opposition, making this newspaper more nationalist.54 When Italy declared war, public demonstrations of Franco-Italian unions took place in the streets.55 On the same day an assembly of the notable Italians of Tunis proclaimed the national unity of the community:

  • 56 ‘La Colonia Italiana dell’opera di domani. Uniti e concordi nel volere’, L’Unione, 25 May 1915.

The soul of one, in the Italian colony, is the soul of everybody. Just one feeling, just one faith, just one passion stand by the mass. No more little and vane divisions, no more polemic discussions […] but… Italy, just Italy in the great work of redemption it is bravely preparing itself to.56

  • 57 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 19.
  • 58 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 23.
  • 59 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 21.
  • 60 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 27-38.

20The spiritual national union had to erase every kind of differences that could be against the interest of the motherland: a kind of Union Sacrée in an Italo-Tunisian context. But the union of the souls could not erase the division of age and wealth. The assembly of notables founded a committee to manage the donations of rich Italians who could not fight in the army due to age limits or medical reasons throughout Tunisia. These donations were addressed to social and assistance activities within the community. While the community had sent money to the motherland for the Libyan war, it could not do any less for the Great War. Instead of direct donations, a system of national paying loans was organised from Rome. The Italian Cooperative of Credit, the local Italian bank, issued two loans: the first one during July-August 1915 collected 700,000 Italian liras with an interest rate of 4,5 %, the second one (January-April 1916) collected 1,144,400 Italian liras with a 5 % interest rate.57 The whole community was mobilised for these national war loans: newsletters, posters and public meetings were carried out in order to incentivise public subscriptions. A letter was sent from the consul to the directors of the Italian schools in Tunisia to stimulate the teachers, the students and their families to subscribe to the loans. In a meeting the secretary of the Italian Cooperative of Credit and teacher in the Italian primary school in Tunis Principe di Napoli, Stefano Catalanotti, encouraged to donate. In his patriotic speech, he stressed the necessity to fulfil the duty towards the nation during the war saying that: “the national edifice demands blood and gold.”58 Moreover, he pointed out that, as Italians living in a French monetary area, the national loans were more convenient due to the Franc/Italian lira exchange rate.59 Patriotic feelings and convenient rates made national loans a success among Italians in Tunisia. In 1916 a booklet printed by the Italian Cooperative of Credit published a list with the names of more than 900 donors, from all over Tunisia, who had subscribed to the loan.60 Even though there was a rich upper-class among them, most donors belonged to the working-class, whose per capita wealth was quite small. Catalanotti estimated that half of the hundred thousand Italians living in Tunisia needed to be considered as poor and did not have any savings. Nevertheless, the richer half of the Italians of Tunisia subscribed to national loans proportionally like the Italians in North America, in France and in Argentina. The “gold” of this North-African community was given for the victory of the motherland.

  • 61 La Colonia italiana di Tunisi durante la Guerra 1915-1917, 1917, 10.
  • 62 Magliocco 1933.
  • 63 Bullettin des Écoles de Tunis, Alliance Israélite Universelle, Année 1920, 6-10.

21The Great War for the Italians of Tunisia did not mean just some fundraising for local social assistance or convenient national loans. A huge tribute of “blood” was asked from Tunisia by the Italian government in the name of the patriotic sacrifice. During the First World War the community responded actively to the call to arms issued from Rome. It seems that 15,000 Italians from Tunisia fought in the trenches,61 and about a thousand were killed during the conflict.62 They were enrolled in the Italian army based on their regional origin. Even if born in Tunisia, they were registered in the military district of their fathers or ancestors. For example, many of Leghornese Jews were enrolled in the Livorno military district, while the Sicilians born in Tunisia were registered in their regional military district, mainly Trapani or Palermo. An article in the Bulletin of Alliance Israelite Universelle in 1920 was dedicated to celebrating the alumni who had died during the Great War.63 For instance, Malca Sion, Scialom Abramo, Silvera Sion, Corcos Victor, Boccara Giuseppe, were Leghornese Jews with Italian citizenship, all of them were born in Tunisia and were enrolled in the Livorno military district. Before enrolling in the same troop, the 26°Reggimento fanteria, they had attended the same school in Tunis (the Alliance Israelite Universelle). They were born in the same city, went to the same school, enrolled in the same troop, and eventually died during the same attack during the Third Battle of Isonzo in Santa Lucia, a little hill near to Tolmino and Kobarid (Caporetto), now in Slovenian territory.

  • 64 Direction Générale de l’Agriculture, du Commerce et de la Colonisation, Statistique Générale de la (...)
  • 65 Orfanotrofio “Principe di Piemonte” di Tunisi, Relazione morale e finanziaria. Esercizio 1919, (Tun (...)
  • 66 Magliocco 1933, 111.
  • 67 The memorial plaques were fixed in the Italian Embassy in Tunis, rue Abdelnasser. In 2015, they wer (...)
  • 68 Cf. Bessis 1981; Rainero 1978.

22According to a publication of the “Dante Alighieri” Committee, at the end of 1916 the number of Italians in Tunisia fighting for Italy can be depicted as follows: 8,500 from the consular district of Tunis, 385 from Bizerte, 314 from Sfax, 400 from Susa, for a total of 9,599. Considering that the total number of Italians in Tunisia between 1915 and 1917 was estimated to be around 95,000,64 it is possible to claim that 10 % of the Italian population was fighting in Italy. At the end of August 1917, the 700 fallen soldiers were described in the publication as “martyrs.” In a booklet printed in 1920 it is stated that the Italo-Tunisian soldiers were 20,000 and the fallen 800.65 But in another book of memories, written in 1933 by Vito Magliocco, the author claims that there were 15,000 soldiers from Tunisia fighting on the Italian front and that 1,500 “died in Trentino, in Carso, in the Piave river or anywhere in a place that, for them as well as for us, was and is called only Italy.”66 After the war, in 1926, the Consulate put up several memorial plaques in its building in Tunis in order to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the community. In these memorial plaques 727 names are engraved.67 It is very likely that the fallen soldiers were far more than 727 if we consider that in August 1917 (more than a year before the end of the war) the dead were already 700. On the other hand, we cannot accept without a doubt the number of 1,500 declared by the fascist Magliocco, who wrote in a period of political tension between Italy and France during which the fascist regime easily exaggerated the number of Italians in Tunisia.68

Italian welfare in WWI

23The Dante Alighieri report of 1916 adds that about 480 men living in Tunisia dodged the draft claiming that they wanted to set the economic conditions of their families before going to the war front. True or not, social conditions in Tunisia were rough and got worse with the beginning of war. The Italian consular authority and local associations were aware that the situation was getting critical. In order to respond to this challenge, they created a welfare system that helped the impoverished Italian working class. Private donations coming from the Italian bourgeoisie financed this kind of spontaneous welfare system. The families of the young men sent to the front suffered the most and Italy, through its wealthy members, had a moral duty to improve the situation of the poorest defenders of the nation set abroad. These poor families were assisted by local committees set up in several Tunisian cities and villages. Economic subsides were allocated in all Italian centres in Tunisia:

City

Name of the association

Amount paid

Tunis

National Committee of Succours

Fr. 136.000

La Goletta

Charity Committee

Fr. 5.436,23

Bizerte

Charity and Succours Committee

Fr. 6.252,65

Ferryville

Assistance Committee

Fr. 2.033,70

Mateur

Workers Assistance Committee

Fr. 1.386

Susa

Charity and Succours Committee

Fr. 17.939,10

Monastir

Succours Committee

Fr. 250

Sfax

Succours Committee

Fr. 19.712,70

Djerba

Public subscription

Fr. 121

Gabes

Succours Committee

Fr. 1.096,80

Tabarca

Civil Assistance

Fr. 735

Other Tunisian villages

Assistance Committees

Fr. 3.625,40

Total: Fr. 194.588,58

  • 69 La Colonia italiana di Tunisi durante la Guerra 1915-1917, 11.

Tab. 1: Italian welfare in Tunisia69

24In this way, national authorities and local societies attempted to help the expatriate population in Tunisia. Furthermore, this web of charity associations allowed Italy to maintain a connection with the Italian immigrants. The necessity to create and sustain this welfare network for Italians in Tunisia shows the extreme poverty of the great majority of these immigrants. Many of them suffered greatly when the economic situation worsened as a result of the economic crisis and the war. As pointed out before, social and regional differences played a fundamental role in determining the features of the expatriate community. The Italian southern question had consequences in Tunisia as well. When considering the regional origins of the indigent families that benefited from Italian welfare in Tunisia, it becomes evident that Sicilian immigrants remained among the less prosperous:

Regional origins of benefeciary families

  • 70 An association which took care of migrants and of their social and working conditions.
  • 71 ‘Il Governo Italiano manda a Tunisi un vapore per il rimpatrio degli operai da lungo tempo disoccup (...)

25In order to qualify for this social welfare it was necessary that the men had enlisted in the Italian army. Out of 4,991 families receiving this help in total, 86 % were Sicilians (4,284) and 60 % (3,008) of them lived in Tunis and its region. The Sardinian families were 364, Tuscans 120, from Puglia 85 and from other regions 138. This high percentage of Sicilians among the needy underlines not only the correlation between regional origins and the social composition of the Italian population of Tunisia, but also the fact that the poorest members of the community often lived in the urban area of Tunis. This big amount of needy among families of migrants is surprising when one considers that in 1914 the Italian Consulate and the Patronato degli Emigranti70 had repatriated many poor Sicilian workers. Since unemployment among Italians living in Tunisia was very high, the journey was paid by the Italian government.71 The presence of this many poor Sicilians only 2-3 years after this drastic measure shows how dreadful the economic conditions of the Italians living in Tunisia were. When Italy entered the war, thousands of young men of working age joined the Italian army. Their departure exacerbated the already difficult economic situation of their families.

  • 72 Orfanotrofio “Principe di Piemonte”, Relazione morale e finanziaria. Esercizio 1919, (Tunis: Finzi, (...)
  • 73 ANT, Série E, carton 263 “Enseignement-Ecoles Italiennes”, dossier 11/8 ‘Casa dei bambini « Fortuna (...)
  • 74 La Colonia italiana di Tunisi durante la Guerra 1915-1917, 6.

26Economic aid to destitute families was not the only way in which this community welfare operated. In 1916 different kinds of social assistance towards the kids of the community took place. An orphanage, called Principe di Piemonte, hosted the children (between 6 and 11 years old) whose fathers had died on the battlefield. It was founded by public subscriptions, mainly thanks to the donation of a local businessman named Salvatore Calò.72 Similarly, the Casa Fortunata Morana73 founded by the Morana family in memory of their daughter, was a public nursery school for the children of Italian soldiers (between three and five years old). Pro lactentibus was another initiative of social assistance towards the families of soldiers, giving free milk to needy children.74 In the minds of many of those who stayed at home in Tunisia, these activities, especially the orphanage, were seen as a moral duty towards the men who were sacrifying their lives for the Italian fatherland. To manage the children of the soldiers was also inscribed in the war effort. The social consequences of the warfare were the militarisation of the society and a flourishing social assistance organised by the local bourgeoisie.

Conclusion

  • 75 Labanca 2002, 118-122; 2012, 121-144; Abdelmoula 1999.
  • 76 Cf. the articles in L’Unione, 4-7-8-10-11-12 Mar. 1915; Masi 1915a.
  • 77 Idem 1987, 70.
  • 78 Cf. ASDMAECI-ASMAI, vol. 1, pos. 97/1, f. 6 “Situazione politica 1915”; f. 7 “Situazione politica 1 (...)

27The First World War jeopardised the Italian rule in Libya.75 The Italian press in Tunisia considered with apprehension the news coming from Tripolitania during the retreat of Miani’s troops.76 During the Great War, Italy kept only a few cities under its rule in the Libyan coast; in Misurata German ships could provide supplies and weapons to the rebels.77 Between 1914 and 1919 Italian and French services monitored the rebellion of Jebel Nefoussa that threatened the French colonial authority in the Protectorate: South Tunisia and Tripolitania became a southern battlefront of the Great War.78

28An interesting report written in 1919 by Salvatore Calò underlines how the Libyan war and the First World War played an important role in shaping Italian national identity among the members of the expatriate community in Tunisia. Calò was the president of the Italian Commercial Association, vice-president of the Italian Credit Union of Tunisia, administrator of the Principe di Piemonte orphanage and an influent member of the Dante Alighieri Committee. Concerned by the attitude towards French colonial authorities he declared:

  • 79 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. 613, Report of Salvatore Calò, 21 Apr. 1919.

Such friendship (between Italy and France) cannot last if not underpinned by mutual respect, absolute respect of rights of both sides, keeping a unique privilege of equal civilization: we want to be considered like the citizens of an equal civilization; also because of the inevitable consequence of our Colony in Libya.79

29Therefore, according to this prominent exponent of the Italian bourgeoisie in Tunisia, Italians deserved more respect from the French authorities, as a “consequence” of the Italian conquest of Libya. Moreover, he continues the report by repeating that the Italian experience in Tunisia prepared the country for the take-over in Libya:

  • 80 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. 613, Report of Salvatore Calò, 21 Apr. 1919.

We have to consider that Tunisia was to us a precious camp of experience in the study of colonial politics and economics […]. We have in Tunisia all the necessary organisations to make it the starting point of a rapid assimilation of Libya to the Italian interests, and a point of economic and industrial expansion towards Algeria and Morocco.80

30As stated at the beginning, this paper aimed at showing how Italian nation-building took place in foreign colonial spaces. Furthermore, it underlines the importance of the Italian colonial rhetoric in nationalising emigrants. To conclude, Tunisia played an important role in Italian colonial aspirations. At first, the loss of this ‘almost colony’ to France was perceived as a national shame. Emigration rubbed salt into the wound. As a result of this humiliation, the Kingdom of Italy started looking at the conquest of Tripolitania as a way to soothe its wounded ego and strengthen its weak international position. Meanwhile, the national identity of the Italian community in Tunisia was shaped by the necessity to coexist with the French and the Tunisians. Italian colonial aims and the wartime – which lasted from 1911 to, at least, 1918 – shaped the position of the Italian settlers within the Tunisian colonial society. Several events highlight the importance of the Libyan conflict and of the Great War: the participation to the Libyan war through public subscriptions and the convoy of workers to Tripoli; the massive success of the military recruitment campaign; the low number of draft dodgers; the creation of a community welfare system to support the families of soldiers during WWI. All these can be interpreted as signals of a nation building process that took place among Italians living in the south coast of the Mediterranean.

31On the other hand, the colonialist rhetoric and the social assistance provided by the Italian government to the poorest members of the Italian society in Tunisia weakened the socialist and internationalist movement. The war in Libya and its aftermath coupled with the initial neutrality of Italy during WWI and the later intervention of the country allowed the nationalist bourgeoisie to strengthen its social and cultural hegemony on the whole Italian community in Tunisia. This elite wanted to lead a renewed, greater Italy, a country finally able to show its power and strength through colonial possessions. In the rhetoric of Italian colonialism, Tunisia was the first step towards the creation of this new Italy: Sicilian farmers and Sardinian miners would lead the way to the conquest of Libya.

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Serra, E. 1967. La questione tunisina da Crispi a Rudinì ed il colpo di timone alla politica estera dell’Italia (Milano: A. Giuffrè, 1967).

Tlili, B. 1974. Socialistes et Jeunes-Tunisiens à la veille de la Grande Guerre (1911-1913) (Tunis: Publications de l’Université de Tunis, 1974).

Tlili, B. 1978. Crises et mutations dans le monde islamo-méditerranéen contemporain (1907-1918) (Tunis: Publications de l’Université de Tunis, 1978).

Ungari, A. 2004. ‘“Date ali alla patria”. Nazionalismo e industria nella nascita dell’aviazione militare italiana’, in R. H. Rainero and P. Alberini, eds, Le Forze Armate e la Nazione Italiana (1861-1914). Atti del convegno di studi tenuto a Palermo nei giorni 24-25 ottobre 2002 (Roma: [S.n.], 2004), 265-289.

Notes

1 Gabaccia 2013; Green 2002. I would like to thank the anonymous reviewers, Massimo Zaccaria and Margherita Bellucci for their revisions and their comments. The translations from French and Italian quotations to English are mine.

2 Audenino and Tirabassi 2008, 56; Morone 2011, 42, 20-35; Clancy-Smith 2011.

3 Cresti 2008, 5 (12), 189-214; Fauri 2015.

4 Rainero 2002; Kazdaghli Habib 2001.

5 Among these cf. Choate 2008, 207-215. On the Tunisian case: Brondino 2000, 81-92. About the Italian community in Egypt: Baldinetti 1997; Bardinet 2013. This essay draws from a historiographical framework based on recent studies which look at the First World War from a spatially and chronologically wider perspective: Gerwarth and Manela 2014, 38 (4),786-800.

6 Castellini 1911; Corradini 1912; Piazza 1911. About the nationalist propaganda on the Libyan conflict cf. Schiavulli 2009; Nardi and Gentili 2009.

7 Proglio 2016; Finaldi 2009; Bosworth and Finaldi 2014, 34-52.

8 Serra 1967; Grange 1994.

9 We can see the diplomatic link between these two colonial questions in Archivio Storico-Diplomatico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale (here after ASDMAECI), Archivio Riservato del Segretario Generale e del Gabinetto, Relazioni con la Francia e il Portogallo, Roma, b. 12, f. 5, “Negoziati colla Francia per l’Africa Orientale e per la Tunisia.”

10 Baldinetti 2015, 63-83.

11 Centre des Archives Diplomatiques de Nantes (here after CADN), Nantes, Protectorat de Tunisie, 1er versement, Série Résidence Génerale, Traités, article 878b-Italie, ‘Accords du septembre 1896 avec l’Italie’; Loth 1905.

12 About Sicilians in Tunisia: Melfa 2008; Campisi and Pisanelli 2015; Bono 1989. About Sardinian emigration in Tunisia: Marilotti 2006.

13 Direction Générale de l’Agriculture, du Commerce et de la Colonisation, 1914; 1932.

14 Cf. Bevilacqua, Franzina and De Clementi 2009; Renda 1977.

15 About European settlers in the French colonial empire: Michel 2018.

16 A beylical decree in 1898 compelled foreigners to be registered and declared to the French police authorities.

17 Saurin 1900.

18 Finzi 2003; Melfa 2008.

19 Aquarone 1989, 257-410; Calchi Novati 2011, 25-29; Mahmud Hamdane Larfaoui 2010, 65.

20 Choate 2007, 8, 97-109; Grange 1983, 3, 337-365.

21 Archivio storico della Società Dante Alighieri (here after ASDA), Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. 613 “Relazione San Giuliano.”

22 Archives du Quai d’Orsay (here after AQO), Tunisie, Correspondance Politique et Commerciale, Affaires italiennes, art. 104, 19/5/1905, Report from Resident General to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

23 Cf. Prochaska 2004; Jordi 1996; Balek 1920, 153-155.

24 Prochaska 2004; Jordi 1996; Balek 1920, 153-155.

25 AQO, Tunisie, Correspondance Politique et Commerciale, affaires italiennes, f. 3596, 22/3/1905.

26 Cf. Labanca 2002, 370-376; Grange 1983, 3, 337‑365.

27 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, 1er versement, article 998, Rapport au Contrôleur Civil de Grombalia, 10/11/1911.

28 ‘Tunisie: L'origine des troubles’, Le Temps, 19 Oct. 1911.

29 Ayadi 1986, 163-221; Tlili 1974, 84-88; Kassab and Ounaïes 2010, 368.

30 Julien 1967, 54 (194), 87-150. On Islamic solidarity against the Italian invasion cf. Bono 1988, 7 (22), 55-62; Romano 2007, 154-159.

31 Montalbano 2016, 107‑120. About the reactions to the invasion of Libya in Egypt: Baldinetti 1997, 125-152.

32 Tlili 1978, 307-314.

33 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, 1er versement, Série Résidence Générale – politique intérieure et extérieure, article 997 “guerre italo-turque, télégrammes 1911-1912”.

34 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, 1er versement, Série Résidence Générale – politique intérieure et extérieure, article 997 “guerre italo-turque, télégrammes 1911-1912”. Telegram of Bonacci to “Corriere della Sera” 28 Dec. 1911.

35 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, 1er versement, Série Résidence Générale – politique intérieure et extérieure, article 997 “guerre italo-turque, telegrammes 1911-1912”. Telegram of Luigi D'Alessandro to “Corriere della Sera”, 25 Dec. 1911.

36 CADN, Protectorat Français de Tunisie, Série Résidence Générale, Affaires diverses, article 3263 “Guerre italo-turque”, rapport de Sureté Publique, Tunis 30 avril 1912. Also the national government and the colonial authority were involved in this project cf. ASDMAECI, Serie Politica P 1891 – 1916, b. 339, f. “Rapporti politici 1912”, dossier “situazione colonia italiana a Tunisi”.

37 Liauzu 1975, 89 (90), 141-190. At that time, transnational radical movements crossed the whole Mediterranean basin, for the eastern side see Khuri-Makdisi, 2013.

38 The Italian-speaking international movement in Tunisia experienced an upturn during the 1920s and especially in the 1930s through antifascist groups; see El Houssi 2014.

39 ASDMAECI, Serie Politica P 1891 – 1916, b. 339, f. “Rapporti politici 1912”, Protesta de ‘La Voce del Muratore’, 25 Feb. 1912.

40 Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Casellario Politico Centrale, Roma, b. 1176, f. “Antonio Casubolo”, postcard from Homs, 29 Oct. 1912.

41 Archivio Centrale dello Stato, Casellario Politico Centrale, Roma, b. 1176, f. “Antonio Casubolo”, Letter from Italian Consulate of Tunis to Ministry of Interior, 19 Oct. 1912.

42 According to Brondino and Liauzu the decline of the Italian working-class movement in Tunisia happened due to the First World War. Nevertheless, the importance of the Libyan war and its aftermaths cannot be ignored in this decline. Brondino 1998, 75-76; Liauzu 1970, 953.

43 Archives Nationales de Tunisie (hereafter ANT), Tunisie, Série E, carton 550, dossier 30/15 “Gens à surveiller”, f. 175 “J. B. Dessis”, Report, 27 May 1913.

44 Ragni considered the services rendered by Augusto Mattei as truly useful, cf. ASDMAECI, Archivio Storico del Ministero dell’Africa Italiana (here after ASDMAECI-ASMAI), Libia, vol. 2, pos. 125/2, f. 21 “1913, l’informatore Mattei” message from Tripoli to Rome, 28 Apr. 1913. Nevertheless, Bertolini – thanks to the reports of general Grazioli, chief of the military political bureau of Tripoli – did not have the same advice: ASDMAECI-ASMAI, Libia, vol. 2, pos. 125/2, f. 21 “1913, l’informatore Mattei” message from Rome to Tunis, 9 May 1913.

45 ‘Il contrabbando attraverso la Tunisia. La Protesta degli Italiani’, Corriere della Sera, 16 Dec. 1911.

46 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. 613, Letter 14 Jun. 1912. The 3 March of 1912 the Aereo Club d’Italia announced a subscription to fund the Italian military aviation, cf. Ungari 2004, 265-289.

47 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. 613, Letter 12 Oct. 1912. About the expulsion of the Italians in Ottoman Empire due to Italo-turkish war: De Gasperi and Ferrazza 2007, 134-136.

48 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 23.

49 Arnoulet 1984, 38, 50. About the Tunisian effort in the First World War cf. also: Fogarty 2014, 109-130; Frémeaux 2006; Abdelmoula 2007.

50 ‘Quel che ci ha detto il Conte Caccia Dominioni: «la Colonia italiana non ha nulla da temere: sia serena, calma, concorde»’, L’Unione, 2 Aug. 1914. The Count Caccia Dominion was the Italian consul of Tunis.

51 Bonura 1914. In this article, the author openly supports an Italian intervention with the Allies, highlighting the main figures of Risorgimento – Garibaldi and Mazzini – and their friendly relations with France.

52 D’Alessandro 1914, 10-13.

53 Masi 1915b.

54 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, b. 434, f. 613, 19/3/1911.

55 On 25 May 1915 in Sfax more than 500 people, mainly Italians, demonstrated their support to the war and to the Allies with a public demonstration in the streets of the city: ‘L’imponente manifestazione degli italiani di Sfax’, L’Unione, 25 May 1915. Similar demonstrations took place in Sousse, and in other cities.

56 ‘La Colonia Italiana dell’opera di domani. Uniti e concordi nel volere’, L’Unione, 25 May 1915.

57 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 19.

58 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 23.

59 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 21.

60 Cooperativa Italiana di Credito 1916, 27-38.

61 La Colonia italiana di Tunisi durante la Guerra 1915-1917, 1917, 10.

62 Magliocco 1933.

63 Bullettin des Écoles de Tunis, Alliance Israélite Universelle, Année 1920, 6-10.

64 Direction Générale de l’Agriculture, du Commerce et de la Colonisation, Statistique Générale de la Tunisie. Année 1913, Tunis.

65 Orfanotrofio “Principe di Piemonte” di Tunisi, Relazione morale e finanziaria. Esercizio 1919, (Tunis: Finzi, 1920) 14.

66 Magliocco 1933, 111.

67 The memorial plaques were fixed in the Italian Embassy in Tunis, rue Abdelnasser. In 2015, they were relocated to the new building in rue de l’Alhambra. I would like to thank Angela Zanca and Federica Pesce, from the Italian Embassy, for letting me access this important memorial.

68 Cf. Bessis 1981; Rainero 1978.

69 La Colonia italiana di Tunisi durante la Guerra 1915-1917, 11.

70 An association which took care of migrants and of their social and working conditions.

71 ‘Il Governo Italiano manda a Tunisi un vapore per il rimpatrio degli operai da lungo tempo disoccupati’, L’Unione, 8 Aug. 1914.

72 Orfanotrofio “Principe di Piemonte”, Relazione morale e finanziaria. Esercizio 1919, (Tunis: Finzi, 1920), 13.

73 ANT, Série E, carton 263 “Enseignement-Ecoles Italiennes”, dossier 11/8 ‘Casa dei bambini « Fortunata Morana »’.

74 La Colonia italiana di Tunisi durante la Guerra 1915-1917, 6.

75 Labanca 2002, 118-122; 2012, 121-144; Abdelmoula 1999.

76 Cf. the articles in L’Unione, 4-7-8-10-11-12 Mar. 1915; Masi 1915a.

77 Idem 1987, 70.

78 Cf. ASDMAECI-ASMAI, vol. 1, pos. 97/1, f. 6 “Situazione politica 1915”; f. 7 “Situazione politica 1916-1918”; f. 8 “Situazione nel Sud-Tunisino 1914-1919”.

79 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. 613, Report of Salvatore Calò, 21 Apr. 1919.

80 ASDA, Serie Comitati Esteri, Tunisi, f. 613, Report of Salvatore Calò, 21 Apr. 1919.

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Légende Regional origins of benefeciary families
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