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

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

Colonial Policies

Feeding the War: Canned Meat Production in the Horn of Africa and the Italian Front

Massimo Zaccaria

Résumé

The Horn of Africa was deeply affected by WWI. Thousands of askaris were sent to the Libyan front while on the Red Sea trade and traffics were disrupted by the confrontation between the Allied and the Ottomans forces. The impact of war was felt by the population that had to confront a steep increase in prices and food shortages. Eritrea was asked to provide to the Italian army some twelve million cans of meat, an exorbitant request that was met only through the use of quotas, the introduction of controlled prices and requisitions. Once the Eritrean livestock was exhausted, the Italians turned to the Ethiopian and Yemeni markets, from where cattle started to be imported and processed in the “Torrigiani Cannery” based in Asmara. The story of canned meat production during the WWI is an interesting example of how the maelstrom of WWI was felt across the Horn of Africa. Eritrea, although largely untouched by combats, was deeply affected by the war, which had a profound impact on the country’s productive and social system.

Entrées d'index

Texte intégral

Southern Red Sea Region. Made with Scribble Maps.

  • 1 Count Luigi Torrigiani was born in Parma in 1846; after a degree in Law Luigi Torrigiani started ta (...)
  • 2 Addi Qäyyəḥ Regional Archive (hereafter AQRA), Mendefera, Eritrea, Commerce III, ‘Festeggiamenti i (...)

1On 16 January 1914 the town of Asmara was in a celebratory mood. At half past three in the afternoon a special train left the railway station directed to Sembel, a few kilometres away from downtown. The carriages were boarded by some of the most influential notables of the Eritrean colony and their followings. Delegations of dignitaries flocked from all the regions: 14 “chiefs” and 35 “members of their entourage” came from Akkälä Guzay alone. The reason for their visit was the inauguration of the Torrigiani cannery, a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility at a cost of 400,000 Italian lire for the production of canned meat.1 Once in Sembel, the party was joined by the Governor of the Colony, Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, and the highest ranks of the colonial administration. At half past four, the party started the visit of the cannery and then a lavish meal was offered to the distinguished guests, accommodated in a large tent “with separate tables for Christians and Muslims,” to be sure that their dietary rules were respected.2

2Why were the Italian authorities so jubilant about this inauguration? And why did they accord such importance to the presence and needs of their Eritrean guests?

  • 3 See The Journal of African History, 9/1, 1978.
  • 4 Crowder 1985; Page 1987.
  • 5 Pallaver 2015.
  • 6 Laṭīfa Muḥammad Sālim 2009.

3The debate on the role played by Africa in the Great War started in the 1970s when The Journal of African History dedicated a special issue to “World War I and Africa.”3 It has recently attracted additional attention thanks to the centenary of the Great War and to the Transnational/Global History turn in historical studies. There are still many blind spots in the historiography on Africa in the First World War, one of the most evident among them being the economic and socio-political consequences of the war. Many authors refer to “material resources” as one of the contributions provided by African countries to the war effort, but in general this claim is rather cursory and is corroborated by only a very limited number of case studies. There are a few exceptions, starting from the seminal works of Michel Crowder and Melvin E. Page,4 while Karin Pallaver has recently provided a rare and praiseworthy overview of the contribution of African economies to the war effort.5 Other research, such as the one of Laṭīfa Muḥammad Sālim about Egypt during WWI, has been published locally and deserves all our attention.6

4The Horn of Africa was deeply affected by WWI. Thousands of askaris were sent to Libya while the Red Sea trade and traffics were disrupted by the confrontation between the Allied and the Ottoman forces. The impact of war was felt by the population that had to deal with a steep increase in prices and food shortages. Eritrea was asked to provide some twenty-four million cans of meat to the Italian army, a challenging demand that was met only through the use of quotas, the introduction of controlled prices and requisitions. Once Eritrea proved incapable of bearing this burden alone, the Italians turned to the Ethiopian and Yemeni markets, from where cattle started to be imported and processed in the “Torrigiani Cannery” based in Asmara. Using commodities as historical actors can provide a very interesting vantage point for probing the economic, social and political impact of WWI on Eritrean society. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to demonstrate the many effects the decision to ask Eritrea to contribute to feed the Italian troops had at the local and regional level, and to evaluate at what price the Italian demands were met.

Italian Meat Consumption and Eritrean Livestock

5So why then were the Italians so proud of the modern cannery inaugurated in Eritrea in 1914 by Count Luigi Torrigiani? The answer is quite straightforward: Torrigiani’s factory represented the triumph over the age-old question of rinderpest and, for colonial advocates, yet another example of how Eritrea could provide a valuable contribution to the needs of the Italian economy.

  • 7 For a recent history of rinderpest in Ethiopia see Spinage 2012, 1055-1063. Pankhurst 1985 and, mor (...)
  • 8 Franchetti 1891, [447]-509.
  • 9 Ardemanni 1900, 61.
  • 10 Bartolommei-Gioli 1902, 36-37.
  • 11 Disoccupazione ed emigrazione dalla nostra provincia’, Il Ravennate Corriere di Romagna, 3 Feb. 19 (...)

6As far as cattle is concerned, the Italian reputation in Africa is quite infamous; it is widely believed that the rinderpest epidemic that ravaged Africa at the end of the 19th century was imported by the Italians via cattle brought from India in 1887.7 During the “Great Ethiopian Famine” of 1888-1892, rinderpest killed almost 90 % of the cattle. The epidemic then spread to the Sudan as well as East Africa, and finally reached South Africa by 1896. Nevertheless, after their arrival in Eritrea, the Italians considered livestock to be one of the country’s most promising resources. In 1891, for example, Leopoldo Franchetti noted how agriculture and livestock were the two pillars of the local economy.8 Italians estimated that around one-third of Eritrea was covered by pastures, in a context where the particularly rainy climate of the country made them practically evergreen. Indeed, herders only had to move in due time from the areas benefiting from the humid winter winds of the Red Sea to the highlands during the summer times. It is interesting to note how one of the first plans for the use of the nation’s livestock immediately made reference to the idea of producing canned meat. Ernesto Ardemanni, a clergyman in Eritrea from 1892 to 1894, advanced the idea of building “one or two American-style slaughterhouses, to preserve the butchered meats in cans,9 thereby providing for the needs of the colonial army. This assessment was confirmed first by Bartolommei-Gioli,10 and then by Isaia Baldrati,11 both of them renowned agronomists.

Fig. 1: Galla Ox (Ferretti 1913, 72).

  • 12 Dentoni 2014, 234.

7In the meantime in Italy, per capita meat consumption was growing slowly but steadily: in 1914 meat represented only 12 % of the daily calories intake (compared to 26,99 % in France, 32.79 % in the UK, and 35.54 % in Germany), but for many Italians the Great War marked the shift from a vegetarian diet to a more varied diet, which included 375 grams of meat rations for frontline soldiers.12

8Consequently, an increase of meat consumption took place, together with an increase in prices and volume of imported meat (which was coming from Serbia but also from faraway Argentina and New Zealand at that time). This was due to the notable progress seen in the transportation and processing of chilled and frozen meat.

  • 13 Martini 1942-1943, III, 184. The Ministry of War had its own plant that was able to fulfil, after r (...)
  • 14 Pico 1911.

9In May 1903, Gandolfi, one of Eritrea’s most important companies, presented a project on the production of canned meat to the governor Ferdinando Martini. It was mainly addressed to the Ministry of War, the largest consumer of canned meat at that moment.13 Other Italian businessmen in Eritrea moved in the same direction, such as Mariano Calabretta who worked for years on a project for the exportation of live cattle and frozen meat.14 Any development of the meat industry in Eritrea required a number of changes in the prevailing breeding approach, but health and veterinary aspects were at the top of the list: the major concerns for the Italians were that Eritrean herds needed to be protected from infections and illnesses. As long as the Eritrean government was not able to give concrete answers to the evil of rinderpest, or gulhai, all the proposals for the use of the Eritrean livestock would remain highly unlikely. Indeed, after the disastrous 1887 outbreak, rinderpest had made its appearance again in 1896, 1898, and from 1903 to 1906. The colonial government realised the gravity of the problem and made the battle against gulhai one of its priorities.

Istituto Siero-Vaccinogeno

  • 15 Ministero delle Colonie 1913, 260.
  • 16 Martini 1913, I, 183. See also: ‘La peste bovina guarita’, Bollettino Agricolo e Commerciale della (...)
  • 17 ASDMAECI, Archivio Eritrea (hereafter AE) 143, F. Martini to Ministro Affari Esteri, Monsumanno 1 S (...)
  • 18 Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza di Vicenza (hereafter MRRV), Carte Pecori Giraldi, 5.F.5. (...)
  • 19 Il servizio veterinario nell’Africa Italiana (Roma: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1965, 13.
  • 20 BUCE, 14/38, 23 Sep. 1905.
  • 21 Ferretti 1913, 32.

10In the years 1902-1905, when the country faced a new outbreak of gulhai that provoked the death of more than 100,000 cattle,15 Governor Ferdinando Martini requested assistance. A team made up of two military doctors (Captain Giovanni Memmo and Lieutenant Ferdinando Martoglio) and a veterinary surgeon (Lieutenant Carlo Adani) was sent to investigate the matter. At the end of their mission, they submitted a report in which they claimed to have identified a serum that was “extremely active” against gulhai.16 This was the news everyone had been waiting for. It was no coincidence that, in the same report, Governor Martini claimed that Eritrea could supply two million cans of meat per year (or 800,000 quintals of meat, equivalent to 10,000 heads of cattle) at a price that was 10 % less than the one applied by the Italian suppliers of the army.17 Martini gave his approval to set up a laboratory and assigned it to the care of Lieutenant Martoglio, who launched a series of paid nationwide vaccination campaigns.18 The cost of vaccination was 1 Maria Theresa thaler per head.19 Very soon it appeared that the laboratory was too small to deal with the huge enterprise ahead, and that a more stable institution was required. On 18 September 1905, the Istituto Siero-Vaccinogeno was inaugurated. Its general mandate was to combat cattle diseases in Eritrea, with the specific objective of immunising all the cattle in the colony.20 Seven years later in 1912, the Instituto Siero-Vaccinogeno claimed to have immunised 300,000 heads of cattle.21

  • 22 According to Vittorio Peglion, 17,535 cows were immunised in 1906, 62,891 in 1907, 67,065 in 1908, (...)
  • 23 Pedrazzi 1918, 17.
  • 24 Ministero delle Colonie 1913, 26.
  • 25 See, for example, ASDMAECI, AE 754, fasc. ‘Interventi in Colonia,’ G. Tornari to Governo, ‘Addi Qäy (...)
  • 26 Foglio d’Ordini, 19, Asmara 7 May 1912.
  • 27 Martini 1913, I, 182. According to the data collected in Eritrea by prof. Ezio Marchi in 1908, ther (...)
  • 28 Ferretti 1913 and 1921.
  • 29 Ferretti 1913, 33.
  • 30 Ferretti 1913, 100-106.

11The creation of this institute contributed to keeping the breeding grounds of rinderpest under control and, from 1905 on, gulhai only made sporadic appearances.22 In order to reduce the risk of cattle from Təgray and the north-eastern corner of ‘Agamä introducing gulhai, the immunisation campaign was extended to Təgray. According to the claims of the Italian authorities, some 36,000 cattle were inoculated there23 upon request of local authorities.24 In the following years, the colonial government of Eritrea provided vaccines and vets to Ethiopia on more than one occasion.25 To further strengthen sanitary control over livestock coming from Ethiopia, in December 1911 a “Cattle’s Observation Post on the Mareb” was set up and a few months later, a telephone line was fitted in the office to ease communications with the Commissariato of Mendefera (‘Addi Ugri).26 In order to provide a fair estimate of the Eritrean livestock population a new livestock census was organised in 1905, following the one carried out in 1898, which had provided extremely encouraging results. The 1905 census also led to the conclusion that the number of cattle in Eritrea was “absolutely overabundant compared to the Colony’s needs.27 Uberto Ferretti, one of the leading Italian authorities on animal husbandry and an expert in meat preservation using cold temperatures,28 was convinced that the 250,000 cattle counted in 1905 had come close to 800,000 by 1913 after visiting Eritrea.29 This optimistic estimate generated a dangerous misunderstanding because some additional variables, such as the amount of local population relying on livestock for their subsistence and the differentiation between bulls, calves and cows, should have been considered in order to correctly evaluate the size of the local livestock population. Instead, those responsible preferred to circulate results that were incomplete right from the beginning, mainly in an attempt to avoid spoiling the atmosphere of high hopes and expectations. Having convinced itself to “think positive,” the colonial government decided to go ahead with its plans. But it did not take long to realise that it was very difficult to find enough animals on the market to satisfy the needs of a modern meat cannery industry, and when cattle were available, local farmers proved very reluctant, if not openly hostile, to the idea of selling them. This attitude was noticed by Italian experts pretty soon but, again, optimism prevailed, for good prices were considered enough to overcome resistance.30

Fig. 2: Asmara, Istituto Siero-Vaccinogeno (Ferretti 1913, 148).

  • 31 Publications about Eritrea written by Marchi, born in 1869 and dead prematurely in 1908, were edite (...)
  • 32 BUCE, 23/36, 3 Sep. 1914, 253-254.
  • 33 Baldrati 1903, 25-26; Peglion 1913, 213.
  • 34 Ferretti 1913, 12-13.

12A further step taken with a view to allow the country’s livestock to be “used rationally” consisted in improving the local breeds in order to make them compliant with European standards. At that point in 1907, Professor Ezio Marchi, who was considered one of Italy’s most skilled experts in this field, was contacted to carry out a zootechnical survey and provide guidance for the improvement of the local livestock.31 It is not insignificant, then, that in 1913 a livestock exhibition was organised in Asmara, and held again the following year in September: prizes and awards were given to the best Italian and local producers.32 Attention was also paid to the increase in foraging resources and the spreading of better seeds with the introduction of artificial grazing grounds.33 The already mentioned Professor Uberto Ferretti that was then hired in 1912 to establish whether it was possible to start a local meat industry.34

  • 35 Live animals export was directed only to neighbouring countries: a shipment of 600 heads of cattle (...)
  • 36 ASDMAECI, AE 754, E. Sailer to Governo dell’Eritrea, 19 Apr. 1915; Ferretti 1913, 167-189.

13Attempts to export live cattle to Italy failed due to the resistance put up by the Ministry of Health, despite the creation of a modern quarantine park in Massawa.35 In 1910, 600 heads of cattle were shipped to Italy, but the experiment was not repeated and in 1915 it was definitely abandoned for fear of spreading gulhai in Italy.36

Fig. 3: Naples, Autumn 1910: a group of Eritrean Cows imported in Italy (Ferretti 1913, 200).

  • 37 It is no accident that in 1914 Capt. Francesco Provenzale, head of the livestock service in Italian (...)
  • 38 Ferretti 1913, 207.
  • 39 For the cultural difficulties associated with the consumption of canned meat see Bruegel 2002, 113- (...)
  • 40 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 21/1, 15, A. Maggiorotti, ‘Progetto sommario per la fabbricazione di scatolette di (...)
  • 41 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 21/1, 15, A. Maggiorotti, ‘Progetto sommario per la fabbricazione di scatolette di (...)

14The focus then fell almost exclusively on the proposal of canned meat, but one last question was left to solve: Somalia also had a significant livestock population, and for several years there was indecision regarding the place the production should effectively originate from.37 In 1911, at the Congresso degli Italiani all’Estero, two separate reports were presented: the first one supported the candidature of Eritrea, while the second one favoured Somalia as the best place for the implantation of a local frozen meat facility.38 In March 1911, Lieutenant Colonel A. Maggiorotti additionally presented a project about the production of canned meat and beef broth concentrate in Benadir (Somalia). The proposal, which was never followed through, is yet interesting because it contained certain elements that were to become recurring characteristics in subsequent experiences. Firstly, the production was almost exclusively planned for the Army, given that canned meat consumption on the domestic market was still far from high.39 If the canned meat industry were to intend to secure a footing, it would therefore require substantial political support – i.e. it would have to receive “powerful aid from the State40 – and need to win the favours of the Ministry of War by maintaining the production costs at around L. 0,50 per piece. Maggiorotti then fixed the ideal production rate at 2,000 cans a day. As far as personnel are concerned, Maggiorotti estimated that 18 Italians (the project auditor claimed that the number could have been reduced by 50 %) and 40 Eritreans workers (the auditor claimed this number should be increased to 49) were needed.41 Maggiorotti’s report, including the approximate number of staff members required, is an important document that allows us to appreciate the relatively modest scale of this first industrial plan. In Eritrea there were certainly other sectors that were capable of absorbing more local staff, for example, in that same period, the construction of the railway was employing up to 2,000 to 3,000 workers.

The Torrigiani Factory

  • 42 Ferretti 1913, 207-211. A detailed description of Torrigiani’s factory appeared in a report written (...)

15In 1913, after complex negotiations that lasted for almost two years and secured the support of the Ministry of War, the Torrigiani company from Sesto Fiorentino, an industrial group established in 1905, opened what was immediately described as a modern, “extremely beautiful factory.42 In fact, Torrigiani’s plant could be considered the first example of a state of the art factory to be initiated in Eritrea. A rare example of modern export-oriented manufacturing, where workers followed a somehow rigid organisational structure, and whose final product was intended for a global and highly competitive meat market.

  • 43 Camera dei Deputati Archivio Storico (CDAS), Roma, Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta sulle spese (...)

16By combining low labour costs and the availability of cheap livestock, the company committed to supply the Ministry of War on an annual basis for nine consecutive years with one million and two hundred thousand cans of tinned meat and twelve thousand bottles of broth concentrate.43 The contract, worth six million Italian lire, would save the Ministry of War an estimated 250,000 lire on every million of cans supplied. Or, at least, that was the plan.

17The Eritrean Government, hoping it had finally found a springboard for its economy, strongly encouraged Torrigiani’s venture and provided a generous package of benefits and privileges: the construction of a railway section leading up to the factory (one kilometre); the granting of a land plot to build the plant; a special reduction in journey costs to Massawa; the possibility of storing products in the buildings of the army in Massawa; and the use of the Colonial Treasury for financial transactions.

  • 44 AQRA, Commerce III, ‘Corrispondenza di carattere generale per la fornitura.’

18However, its greatest commitment was the guarantee of a supply of 750,000 kg of cattle per year at a price not exceeding L. 0,22 per kg, based on the live weight of the animals after a day of fasting.44 Otherwise the colonial administration would take on the price difference. This particular article of the contract raised strong criticisms because it exposed the colonial government to the uncertainties of the local market and created a preferential trade regime for Torrigiani that was resented by other entrepreneurs.

19In practise, the immediate impact of Torrigiani’s factory on the Eritrean livestock market resulted in a sharp price increase, which surprised many experts given that they were expecting exactly the opposite.

  • 45 Colosimo 1918, 313-315.
  • 46 AQRA, Commerce III, ‘Corrispondenza di carattere generale per la fornitura’, 16448, Circolare ai co (...)
  • 47 AQRA, Commerce III, ‘Corrispondenza di carattere generale per la fornitura’, 9857, circolare ai com (...)

20The efforts carried out to have Eritrean dignitaries attend the Torrigiani’s plant opening ceremony were not devoid of an ulterior motive. During the days immediately before the inauguration, Torrigiani had already succeeded in having the production quota increased from 1,2 to 1,5 million cans of meat.45 The factory then needed to find additional cattle, typically including “large cows of a good quality.” It therefore became mandatory to secure the collaboration of local dignitaries. Based on the data of the 1905 cattle census, cattle quotas were established for the various commissioners, who were asked to rigorously follow the indications issued by the Government. For the 1913-15 seasons, the highland regions (Ṣəra‘, Ḥamasen and Akkälä Guzay) had to bear the most weight in relation to these requests,46 while the Western lowland regions were expected to gradually increase their contribution in the years to come.47

1913-14

1914-15

1915-16

1916-17

1917-18

1918-19

1919-20

1920-21

1922-22

1922-23

Ṣəra‘

841

2000

2500

2500

2500

2500

2500

2500

2500

2500

Ḥamasen

897

1500

1700

1700

1700

1700

1700

1700

1700

1700

Massawa

302

400

500

600

600

600

600

600

600

600

Akkälä Guzay

752

1500

2200

2200

2200

2200

2200

2200

2200

2200

Barka

204

400

500

500

1000

3000

3000

3000

3000

3000

Gash Setit

200

400

500

500

1000

1500

1500

1500

1500

1500

Kärän

433

800

1200

1500

2500

4000

4000

4000

4000

4000

Total

3631

7000

9100

9500

11500

15500

15500

15500

15500

15500

Table 1: Eritrea’s livestock regional quotas, source: AQRA, Commerce III, ‘Corrispondenza di carattere generale per la fornitura’, 16448, Circolare ai commissari regionali, Asmara 24 Aug. 1914.

  • 48 ASDMAECI, AE 749, 7381 P. Teodorani to Affari Civili, 7 Feb. 1914. In his telegram Paolo Teodorani, (...)

21Pretty soon, Italian experts noticed that Ethiopian livestock was an integral part of the Eritrean rural economy, and that cows and oxen from Təgray were frequently sold on local markets. Therefore, Ethiopia was seen as a promising ground for cattle procurement, and in February 1914 Däğazmač Gäbrä Śəllase Barya Gabər (Dejac Gerasellasie in Italian sources) was officially contacted by the Italian government: Gäbrä Śəllase’s reply somehow cooled down Italian expectations regarding easy access to the Ethiopian market but the idea was not discarded.48

War

  • 49 Ministero delle Colonie 1919a, 182-183.

22Italy’s entering the war in 1915 conferred a strategic value to the Eritrean meat production that rapidly gained crucial importance for the needs of the Italian army. In 1917, the Torrigiani company signed a new contract and was asked to provide 24 million cans by 1921-22, 16 million of which were for the 1917-18 two-year period alone: in a few years, the military administration increased the quantity of canned meat to be supplied almost seven-fold.49 All of this placed an unsustainable burden on local farmers, who had to provide cows at a price that turned out to be lower than the daily market price. War-compelling circumstances made vain the possibility of negotiating cattle supplies. From 1916, the Italian administration started requisitioning cows. Clearly, Eritrea’s livestock was already squeezed to the limit, and it was difficult to find cows from five to nine years old with a weight exceeding 250 kg on the market.

23Applying extra pressure on local breeders could become counterproductive, as Giuseppe Mantia, the Regional Commissioner of Ḥamasen clearly wrote in 1917:

  • 50 ASDMAECI, AE 828, 6130, G. Mantia, ‘Commissariato Regionale dello Hamasien. Relazione annuale per i (...)

It is well-known that in the villages, given that demand was exceeding supply, cattle had to be bought in from the market at a much higher price that that paid by the Factory. The loss was divided amongst the ghebbars of the villages. For this reason, the sale of cattle to the Torrigiani Factory ended up serving as a true tax […] Therefore, it was as if an iniquitous tax in kind of more than 10 % had been applied to cattle, and there were then so few cattle left that in order to encourage breeding, in 1917 the Honourable Government was obliged to distribute 166 heads to the villagers. The problem of the Torrigiani factory begs an urgent solution, because it could ultimately be the cause of disruption.50

24In the same document, Giuseppe Mantia reported that the general market price of a cow sold to the Torrigiani cannery was around 300 Italian lire, but that the factory was paying only 115 lire for it.

Fig. 4: Cattle consignement form, 1915. Distributed to Akkälä Guzay’s farmers and cattle producers, the type written form was translated intoTigrinya and Arabic (‘Addi Qäyyəḥ Regional Archive, Mendefera, Eritrea, Commerce III).

  • 51 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/24, ‘Notiziario informazioni sull’Etiopia, Arabia, Sudan (gennaio, febbraio e mar (...)
  • 52 ASDMAECI, AE 825, Compagnia Carabinieri Reali, ‘Rapportino delle novità del mercato di Asmara, 31 O (...)

25The situation was further complicated by the fact that, in March 1916 in Ethiopia, a heavy tax was levied on each head of cattle exported to Eritrea.51 At the end of October of the same year Ras Śəyyum Mängäša ordered to suspend all cattle export to Eritrea, and the border with Təgray was practically closed to trade.52 According to Italian plans, Ethiopia played the role of an inexhaustible source of cattle, able to compensate for any difficulty on the Eritrean front. The closing of this market represented a serious blow to these plans.

  • 53 ASDMAECI, AE 825, Compagnia Carabinieri Reali, ‘Rapportino delle novità del mercato di Asmara’, 21  (...)
  • 54 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Informazioni e carteggio in rapporto alla situazione in Etiopia e alla sicur (...)
  • 55 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Informazioni e carteggio in rapporto alla situazione in Etiopia e alla sicur (...)

26It is true that, despite Ras Śəyyum’s prohibition, sporadic quantities of cattle brought by peasants able to raise enough money to pay the taxes imposed continued to arrive from Təgray.53 But this reduced and irregular flow of cattle was obviously insignificant for Torrigiani who, as we have seen, had just signed a very demanding and lucrative contract with the Italian army: eight million cans for 1917. Based on an average cow weight of 250 kg, it was estimated that 40,000 cows had to be slaughtered in 1917. Notwithstanding Ras Śəyyum’s ban on export to Eritrea, the Italians yet hoped to receive from Ethiopia around 20,000 heads of cattle, while 10,000 were expected from Eritrea as well as from the Arabian coast.54 In March 1917, the Italian authorities were negotiating the supply of 10,000 heads of cattle with Ras Wäldä Giyorgis Abboyye (Ras Uold Ghiorghis in Italian documents), one of the most experienced Ethiopian generals who had been sent to Wällo and Təgray following Iyasu’s deposition, and complained that the British and the French were looking for cattle in Ethiopia. According to Giacomo De Martino, Governor of Eritrea, a French company was able to secure the supply of 20,000 heads of cattle via Djibouti.55 Inevitably, prices increased. Operating in such a complex and volatile environment became increasingly difficult; Torrigiani needed a rich, regular, and possibly cheap supply of cattle to maintain full production, while Eritrea proved to be poor in cattle and the Ethiopian supply line highly erratic and unreliable.

  • 56 Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta sulle spese di guerra (1920-1923) (hereafter CDAS), Roma, Sott (...)
  • 57 CDAS, Roma, Sottocommissione A, Inchiesta sull’Eritrea, 256, 91-7522, ‘Convenzione riguardante la l (...)

27At the beginning of 1917, the army vet corps, which supervised the production of Torrigiani and certified its compliance with quality standards on behalf of the Ministry of War, had to swallow a bitter pill when the local administration insisted on minimising control procedures, accepting bovines of any condition, age and weight, as long as they were healthy. On the health front as well, authorities were ready to make more than one concession.56 Traces of the tensions that regularly ran between the Army veterinary representatives, the management of Torrigiani and the Government frequently appear in remaining documents: the vets accused Torrigiani and the Government of being ready to slaughter anything at any cost by avoiding even the most basic medical checkups.57

  • 58 During the early 1900s, Yemen was divided between many competing powers: Aden and part of the south (...)
  • 59 ASDMAECI, AE 825, 2467, G. De Martino to Ministro delle Colonie, Asmara 1 Jun. 1917.
  • 60 For al-Ghūl’s involvement see ASDMAECI, AE 819, Odorizzi to Governo, Massawa 12 May 1917; for Bā Ṭū (...)

28Starting from 1917, the Italians also turned their attention to Yemen58 from where, according to their estimate, some 10,000 to 20,000 heads of cattle could be imported to Eritrea.59 Some of the most prominent Yemeni merchants in Eritrea were involved in these supplying operations: Muḥammad Sālim Bā Ṭūq, Aḥmad Afandī al-Ghūl, Muḥammad Sālim.60

29This system was complex, costly and time-consuming, but the Eritrean administration was desperate to meet the quota of 8 million cans and ventured in this market. Consequently hundreds of Yemeni heads of cattle started arriving in Eritrea. The cattle had first to be concentrated in Jāzān (Jizan), right in front of the Farasān Island.

  • 61 ASDMAECI, AE 819, 2634, Dotti to Eritrean Government, Massawa 2 Jun. 1917.
  • 62 ASDMAECI, AE 819, 2409, A. Pollera to Eritrean Government, ‘Addi Ugri 31 May 1917.
  • 63 ASDMAECI, AE 819, A. Pollera, ‘Commissariato Regionale del Barca. Relazione del mese di giugno 1917 (...)

30Cattle coming from the Arabian Peninsula were first of all smaller, with an average weight of 80-120 kg (against 200-250 kg for Eritrean cattle). Following their concentration in Jāzān, they had to be loaded and shipped to Massawa. Transport was achieved using traditional dhows with an average carrying capacity of 50 livestock. Once in Massawa the animals usually stayed a couple of days in order to recover from the hardship of the 350 km sea trip which lasted three to four days and cost nine to ten lire per animal.61 Then the cattle were loaded onto train cars and shipped to Asmara in small groups of 50 heads of cattle per day. Halfway in Ghinda, a livestock feeding centre provided forage and water. Once in Asmara the cattle were slaughtered and their meat processed. This system was far from flawless: extremely complex from a logistical point of view, very stressful and risky for the livestock, and enormously expensive. It was sheer necessity rather than convenience that led the Italians to rely on such a difficult supply line. Given the impossibility of making the most of Ethiopian livestock, Eritrea and Yemen remained the only sources of cattle and it was evident to all that sooner or later such pressure would create troubles. But again, the stakes were simply too high and any major reduction could jeopardize the Italian war effort. Therefore, the Eritrean Government went ahead unabated, and strict orders to comply with the quota system were dispatched to all Eritrean Commissariati. Many colonial officers made the point that the price offered by the Government was almost half of the market price; that cattle were scarce, and that in this particular period of the year farmers were in need of oxen for tilling and ploughing.62 In Aqordät, in May 1916, the local Resident organised a public meeting with the regional “chiefs” and, after referring to the uniqueness of the period, asked for their cooperation, which he obtained.63 This persuasion work, though commendable, did not offer a lasting solution to the problem and more bad news was on the way.

Naval Blockade

31While the Yemeni route seemed to have found a new albeit precarious balance, the British declared a naval blockade of the Yemeni coasts in June 1917. It was strictly implemented and compromised the new Italian supply line.

32On the Red Sea, territorial blockades have always represented one of the most common retaliatory measures taken by imperial powers. In the 20th century, blockades were imposed to curtail arms trafficking, where Yemeni traders played a significant role. For example, on 13 December 1906, France, Britain and Italy agreed to restrict the sale of arms to Ethiopia and tried to implement this ban through a maritime blockade. The same strategy was followed by the Italians when, in 1911-1912, they successfully curbed the movements of the Ottoman fleet in the region.

  • 64 Johnson-Allen 2015.
  • 65 Ordinanza governatoriale vietante il traffico ai bastimenti indigeni fra la costa Eritrea e Araba, (...)
  • 66 ASDMAECI, AE 7, First Assistant Resident in Aden to R. Console d’Italia in Aden, 5 Nov. 1915, n. c8 (...)
  • 67 Ordinanza governatoriale 28 giugno 1916. Navigazione dei sambuchi nel Mar Rosso,’ BUCE, 25/26, 29  (...)
  • 68 Baldry 1978, 189.
  • 69Decreto Ministeriale 12 dicembre 1916 che deroga per l’Eritrea il divieto di cui all’articolo 1 de (...)

33During the First World War, military operations along the Red Sea mainly saw the confrontation between British and Ottoman forces. The Ottoman Empire was able to maintain control of the eastern shores of the Red Sea and even attempted the conquest of Aden in November 1914. Repelled, the Ottoman forces moved to Laḥij, where they remained for the rest of the war. The population of the region provided a cautious support to the Ottomans, only Muḥammad al-Idrīsī in ‘Asīr sided with the British and received a certain amount of military and financial assistance. Determined not to arouse Arab hostility, the British followed a very careful policy and avoided the occupation of the Yemeni territory and islands, focusing instead, at least initially, on patrolling the Red Sea, preventing smuggling and supplies reaching the Ottoman garrisons. In June 1915, British troops landed on the Ḥanīsh Islands and Kamarān. The British also launched the Red Sea Patrol, whose aim was to protect the Suez Canal and enable Indians and other allied troops to reach the European and Egyptian fronts without undue risks. A second aim was to block the ports in the eastern part of the Red Sea region and to place dhows’ traffics under close scrutiny.64 In order to prevent the smuggling of arms and goods, Italy and Britain initially worked together: on 1 December 1915 restrictions imposed on the navigation of dhows were tightened and dhows were allowed to move between the two coasts only under very special conditions.65 Nakhuda, or “captains,” were asked to call en route to Kamarān and report to the local port officer.66 These limitations were partially softened when, in June 1916, dhows were allowed to trade north of Jidda, while it remained prohibited to move south of Jidda, except for Jāzān via Kamarān.67 This same year a conference was held in Aden and a tighter blockade imposed, but French and Italian traffic with Jāzān was accepted.68 In December 1916 trade was allowed with Ḥijāz and ‘Asīr.69

34Even if at the beginning of the war the British and Italians had successfully cooperated in implementing a blockade of the two coasts, through time complications stemming from mutual mistrust began to crop up. The British suspected that the Italians would take the war as an excuse to occupy Farasān, increasing their already conspicuous interference in Yemeni’s affairs, which had started at the beginning of the century through close relations with both Imam Yaḥyā Muḥammad Ḥāmid al-Dīn (Imam Yahya) and Muḥammad al-Idrīsī in ‘Asīr.

  • 70 Baldry 1978, 184.
  • 71 G. De Martino to Ministry of Colony, Asmara 18 Jun. 1917, in Ministero delle Colonie, 1919b, III, 8 (...)

35At the end of 1916, the British firmly believed that the Italians had put their eyes on Farasān and were “meditating a coup in the Red Sea,”70 to the point that they eventually hoisted the Union Jack on Farasān. The British did their best to forestall Italians plans. From their side, the Italians were sure that the blockade was yet another trick played by the British, determined to monopolise trade along the Red Sea shores and tighten their grip on the Arabian Peninsula, preparing the groundwork for a fait accompli situation for post-war negotiations.71 In both cases, the balance of power in the Red Sea was at stake and neither the British nor the Italians were ready to give up.

  • 72 ASDMAECI, AE 825, Cecchi to Eritrean Government, Aden 26 Jul. 1917.

36On 15 June 1917, the British blockade of Yemeni coasts was extended to Jāzān and Mukalla: the British authorities allowed only five Eritrean dhows per month to trade with Yemen, with the possibility of only one round trip per month each. During the return trips ships were asked to call at Kamarān Island, south of al-Luhayyah, for inspection. This last request sounded particularly penalising. At Kamarān water resources were limited and the detour stretched the journey by several days, putting the health of the livestock further at risk. It is important to note that similar restrictions were also imposed on French boats coming from Djibouti.72

  • 73 ASDMAECI, AE 828, ‘Dichiarazioni guerra,’ Alberto Pollera, ‘Commissariato Regionale del Barca. Rela (...)
  • 74 G. Colosimo to S. Sonnino, Rome 26 Jul. 1917, in Ministero delle Colonie, 1919b, III, 164.
  • 75 ASDMAECI, AE 828, Hamasien, Enrico Macchia, ‘Commissariato dell’Hamasien, Relazione annuale per il (...)
  • 76 Ibid.

37Things started changing for the worse when cases of gulhai were reported in the Barka and Gash Setit regions,73 while the export ban from Ethiopia apparently continued.74 The stress generated by these events had led to a drastic reduction of the colonial personnel, and the veterinary service had suffered the most: before the war, each Commissariato had its own vet, but the number of vets was now drastically kept to the minimum. Regional veterinary stations had been closed and the personnel repatriated, seriously limiting the effectiveness of the entire prevention system.75 Instead, Eritreans had to take charge of their animals and do their best in order to implement the guidelines provided by the Istituto Sievo-Vaccinogeno.76 In this context, the livestock of the Arabian Peninsula represented the only alternative for the Italians.

  • 77 Colosimo 2012, 274.
  • 78 A detailed report about the British position is contained in ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Informazioni e (...)
  • 79 G. Colosimo to S. Sonnino, Rome 26 Jul. 1917, in Ministero delle Colonie 1919b, III, 163.

38The Eritrean authorities immediately demanded “an energetic diplomatic action,”77 claiming that they had already arranged for the transport of some 20,000 cattle, or a significant element of their war effort would be at risk. The Minister of Colonies Gaspare Colosimo contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, who instructed the Ambassador in London, Guglielmo Imperiali di Francavilla, to approach the Foreign Office and ask for a solution to the dispute in a spirit of mutual trust and cooperation. From June 1917 to January 1918, the Italians did their utmost to ease the blockade; the tireless and sometimes frantic negotiations involved the Eritrean Government, the Ministry of Colonies, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ambassador in London and the consul in Aden: the British remained inflexible and did not move an inch from their position.78 The cold shower arrived from London on 11 July, when the British politely but firmly asked the Italians to stop insisting.79

  • 80 ASDMAECI, ASMAI, 3/26, ‘Informazioni e carteggio relativo alla situazione in Etiopia in rapporto al (...)
  • 81 ASDMAECI, AE 825, Capitaneria di Porto di Massawa, ‘Processo verbale della deposizione fatta presso (...)
  • 82 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Situazione in Etiopia I° semestre 1918,’ 271, C. De Camillis to Ministry of (...)

39Italians were looking for a partial reduction of the blockade so as to allow a minimum traffic considered “essential to the economic existence of the Colony.”80 At the top of Italian interests was the import of livestock, followed by the possibility to export oil cans in exchange of sorghum (durra). But the British remained firm in their position. On 6 November 1917 it was reported that the “Vento,” a dhow with the Italian flag transporting livestock to Massawa, was approached by a British dhow while on its way to Kamarān and that the latter fired a warning shot. A similar accident took place a few days later, again in Kamarān.81 In August 1917, four other Italian dhows were seized and detained by the British.82

  • 83 G. De Martino to S. Sonnino, Asmara 8 Feb. 1917, 453/577, in I documenti diplomatici italiani, 1978 (...)
  • 84 S Sonnino to Imperiali, G. Salvago Raggi and Colli di Fellizano, Rome 30 May 1917, 719, I documenti (...)
  • 85 On Italians claims on Djibouti see Toscano 1937, Salata 1939, and Hess 1963, 105-126.

40Relations with France were no better. Italians resented the ease with which France promised weapons to Ethiopia. At the beginning of 1917, Rome suspected that France had provided rifles, machine guns and artillery to Ethiopia,83 and was willing to provide an additional 16,000 rifles to Ras Tafari.84 The fact that in November 1914 Ferdinando Martini, Minister of the Colonies, had already included Djibouti in a list of Italian post-war claims did not help to mitigate tensions.85

  • 86 Hess 1963, 111.
  • 87 Rosso 1916, 76-79; Pedrazzi 1917, 32-37.
  • 88 G. Colosimo to Presidente del Consiglio, Roma 30 Oct. 1918, in Ministero delle Colonie 1919b, II, 2 (...)
  • 89 Hess 1963, 115-116; Clodomiro 1986.
  • 90 ASDMAECI, AE 807 and ASDMAECI, AE 518, ‘Stabilimento Torrigiani a Direzione Affari Civili,’ Sembel (...)

41In October 1916, the Minister of the Colonies, Colosimo, drew up a post-war plan of action based on a maximum and minimum program. According to Robert L. Hess the two were “barely distinguishable” and would have given the Italians control over the Red Sea: Somaliland, the Farasān islands, French Somaliland (Djibouti), and Ethiopia were all claimed as legitimate prey in compensation for her war effort in one way or another.86 The cornerstone of Italian claims in the Red Sea remained Djibouti. In 1916 and 1917 already, some writings by experts very close to the Italian Ministry of the Colonies were adamant in their claim that Djibouti should be handed over to Italy.87 At the end of October 1918, the Italian Minister of the Colonies, Gaspare Colosimo, was writing in a confidential memorandum that “The purchase of Djibouti and of the Djibouti-Addis Ababa railways is the centrepiece of Italian demands in East Africa.”88 Djibouti was appealing also to the British, who would have thus eliminated the French presence along the coasts of the Red Sea.89 In November 1917 the Italians, visibly distressed and unable to overcome the British resistance imported livestock from Somalia and Djibouti by way of experiment.90

  • 91 CDAS, Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta sulle spese di guerra (1920-1923), Sottocommissione Parl (...)

42In Eritrea the blockade caused great scarcity and hardship: not only was the arrival of livestock impeded, but the shipment of another equally vital supply, sorghum, also failed to arrive in the country. In some parts of Eritrea, sorghum represented the staple food of the population’s diet. But even in times of peace, the local output was not enough to satisfy needs, and in Eritrea imports of durra from Sudan and India was quite recurrent. In the early phases of the war, sorghum was massively imported from India and Sudan and distributed to cope with local food shortages. In 1917, facing a particularly poor harvest, the Italians were desperately looking for sorghum, but the British authorities in Sudan and India simply blocked any export to Eritrea, arguing that their internal needs had priority over export.91

  • 92 Bezabeh 2016, 50-51, 90-91.

43The Italian and French authorities faced increased difficulties in meeting the war requests. The former had to forsake the import of both cattle from the Yemeni coast and sorghum. The latter found particularly irritating the many difficulties due to the blockade system in terms of recruitment of labourers and workforce.92

  • 93 See for example Caroselli 1918, 345-379; Colosimo 1959, 2012; Ministero delle Colonie 1919b; Toscan (...)

44The uneasy relations between Italy, France and the United Kingdom along the shores of the Red Sea are yet another example that, in the absence of a direct military menace from German and Ottoman troops, the old rationale of the “scramble for Africa” prevailed. Each allied power struggled to keep the other out of its own sphere of influence. The battle for the German spoils of war provoked tensions and mistrust among countries that were fighting on the same side in Europe.93 Britain, France and Italy understood that the end of the war would probably result in a second partition of Africa and were unwilling to concede anything to each other.

Unrest

  • 94 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Informazioni e carteggio in rapporto alla situazione dell’Etiopia e alla sic (...)
  • 95 ASDMAECI, AE 819, 2409, A. Pollera to Eritrean Government, ‘Addi Ugri [Mendefera] 19 May 1917.
  • 96 ASDMAECI, AE 727, 5247, D. Odorizzi to Direzione Affari Civili, ‘Addi Qäyyəḥ 2 Jun. 1917.

45Towards the end of 1917 it became clear that the Yemeni supply route and its estimated 20,000 cattle was no longer workable. For a while the stress associated to the cattle supply fell on Eritrea alone. Starting from 1916 official documents began using the long time carefully avoided word “requisition.” Increasingly frequent signals indicate that a growing sense of frustration and disaffection toward Torrigiani’s requests was growing among the Eritrean population. As we have seen, a first burst of public discontent took place in Barka in May 1916 and dissatisfaction was also reported in the Commissariato Regionale of Kärän.94 In May 1917, Alberto Pollera cautioned about excessive requests at a time of the year when animal power was essential for work in the fields from Mendefera,95 while from ‘Addi Qäyyəḥ Dante Odorizzi admonished growing dissatisfaction in Akkälä Guzay.96

  • 97 ASDMAECI, AE 828, ‘Commissariato Regionale dello Hamasien. Relazione annuale per il 1917,’ 26-27.
  • 98 ASDMAECI, AE 512, ‘L’interprete Hassan Aly,’ Asmara 29 May 1917.

46In Ḥamasen the local Commissario, equally expressed his anxieties,97 and it was reported that local farmers of the region were forced to buy cattle on the market at inflated prices in order to comply with the quotas.98

  • 99 ‘ascari in congedo con idee nuove sui diritti e doveri importati dalla Libia e dall’Italia,’ ASDMAE (...)

47The discontent turned into mass unrest and protests in November 1917 in the districts of Däqqi Zeresennai, Metzhe’, Hadadem Ciaalò and Däqqi Disna (Akkälä Guzay, south of Kwä‘atit). It was reported that one hundred men from Metzhe’ started touring the neighbouring villages, urging people to refuse to follow the quota system and join the protest. According to Italian sources, among the ring leaders of the unrest were some former askaris “with new ideas about rights and obligations imported from Libya and Italy.”99

48The Commissario Regionale Giuseppe De Rossi, an experienced administrator appointed to this position in early May 1917 who had become aware of the protest, opted for a conciliatory attitude and offered a general apology, provided people professed their willingness to submit the requested quota of livestock. The move only partially defused the situation: some locals remained unconvinced and started crossing the border with their cattle, taking sanctuary in Ethiopia. Altogether, 370 men took part to the protest forcing the Italians to hastily deploy troops along the border in order to avoid further defections.

49The crisis, which represented a serious embarrassment for the colonial administration and generated fear of a domino effect, was solved only when a top ranking officer, Alessandro Allori, director of Civil Affairs, was sent in the region and asked to tactfully mediate the incident. It took Allori three days of intense negotiations to convince most of those who had escaped to return to their homes. Allori identified 12 reasons at the root of the protests, three of which are particularly relevant:

  • the requests of Torrigiani, considered too high and based on non-market prices;

  • the ban of Maria Theresa thalers inside Eritrea and their substitution with paper money;

  • the cultivation of crops for the Government and the lack of animal power that made it almost impossible to meet the quota imposed by Asmara.

  • 100 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Situazione in Etiopia I° semestre 1918,’ 197, C. De Camillis to G. De Martin (...)

50Allori granted a delay on the delivery of livestock and permitted favourable conditions for their purchase in Ethiopia. Further fuel to the mounting protest was added by the predication of Shaykh “Ali Mohamedi,” a self-proclaimed saint according to Italian sources, who incited local Muslims to rise against the Italian government and announced the imminent victory of Germany in the war. Chased by the Italians, he took refuge in Ethiopia, followed by some fifty men.100

  • 101 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, 141, ‘Informazioni e carteggio in rapporto alla situazione dell’Etiopia e all (...)

51Discontent was also rampant in Ḥamasen. From Addis, the Italian minister plenipotentiary in Ethiopia, count Giuseppe Colli di Felizzano, reported the arrival in the Ethiopian capital of an envoy on behalf of some chiefs and notables of Ḥamasen to the Governor of Eritrea Giacomo De Martino. The envoy reported to Ethiopian authorities the dire situation in Eritrea, stating that the Italian government was almost broken and livestock requisition continued to stir up the hostility of the population, who was ready to rebel if only Ethiopia would take the lead.101

  • 102 Südtirolen Landesarchiv – Archivio Provinciale di Bolzano, Fondo Giovanni Marchi, 11.27 Colonia Eri (...)

52At the origin of this discontent were two major problems for local farmers. First, livestock was a crucial store of wealth and provided a very useful way to cope with adverse events (drought, locusts, war, etc.). Second, livestock contributed to food and agricultural production, and animal power remained an essential resource for rural societies. Any disproportionate demand for livestock products would result in farmers resisting and opposing. This is exactly what happened in Eritrea. In 1923, Ernesto Beltramo, an Italian businessman in Eritrea since the turn of the century, wrote that the entire Torrigiani initiative was a resounding failure that brought the colony on the brink of an “internal revolution” (rivoluzione interna) and that many farmers were still waiting for compensation after having surrendered their beloved oxen (“loved as they would a family member”; amato come un membro della famiglia) at a “laughable price” (prezzo irrisorio).102

  • 103 ASDMAECI, ASMAI, 11/8, 88.

53This state of affairs had an inevitable effect on the prices of cattle in Eritrea and in the neighbouring regions. Before the advent of the Torrigiani canneries, the price per kg of a cow was around 0,18 Italian lire;103 three years later the price per kg had reached 0,65-0,70; in January 1918 the price momentarily reached one Italian lire per kg and then stabilised at around 0,60 in the following months. In four years the price of a kg of beef had almost quadrupled.

Year

Price paid by Torrigiani

Market Price

1914

-----

0.18

1915

0.,26

0.32

1916

0.,26

0.35

1917 (May)

0.26

0.65-0.70

1918 (Jan.)

0.26

1.00

1918 (Mar.)

0.26

0.60

1918 (Oct.)

0.26

0.50

1919 (Jan.)

-----

0.80

1919 (May)

-----

1.00

1920

-----

0.49-0.55

Table 2: Price of cow meat per kg 1914-1920 (created by the author based on different sources)

  • 104 Commissione per la fissazione del prezzo massimo del grano e dell’orzo’, BUCE, 26 suppl. 2, 14 Jan (...)
  • 105 Decreto Governatoriale 2745 ‘che istituisce una Commissione per la vigilanza delle farine e del pan (...)
  • 106 Udienza concessa da S.E. il Governatore ad una commissione di cittadini e di operai di Asmara’, BU (...)

54The striking increase in meat prices reflects a more widespread rise in the prices of all foodstuffs recorded during wartime in Eritrea. In January 1917 a price cap for wheat and barley was introduced.104 A further response to the increasing cost of living was the creation of an official price vigilance committee to monitor the prices of foodstuffs.105 In 1917, basic necessities were subject to price control and were then rationed. These measures proved unable to contain the rising prices and the governor had to publicly admit that the cost of living represented a serissimo (“very serious”) problem for most of the population.106

Again Ethiopia

  • 107 ASDMAECI, AE 828, ‘Dichiarazioni guerra,’ F. Costa, Relazione sul funzionamento dell’Istituto dal 1 (...)
  • 108 Sertoli Salis 1936, 179.

55Toward the second part of 1917, the long series of setbacks suffered by the Italians ended when, slowly but steadily, the flow of livestock from Ethiopia started reaching Eritrea again.107 The new government in Addis Ababa was willing to improve relations with Eritrea, while Ras Śəyyum Mängäša in Tigray became much more malleable, lessening the tension and encouraging trade between the two countries.108 It was a very positive and unexpected development that had the potential to overturn the problem of supply. Once reactivated, the Ethiopian supply route could provide the quotas required by Torrigiani and Italians were determined not to miss this golden opportunity.

  • 109 ASDMAECI, AE 828, ‘Dichiarazioni guerra,’ F. Costa, Relazione sul funzionamento dell’Istituto dal 1 (...)

56In order to keep under control the spread of gulhai, the Istituto Siero-Vaccinogeno started organising an immunisation campaign in northern Ethiopia. In December 1917 a veterinary station was sent to ‘Adwa with 24,000 doses of vaccine. Local herders seemed to appreciate the initiative and a further 10,000 doses were quickly sent to ‘Adwa. A further 6,500 doses were sent to Gondar upon request of Ethiopian local authorities.109

  • 110 Caroselli 1941, 208.
  • 111 Pankhurst 1963, 19-21.
  • 112 Decreto governatoriale 24 ottobre 1916, n. 2653, Disposizioni sul tallero, BUCE, 25 suppl. 42, 24 O (...)

57Prices fell but still remained high. An additional problem lied in the fact that Ethiopians requested Maria Theresa thalers (MTT), a currency experiencing a serious shortage in the Horn of Africa. In pre-war times Ethiopia imported around 100,000 MTT coins per month.110 The sharp fall of silver production and the subsequent rise of the cost of silver made things worse for the Italians and the Italian lire suffered a persistent depreciation during the war. MTT were also exported to India, where a lucrative market of silver coins had flourished.111 In October 1916, payment in MTT was forbidden in Eritrea, and an official exchange rate was set by the Banca d’Italia, while the use of MTT was allowed only in case of transactions with Ethiopia and the Arab coast, in both cases under close surveillance of the Italian authorities.112

  • 113 Pollera 1926, 28-29; Mauri 1998, 69.
  • 114 Commissione per il corso dei Talleri, corso dei talleri (d’Italia e di M. T.) fissato per le varie (...)
  • 115 Decreto governatoriale 30 marzo 1920 n. 3463, Corso del Tallero e divieto di esportazione per via d (...)

58Before the war, a MTT was exchanged in Eritrea for 2,25 to 2,50 lire. During war time the thaler exchange rate reached a peak of 6,00 lire, making trade with Ethiopia less profitable.113 The end of the conflict did not bring down the exchange rate to pre-war levels; on the contrary, the value of the MTT continued to rise and in August 1919 a Special Commission “per il corso dei Talleri” was appointed with the mandate of regulating the exchange rate. This move proved to be ineffective as well: between November 1919 and March 1920 the value of MTT passed from 7 to 15 lire114 and in the same month a decree forbade the export of MTT via the sea.115

  • 116 The other two agencies were in Gondär (Bägemdər) and Däse (Wällo), see Zaccaria 2012a. As a part of (...)
  • 117 ASDMAECI, AE 512, ‘Provvista del Tigrai via Serae,’ 3534/48, C. De Camillis to L. Talamonti, Asmara (...)
  • 118 ASDMAECI, AE 512, ‘Provvista del Tigrai via Serae,’ 4233/48, Teodorani to Governo dell’Eritrea, ‘Ad (...)

59Cattle purchase saw the active involvement of the Regia Agenzia Commerciale of ‘Adwa, one of the three Italian trade agencies that were operating on Ethiopian soil and acted as virtual consulates.116 Once again it turned out to be an extremely complex operation: Ethiopian authorities had to be lured, attractive prices had to be offered to convince farmers to sell their cattle. From the “Italian Trade Agency” of ‘Adwa, Luigi Talamonti, head of the Agency, organised caravans to ‘Addi Kwala for cattle owners to be issued a payment order that would be cashed in MTT at the Agenzia Commerciale of ‘Adwa.117 Livestock were then brought to Asmara following a route including six stops.118

  • 119 ASDMAECI, AE 512, ‘Provvista del Tigrai via Serae,’ 6790/48, L. Talamonti to Governo dell’Eritrea, (...)

60Some Italians traders were involved in the supply of Ethiopians cattle: Sangiorgi and Pignatari, for example, appear frequently in the correspondence related to 1918, while a certain Feliciano Zanotti was operating from ‘Addigrat. But the major boost clearly came from local traders. Luigi Talamonti listed some of them: “basciai Uassiè, Melachè Brahanet Garasellassè, cagnasmac Assenseù and other.”119 In these years, a close relationship between the Eritrean canned food industry and Ethiopian livestock was then established. It is this relationship that would lay ground for the boom of the sector between the 1950s and the 1970s.

Convict Labour

  • 120 Zaccaria 2012b.
  • 121 Battalions from 1 to 12 were Eritreans; mixed battalions included units from the 13th to the 18th b (...)
  • 122 Volterra 2005, 64-65.

61Not just cattle were in short supply during war years: Eritrea experienced also a dramatic crisis in manpower. The massive recruitment of men for the armed forces created holes in the economic system that were filled with extreme difficulty and resulted in rising labour costs. Starting from 1912, Eritrean troops were deployed in increasing numbers in Libya:120 in 1917, the “Regio Corpo Truppe Coloniali dell’Eritrea” (RCTC) consisted of 16 battalions (eight of them deployed in Libya)121 and RCTC numbered somewhere between 10,000 to 12,000 men out of a population that did not exceed 400,000. Ethiopia proved crucial for supplying workers and soldiers: in 1914 the first battaglione misto (“mixed battalion”) was created, consisting in Ethiopian troops led by Eritrean non-commissioned officers and Italian officers. In the 1920s, the mixed battalions enlisted almost 10,000 men.122

  • 123 These data are based on a complete set of daily reports covering the period 29 Jul. 1917-Sep. 1918 (...)

62Agriculture, the construction industry and public works provided another fertile ground for the employment of Ethiopians in Eritrea. In 1917, Italian authorities inaugurated an Employment Agency in Asmara that was supposed to regulate the job market. The Agency used to prepare a daily report about the number of prospective workers and job placements: Ethiopians represented around 60 % of both job seekers and people put to work.123

  • 124 De Vito and Lichtenstein 2015, 22-25.
  • 125 ASDMAECI, AE 828, G. Cavalli to Direzione Affari Civili, Asmara 16 Jun. 1918.
  • 126 Decreto governatoriale 24 luglio 1919 n. 3114, BUCE, 27/29 (1918), Asmara 24 Jul. 1918, 1. The sala (...)
  • 127 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ A. Pastorelli to G. De Martino, Asmara 20 Au (...)
  • 128 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ A. Pastorelli to G. De Martino, Asmara 25 No (...)
  • 129 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ G. De Martino ad A. Pastorelli, Asmara […] D (...)

63No matter how important this stream was, needs clearly exceeded supply, and the more time passed the more intense and urgent labour needs became. War is one of the circumstances conducive to the exploitation of convict labour.124 In Eritrea this trend was duly followed. Almost unknown in pre-war time, the use of convict labour became widespread under the new conditions set by the war and instances of the use of prison labour were numerous. Apart from Torrigiani’s plant, penal work was used to build infrastructures and other state-related facilities, but private companies as well could receive groups of convicts if in need of workforce. For example, traces of convict labour appear in June 1918, when the Commissioner of Asmara, G. Cavalli, signalled how Gandolfi’s company, while repairing the “Albergo Coloniale” suddenly ran short of manpower and obtained a batch of prisoners from the Asmara jail.125 The Port of Massawa was of paramount importance to the colonial administration, which could not afford to block operations due to labour shortage. Therefore, in July 1918, a government decree was passed allowing in Massawa the “requisition of indigenous labour” for porterage services at the local port.126 Like many other Italian companies, Torrigiani suffered from a critical lack of manpower, a need that was partially addressed through an extensive use of convict labour. Correspondence between the Torrigiani factory and the colonial administration reveals some features of this practice and offers a rare insight into the practice of convict labour in Eritrea. It is hard to precisely grasp the moment when Torrigiani started using convict workers, but it was most likely at some point in 1917. What we know for sure is that in August 1918, with the Ethiopian supply line finally fully operative, Torrigiani was ready to restart the production of canned meat and intended to demand further inmates for the factory. But a message from the jail administration dashed all hopes: on the grounds that cases of mistreatment were reported, all convicts assigned to the Torrigiani plant had to be reassigned to the Eritrean Railways that was carrying out urgent repair work. The director of Torrigiani complained that such a measure would compromise production and make it impossible to reach the targeted output. In a plea addressed to the Governor of Eritrea, the management of Torrigiani complained that they were forced to resort to the use of prison labour as a way to remedy labour scarcity and the near impossibility of recruiting somebody else on the free labour market. At first the Administration had allotted 120 prisoners to Torrigiani. An internal dormitory was built and board, lodging and medical assistance was provided to all inmates. The management of Torrigiani claimed that the prisoners cost no less that 1,50 Italian lire per day.127 In another letter, the director of Torrigiani reported that in 1917 the factory had used between two and three hundred inmates.128 The relations between the management of Torrigiani and the colonial administration had somehow deteriorated, because the plea remained temporarily unanswered. Instead a very concise message informed Torrigiani that the inmates were badly needed for other and more important public works.129

  • 130 ASDMAECI, AE 48, 13328/82, il reggente del Governo to Commissario Hamasien, Asmara 13 Oct. 1919. In (...)

64But the general manager of the Torrigiani plant, Arcangelo Pastorelli, knew that no matter what a bunch of determined and over-scrupulous colonial officers could hamper, the Ministry of War remained on his side: local hostilities could have been easily overcome by threatening to stop production. That is probably why in October 1919 convict workers were back at the Torrigiani plant with the full consent of the colonial administration.130

Influenza

  • 131 ASDMAECI, AE 807, G. Tornari to Governo dell’Eritrea, s.d. [Dec. 1918].
  • 132 Pedrazzi 1918, 18.
  • 133 Istituto Coloniale Italiano 1919, 795.
  • 134 ASDMAECI, AE 48, ‘Stabilimento Torrigiani.’
  • 135 ASDMAECI, AE 48, ‘Stabilimento Torrigiani,’ C. De Camillis, Asmara 27 Jun. 1919.

65The end of the hostilities in Europe did not imply the end or reduction of meat demands. In the months following November 1918, Italian metropolitan authorities made it clear that they were expecting the Torrigiani plant in Asmara to maintain the highest capacity output.131 As we have seen, according to the contract, for the period 1917-1918 Torrigiani had to supply 16 million cans to the Italian army: a very demanding commitment indeed.132 The reason behind these pressures lies in the appalling state of the livestock population war had left in Italy. There was a general consensus on granting farmers time to replenish their depleted stocks.133 Eritrea and possibly Somalia were requested to take charge of the problem. Fortunately for the Italian authorities, by the end of 1918 the Ethiopian supply line seemed to have reached a period of stability. Herds of cattle started flocking from Təgray to Eritrea and large supply contracts were signed with traders, like the one assigned in December 1918 to Domenico Pignatari for a supply of 12,000 cattle.134 Pignatari sent his representatives to buy cattle around Eritrea and Təgray. The system worked out smoothly and the colonial administration was relieved of the cumbersome task of directly purchasing cattle from herders and farmers. In June 1919, Pignatari had fulfilled all his commitments and provided 12,000 cows.135

  • 136 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ A. Pastorelli to Governo della Colonia, Asma (...)
  • 137 Pankhurst 1975, 103.
  • 138 Pankhurst 1975, 125-126.
  • 139 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ Capo di Gabinetto del Gov. Gen. to Comandant (...)
  • 140 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ 481, G. De Martino to Comando del RCTC, Asma (...)

66But another problem made its sudden appearance: fever. In December 1918, an outbreak of fever was registered among the personnel of Torrigiani. In a visit carried out in mid-December by Lieutenant Colonel Pietro Viola of the Italian Army Medical Corps, five expatriate members of the technical staff were reported ill and unable to resume their activities: all the four mechanics were in bed with fever, the same fate suffered by the stoker at the local boiler room.136 In the nearby village, Viola found out other cases of fever among the Eritrean workers. The influenza incapacitated work key figures in the production process: mechanics and supervisors, to the point that the manager of the factory considered suspending production. According to Richard Pankhurst, in 1918 Ethiopia went through two distinct waves of the epidemic: a first one in spring-summer 1918 and then a second one in autumn-winter.137 The latter entered Ethiopia by way of Berbera and peaked in November-December, the same period when the epidemic made its appearance in French Somaliland and Eritrea. At the beginning of December 1917, the Governor of Eritrea De Martino reported that the influenza was not of the Spanish variety, but Pankhurst is probably correct in considering this first assessment “over-optimistic.”138 In the period December 1918-January 1919 many cases of influenza were reported in Asmara, as well as an acute increase in the mortality rate. The illnesses among Torrigiani workers took place in this very same period and it is plain to see a correlation between these two facts. To prevent the shutting down of the factory, the general manager asked about ten soldiers and two mechanics from the Army to supervise Eritrean workers.139 From the available exchange of correspondence, it appears that the Army was also badly in need of men and urged Torrigiani to return the soldiers as soon as possible, perhaps a signal that the “Spanish flu” had affected the Italian Army personnel in Eritrea as well. The emergency lasted until the end of January 1919 and in February activities went back to normal.140

67After the end of the war the production went ahead for a couple more years. Initially the Torrigiani cannery seemed to handle the changeover to peace conditions easily and throughout 1919 demand remained high, but these exceptional market conditions lasted for only a short time. The global economy soon began to contract and the international meat market became congested. Prices fell, making even more evident one of the critical points of the Eritrean supply chain: the prices were too high to be competitive on the international market.

  • 141 CDAS, Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta per le spese di guerra. Busta 25, fasc. n. 254-257, Fioc (...)
  • 142 BUCE, 32/1, 15 Jan. 1923.

68From 1920 onwards it is difficult to get information regarding activities carried out by Torrigiani. It is likely that, in order to comply with the terms of the contract, the factory remained nominally open until 1923, but with an extremely low production activity. An official report following an in-situ visit provides a grim picture of the plant, where a rich stock of tins was literally left to rust away.141 In January 1923, Torrigiani publicly announced that the director of the canneries, Arcangelo Pastorelli, was no longer his representative in Eritrea, most likely involving the cessation of its activities in Eritrea, because from this moment on, all trace of Torrigiani is lost.142

Conclusion

  • 143 Discorso di S.E. il Ministro delle Colonie on. Gaspare Colosimo,” in Ministero delle Colonie 1919b (...)
  • 144 Ibid.
  • 145 Malvezzi de’ Medici 1917, 82; Ajmone 1919, 261.

69At the end of the war, the Minister for the Colonies, Gaspare Colosimo, was thus able to include cattle in the list of contributions Eritrea had made to Italy in the difficult period that had just drawn to a close.143 With at least 12 million cans and 50,000 bottles of broth concentrate produced, everyone acknowledged that Torrigiani had “made remarkable efforts” in order to satisfy “the army’s meat requirements during the war.”144 Eritrea also supplied hides for a value of 20 million lire, 50,000 tons of dum palm and 60,000 tons of potassium chloride (used in explosives).145 To obtain these remarkable results, the colonial administration had to exert constant pressure on the Eritrean economic system, dedicating all its meagre resources to the war effort. It was also a very costly enterprise that created a huge hole in the budget: according to the terms of the contract, the colonial administration had to cover the excess meat price in case it went over L. 0,22 per kg, which eventuality occurred from day one of production.

  • 146 Ajmone 1919, 264.

70The story of canned meat production during the WWI is an interesting example of how the maelstrom of war was felt across the Horn of Africa. Eritrea, although largely untouched by combat, was deeply affected by the war, which had a profound impact on the country’s productive and social system. Wartime upheaval and deprivation afflicted the Eritreans, who faced food shortages, increased prices and trade disruption. The traces left by what was undoubtedly an enormous logistic effort allow us to highlight many aspects of the First World War’s impact in the region: the transformations introduced in order to industrially exploit the local livestock and observe the beginning of industrialisation in Eritrea; the nature of the local market and the close interconnection between the economy of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen; the complex and contradictory relations between the members of the Entente in the Red Sea. The positive outcome of WWI, i.e. victory, often masked more informative stories of tension, mistrust and open confrontation that characterised relations between allies in the Horn of Africa. The delicate balance of power in the Horn of Africa and the limited threat posed by Ottoman forces in Yemen created a situation in which France, Britain and Italy acted in an atmosphere characterised by mutual suspicion. Countries were locked in an internal struggle over the post-war settlement of the region. Other clues offered by the Torrigiani affair involve the shortage of labour and the use of convict labour in the Eritrean economy, and further deepens our understanding of the arrival of the “Spanish flu” in the region. If for the Italians the Eritrean contribution to the war effort was commendable, the country still paid a heavy price. The cost of this success was a general impoverishment of one of the most important resources of the country.146 In 1918, local livestock was almost depleted and it took several years to reach again pre-war levels.

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Notes

1 Count Luigi Torrigiani was born in Parma in 1846; after a degree in Law Luigi Torrigiani started taking interest in the canned foods business and in 1905 funded the “Conserve Alimentari Luigi Torrigiani. Società Anonima per Azioni” based in Sesto Fiorentino (Florence). From 1909 to 1925 he was senator in the Italian Parliament.

2 Addi Qäyyəḥ Regional Archive (hereafter AQRA), Mendefera, Eritrea, Commerce III, ‘Festeggiamenti inaugurazione fabbrica Torrigiani’. Pictures of the ceremony are held in the photographic archive of the former Istituto italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente, now at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Rome, see Palma 2005, 374.

3 See The Journal of African History, 9/1, 1978.

4 Crowder 1985; Page 1987.

5 Pallaver 2015.

6 Laṭīfa Muḥammad Sālim 2009.

7 For a recent history of rinderpest in Ethiopia see Spinage 2012, 1055-1063. Pankhurst 1985 and, more recently, Finaldi 2017, 72-74, are relevant as well.

8 Franchetti 1891, [447]-509.

9 Ardemanni 1900, 61.

10 Bartolommei-Gioli 1902, 36-37.

11 Disoccupazione ed emigrazione dalla nostra provincia’, Il Ravennate Corriere di Romagna, 3 Feb. 1904, 3.

12 Dentoni 2014, 234.

13 Martini 1942-1943, III, 184. The Ministry of War had its own plant that was able to fulfil, after renovation, all the Army’s needs : Archivio Storico Diplomatico del Ministero degli Affari Esteri e della Cooperazione Internazionale (hereafter ASDMAECI), Roma, Archivio Storico del Ministero dell’Africa Italiana (hereafter ASMAI), 21, 1, fasc. 15, Ministero della Guerra to Ministero degli Affari Esteri, Roma 15 Apr. 1904.

14 Pico 1911.

15 Ministero delle Colonie 1913, 260.

16 Martini 1913, I, 183. See also: ‘La peste bovina guarita’, Bollettino Agricolo e Commerciale della Colonia Eritrea, 2/4 (1904), 228-236; Baruchello 1913; and Ferraro 1917.

17 ASDMAECI, Archivio Eritrea (hereafter AE) 143, F. Martini to Ministro Affari Esteri, Monsumanno 1 Sep. 1904.

18 Museo del Risorgimento e della Resistenza di Vicenza (hereafter MRRV), Carte Pecori Giraldi, 5.F.5., V. Fioccardi to G. Pecori Giraldi, Molepso 9 August [1905]. See also the prohibition of importing cattle from Təgray and ‘Agamä according to the gubernatorial decree n. 1497, 7 Nov. 1911, in Bullettino Ufficiale della Colonia Eritrea (hereafter BUCE), 20/45, 9 Nov. 1911. For the fight against rinderpest see: Martoglio 1911.

19 Il servizio veterinario nell’Africa Italiana (Roma: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato, 1965, 13.

20 BUCE, 14/38, 23 Sep. 1905.

21 Ferretti 1913, 32.

22 According to Vittorio Peglion, 17,535 cows were immunised in 1906, 62,891 in 1907, 67,065 in 1908, 34,111 in 1909, and 32,447 in 1910; see Peglion 1913, 147.

23 Pedrazzi 1918, 17.

24 Ministero delle Colonie 1913, 26.

25 See, for example, ASDMAECI, AE 754, fasc. ‘Interventi in Colonia,’ G. Tornari to Governo, ‘Addi Qäyyəḥ 11 Jul. 1915.

26 Foglio d’Ordini, 19, Asmara 7 May 1912.

27 Martini 1913, I, 182. According to the data collected in Eritrea by prof. Ezio Marchi in 1908, there were 183,000 cows, 56,000 oxen and bulls and 56,000 calves, for a total of 295,000 heads. See also Pico 1910. For a general overview of the history of zootechny in Eritrea see the three volumes edited by L. M. Bologna, E. Conforti, A. Chiuderi, A. Maugini, G. Palloni and G. Rocchetti 1969-1970.

28 Ferretti 1913 and 1921.

29 Ferretti 1913, 33.

30 Ferretti 1913, 100-106.

31 Publications about Eritrea written by Marchi, born in 1869 and dead prematurely in 1908, were edited by Prof. Carlo Pucci and published in 1929. For the instructions, see the typescript ASDMAECI, AE 1024, Istruzione per il miglioramento delle razze bovine e ovine.

32 BUCE, 23/36, 3 Sep. 1914, 253-254.

33 Baldrati 1903, 25-26; Peglion 1913, 213.

34 Ferretti 1913, 12-13.

35 Live animals export was directed only to neighbouring countries: a shipment of 600 heads of cattle was sent to Egypt in 1911: see ASDMAECI, ASMAI 11/8/74, fasc. 11/8, ‘rapporto anonimo’. See also: Colonia Eritrea 1911.

36 ASDMAECI, AE 754, E. Sailer to Governo dell’Eritrea, 19 Apr. 1915; Ferretti 1913, 167-189.

37 It is no accident that in 1914 Capt. Francesco Provenzale, head of the livestock service in Italian Somaliland, published an extensive report on the topic; see Provenzale 1914.

38 Ferretti 1913, 207.

39 For the cultural difficulties associated with the consumption of canned meat see Bruegel 2002, 113-130. Yacob Beyene 2006 is an article that deals with the consumption of canned meat among Eritrean colonial troops.

40 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 21/1, 15, A. Maggiorotti, ‘Progetto sommario per la fabbricazione di scatolette di carne in conserva e boccette di brodo concentrato’, Roma 1 Mar. 1911.

41 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 21/1, 15, A. Maggiorotti, ‘Progetto sommario per la fabbricazione di scatolette di carne in conserva e boccette di brodo concentrato’, Roma 1 Mar. 1911.

42 Ferretti 1913, 207-211. A detailed description of Torrigiani’s factory appeared in a report written in Oct. 1915: ASDMAECI, AE 804, ‘Fornitura bovini 1916-17. Relazione anonima,’ Asmara 19 Oct. 1915. On the history of canneries in Eritrea see Zaccaria 2018.

43 Camera dei Deputati Archivio Storico (CDAS), Roma, Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta sulle spese di guerra (1920-1923), Sottocommissione A, Inchiesta sull’Eritrea, 256: ‘Convenzione riguardante la lavorazione delle scatolette di carne in conserva presso lo stabilimento di Asmara.’

44 AQRA, Commerce III, ‘Corrispondenza di carattere generale per la fornitura.’

45 Colosimo 1918, 313-315.

46 AQRA, Commerce III, ‘Corrispondenza di carattere generale per la fornitura’, 16448, Circolare ai commissari regionali’, Asmara 24 Aug. 1914.

47 AQRA, Commerce III, ‘Corrispondenza di carattere generale per la fornitura’, 9857, circolare ai commissari regionali’, Asmara 22 May 1914.

48 ASDMAECI, AE 749, 7381 P. Teodorani to Affari Civili, 7 Feb. 1914. In his telegram Paolo Teodorani, the head of the Italian trade agency in Adwa specified that Gäbrä Śəllase did not possess cattle and could not force his people to deliver the cattle when they were badly needed as work animals. In addition to that, many cases of rinderpest were reported in his region.

49 Ministero delle Colonie 1919a, 182-183.

50 ASDMAECI, AE 828, 6130, G. Mantia, ‘Commissariato Regionale dello Hamasien. Relazione annuale per il 1917’, 26-27.

51 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/24, ‘Notiziario informazioni sull’Etiopia, Arabia, Sudan (gennaio, febbraio e marzo 1916). Notiziario informazioni dal 2 al 10 marzo 1916’, 751, L. Talamonti, 10 Mar. 1916.

52 ASDMAECI, AE 825, Compagnia Carabinieri Reali, ‘Rapportino delle novità del mercato di Asmara, 31 Oct.-4 Nov. 1916’.

53 ASDMAECI, AE 825, Compagnia Carabinieri Reali, ‘Rapportino delle novità del mercato di Asmara’, 21 Apr. 1917.

54 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Informazioni e carteggio in rapporto alla situazione in Etiopia e alla sicurezza della Colonia (marzo-aprile 1917)’, 1142, G. De Martino to Ministero delle Colonie, Asmara 3 Mar. 1917.

55 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Informazioni e carteggio in rapporto alla situazione in Etiopia e alla sicurezza della Colonia (marzo-aprile 1917),’ 1142, G. De Martino to Ministero delle Colonie, Asmara 3 Mar. 1917.

56 Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta sulle spese di guerra (1920-1923) (hereafter CDAS), Roma, Sottocommissione A, Inchiesta sull’Eritrea, 256, 91-7522, ‘Convenzione riguardante la lavorazione delle scatolette di carne in conserva presso lo stabilimento di Asmara,’ Anonymous to Pres. della Commissione di vigilanza presso la Ditta L. Torrigiani, 400C, Asmara 10 Jun. 1916.

57 CDAS, Roma, Sottocommissione A, Inchiesta sull’Eritrea, 256, 91-7522, ‘Convenzione riguardante la lavorazione delle scatolette di carne in conserva presso lo stabilimento di Asmara,’ 1-2.

58 During the early 1900s, Yemen was divided between many competing powers: Aden and part of the south were under British control; the northern region was controlled, at least nominally, by the Ottoman government. Practically, most of the power was in the hands of the Zaydi imām Yahya b. Muḥammad. In 1910, Asir was detached from the Yemeni administration and the Idrisi dynasty ruled the region and part of the Tihama as an autonomous self-ruled region. In 1918, the Ottomans withdrew from north Yemen and imām Yahya b. Muḥammad extended his control over much of the country.

59 ASDMAECI, AE 825, 2467, G. De Martino to Ministro delle Colonie, Asmara 1 Jun. 1917.

60 For al-Ghūl’s involvement see ASDMAECI, AE 819, Odorizzi to Governo, Massawa 12 May 1917; for Bā Ṭūq see ASDMAECI, AE 825, 2308/2, Dotti to Eritrean Government, Massawa 6 Jun. 1917; for Muḥammad Sālim see ASDMAECI, AE 819, A. Allori to Dogana Massawa, Asmara 13 May 1917.

61 ASDMAECI, AE 819, 2634, Dotti to Eritrean Government, Massawa 2 Jun. 1917.

62 ASDMAECI, AE 819, 2409, A. Pollera to Eritrean Government, ‘Addi Ugri 31 May 1917.

63 ASDMAECI, AE 819, A. Pollera, ‘Commissariato Regionale del Barca. Relazione del mese di giugno 1917’, Aqurdat 20 Oct. 1917; ASDMAECI, AE 828, ‘Dichiarazioni di guerra.’

64 Johnson-Allen 2015.

65 Ordinanza governatoriale vietante il traffico ai bastimenti indigeni fra la costa Eritrea e Araba,’ BUCE, 24/46, 18 Nov. 1915, 383.

66 ASDMAECI, AE 7, First Assistant Resident in Aden to R. Console d’Italia in Aden, 5 Nov. 1915, n. c815.

67 Ordinanza governatoriale 28 giugno 1916. Navigazione dei sambuchi nel Mar Rosso,’ BUCE, 25/26, 29 Jun. 1916, 195.

68 Baldry 1978, 189.

69Decreto Ministeriale 12 dicembre 1916 che deroga per l’Eritrea il divieto di cui all’articolo 1 del Decreto luogotenenziale 8 agosto 1916 n. 960,’ BUCE, 26/9, 1 Mar. 1917, 69.

70 Baldry 1978, 184.

71 G. De Martino to Ministry of Colony, Asmara 18 Jun. 1917, in Ministero delle Colonie, 1919b, III, 89-90. This was a classified publication for only internal use, published in 50 copies.

72 ASDMAECI, AE 825, Cecchi to Eritrean Government, Aden 26 Jul. 1917.

73 ASDMAECI, AE 828, ‘Dichiarazioni guerra,’ Alberto Pollera, ‘Commissariato Regionale del Barca. Relazione del mese di luglio 1917.’

74 G. Colosimo to S. Sonnino, Rome 26 Jul. 1917, in Ministero delle Colonie, 1919b, III, 164.

75 ASDMAECI, AE 828, Hamasien, Enrico Macchia, ‘Commissariato dell’Hamasien, Relazione annuale per il 1917,’ Asmara 10 maggio 1918.

76 Ibid.

77 Colosimo 2012, 274.

78 A detailed report about the British position is contained in ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Informazioni e carteggio relativo alla situazione in Etiopia in rapporto alla sicurezza della Colonia (1 ott.-31 dic. 1917),’ 6511, G. Colosimo to Ministry of Foreign Affaires.

79 G. Colosimo to S. Sonnino, Rome 26 Jul. 1917, in Ministero delle Colonie 1919b, III, 163.

80 ASDMAECI, ASMAI, 3/26, ‘Informazioni e carteggio relativo alla situazione in Etiopia in rapporto alla sicurezza della Colonia (1 ott.-31 dic. 1917),’ tel. 14580 23 Oct. 1917.

81 ASDMAECI, AE 825, Capitaneria di Porto di Massawa, ‘Processo verbale della deposizione fatta presso questa capitaneria dai nominati Idris Badosc nacuda del sambuco Vento e Amer Mohamed nacuda del sambuco Fath-el-Fareg circa il trattamento avuto nelle acque di Camaran da parte di un sambuco armato battente bandiera inglese.’

82 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Situazione in Etiopia I° semestre 1918,’ 271, C. De Camillis to Ministry of the Colonies, Asmara 19 Jan. 1918.

83 G. De Martino to S. Sonnino, Asmara 8 Feb. 1917, 453/577, in I documenti diplomatici italiani, 1978, VII 173.

84 S Sonnino to Imperiali, G. Salvago Raggi and Colli di Fellizano, Rome 30 May 1917, 719, I documenti diplomatici italiani, 1978, VIII 105.

85 On Italians claims on Djibouti see Toscano 1937, Salata 1939, and Hess 1963, 105-126.

86 Hess 1963, 111.

87 Rosso 1916, 76-79; Pedrazzi 1917, 32-37.

88 G. Colosimo to Presidente del Consiglio, Roma 30 Oct. 1918, in Ministero delle Colonie 1919b, II, 246.

89 Hess 1963, 115-116; Clodomiro 1986.

90 ASDMAECI, AE 807 and ASDMAECI, AE 518, ‘Stabilimento Torrigiani a Direzione Affari Civili,’ Sembel 10 Jul. 1917.

91 CDAS, Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta sulle spese di guerra (1920-1923), Sottocommissione Parlamentare di Inchiesta sulle spese di Guerra, Sottocommissione A. Inchiesta sull’Eritrea, 23.

92 Bezabeh 2016, 50-51, 90-91.

93 See for example Caroselli 1918, 345-379; Colosimo 1959, 2012; Ministero delle Colonie 1919b; Toscano 1937; Tucci 1920; and ASDMAECI, ASMAI, 3/26, 1 Oct.-31 Dec. 1917.

94 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Informazioni e carteggio in rapporto alla situazione dell’Etiopia e alla sicurezza della Colonia (I° trimestre 1918),’ 141, C. De Camillis to G. De Martino, Asmara 4 Jan. 1918.

95 ASDMAECI, AE 819, 2409, A. Pollera to Eritrean Government, ‘Addi Ugri [Mendefera] 19 May 1917.

96 ASDMAECI, AE 727, 5247, D. Odorizzi to Direzione Affari Civili, ‘Addi Qäyyəḥ 2 Jun. 1917.

97 ASDMAECI, AE 828, ‘Commissariato Regionale dello Hamasien. Relazione annuale per il 1917,’ 26-27.

98 ASDMAECI, AE 512, ‘L’interprete Hassan Aly,’ Asmara 29 May 1917.

99 ‘ascari in congedo con idee nuove sui diritti e doveri importati dalla Libia e dall’Italia,’ ASDMAECI, AE 828, Akkälä Guzay, D. Odorizzi, ‘Relazione circa le condizioni della Regione ed il funzionamento dell’Ufficio per i mesi di ottobre e novembre 1917.’

100 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, ‘Situazione in Etiopia I° semestre 1918,’ 197, C. De Camillis to G. De Martino, Asmara 1 Mar. 1918. Unfortunately, it was not possible to find more information about the interesting case of Shaykh “Ali Mohamedi.”

101 ASDMAECI, ASMAI 3/26, 141, ‘Informazioni e carteggio in rapporto alla situazione dell’Etiopia e alla sicurezza della Colonia (I° trimestre 1918),’ C. De Camillis to G. De Martino, Asmara 4 Jan. 1918.

102 Südtirolen Landesarchiv – Archivio Provinciale di Bolzano, Fondo Giovanni Marchi, 11.27 Colonia Eritrea 1923, E. Beltramo to G. Capanni, Zula 24 Feb. 1923, 14.

103 ASDMAECI, ASMAI, 11/8, 88.

104 Commissione per la fissazione del prezzo massimo del grano e dell’orzo’, BUCE, 26 suppl. 2, 14 Jan. 1917.

105 Decreto Governatoriale 2745 ‘che istituisce una Commissione per la vigilanza delle farine e del pane in Asmara’, BUCE, 26/5, 1 Feb. 1917.

106 Udienza concessa da S.E. il Governatore ad una commissione di cittadini e di operai di Asmara’, BUCE, 27 suppl. al n. 24, 18 Jun. 1918.

107 ASDMAECI, AE 828, ‘Dichiarazioni guerra,’ F. Costa, Relazione sul funzionamento dell’Istituto dal 1° luglio 1916 al 31 dicembre 1917, Asmara 23 Jan. 1918.

108 Sertoli Salis 1936, 179.

109 ASDMAECI, AE 828, ‘Dichiarazioni guerra,’ F. Costa, Relazione sul funzionamento dell’Istituto dal 1° luglio 1916 al 31 dicembre 1917, Asmara 23 Jan. 1918. See also Martoglio 1917.

110 Caroselli 1941, 208.

111 Pankhurst 1963, 19-21.

112 Decreto governatoriale 24 ottobre 1916, n. 2653, Disposizioni sul tallero, BUCE, 25 suppl. 42, 24 Oct. 1916, 309.

113 Pollera 1926, 28-29; Mauri 1998, 69.

114 Commissione per il corso dei Talleri, corso dei talleri (d’Italia e di M. T.) fissato per le varie pizze della Colonia, 31 marzo 1920, BUCE, 29, 6/31 Mar. 1920, 128.

115 Decreto governatoriale 30 marzo 1920 n. 3463, Corso del Tallero e divieto di esportazione per via di mare, BUCE, 29 suppl. al n. 5, 31 marzo 1920, 116.

116 The other two agencies were in Gondär (Bägemdər) and Däse (Wällo), see Zaccaria 2012a. As a part of the deal that allowed the constitution of these three Regie Agenzie Commerciali, Ethiopia opened its own Consulate in Asmara, see Uoldelul Chelati Dirar 2011.

117 ASDMAECI, AE 512, ‘Provvista del Tigrai via Serae,’ 3534/48, C. De Camillis to L. Talamonti, Asmara 6 Mar. 1918.

118 ASDMAECI, AE 512, ‘Provvista del Tigrai via Serae,’ 4233/48, Teodorani to Governo dell’Eritrea, ‘Addi Ugri 20 Mar. 1918.

119 ASDMAECI, AE 512, ‘Provvista del Tigrai via Serae,’ 6790/48, L. Talamonti to Governo dell’Eritrea, Adua 9 May 1918.

120 Zaccaria 2012b.

121 Battalions from 1 to 12 were Eritreans; mixed battalions included units from the 13th to the 18th battalions.

122 Volterra 2005, 64-65.

123 These data are based on a complete set of daily reports covering the period 29 Jul. 1917-Sep. 1918 held at the ASDMAECI, AE 816, 862 and 863. In a previous article I had presented the data for the period 29 Jul. 1917-9 Jan. 1918: see Bellucci and Zaccaria 2014, 99-101.

124 De Vito and Lichtenstein 2015, 22-25.

125 ASDMAECI, AE 828, G. Cavalli to Direzione Affari Civili, Asmara 16 Jun. 1918.

126 Decreto governatoriale 24 luglio 1919 n. 3114, BUCE, 27/29 (1918), Asmara 24 Jul. 1918, 1. The salary for a ten hours shift ranged between 3,50 and 11 Italian lire.

127 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ A. Pastorelli to G. De Martino, Asmara 20 Aug. 1918.

128 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ A. Pastorelli to G. De Martino, Asmara 25 Nov. 1918.

129 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ G. De Martino ad A. Pastorelli, Asmara […] Dec. 1918.

130 ASDMAECI, AE 48, 13328/82, il reggente del Governo to Commissario Hamasien, Asmara 13 Oct. 1919. In this case, Torrigiani asked and obtained 30 convicted workers.

131 ASDMAECI, AE 807, G. Tornari to Governo dell’Eritrea, s.d. [Dec. 1918].

132 Pedrazzi 1918, 18.

133 Istituto Coloniale Italiano 1919, 795.

134 ASDMAECI, AE 48, ‘Stabilimento Torrigiani.’

135 ASDMAECI, AE 48, ‘Stabilimento Torrigiani,’ C. De Camillis, Asmara 27 Jun. 1919.

136 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ A. Pastorelli to Governo della Colonia, Asmara 2 Jan. 1919.

137 Pankhurst 1975, 103.

138 Pankhurst 1975, 125-126.

139 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ Capo di Gabinetto del Gov. Gen. to Comandante RCTC, Asmara s.d.

140 ASDMAECI, AE 27, ‘Torrigiani 1918-1919. Mano d’opera,’ 481, G. De Martino to Comando del RCTC, Asmara 27 Jan. 1919.

141 CDAS, Commissione Parlamentare d’inchiesta per le spese di guerra. Busta 25, fasc. n. 254-257, Fioccardi to RCTC, Asmara 19 Oct. 1922.

142 BUCE, 32/1, 15 Jan. 1923.

143 Discorso di S.E. il Ministro delle Colonie on. Gaspare Colosimo,” in Ministero delle Colonie 1919b, 9. Colosimo could therefore claim that “Eritrea not only was self sufficient but was at the forefront in providing help in this tragic war circumstances,” Colosimo 1918, 124.

144 Ibid.

145 Malvezzi de’ Medici 1917, 82; Ajmone 1919, 261.

146 Ajmone 1919, 264.

Table des illustrations

Légende Southern Red Sea Region. Made with Scribble Maps.
URL http://books.openedition.org/cfee/docannexe/image/1619/img-1.png
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Légende Fig. 1: Galla Ox (Ferretti 1913, 72).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cfee/docannexe/image/1619/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 556k
Légende Fig. 2: Asmara, Istituto Siero-Vaccinogeno (Ferretti 1913, 148).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cfee/docannexe/image/1619/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 228k
Légende Fig. 3: Naples, Autumn 1910: a group of Eritrean Cows imported in Italy (Ferretti 1913, 200).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cfee/docannexe/image/1619/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 564k
Légende Fig. 4: Cattle consignement form, 1915. Distributed to Akkälä Guzay’s farmers and cattle producers, the type written form was translated intoTigrinya and Arabic (‘Addi Qäyyəḥ Regional Archive, Mendefera, Eritrea, Commerce III).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cfee/docannexe/image/1619/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 192k

Auteur

Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche e Sociali, Università di Pavia

© Centre français des études éthiopiennes, 2018

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540

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