It would not be too crude a generalization to say that some of the defining structures of modernity came late to Italy. The nation itself was not fully constituted until 1871, the bureaucratic apparatus of the state spread slowly and imperfectly across the peninsula, industrialization did not occur on a large scale until the beginning of the twentieth century. Italy's attempt to carve itself an empire, or to achieve what contemporary politicians referred to as its 'place in the sun', came significantly later than the territorial expansion of other Western powers. A sense of resentment and the need to act quickly to counter the unequal partition of colonial spoils was a common theme in many of the speeches of the nationalistic politicians of Liberal Italy. The treaty of Berlin in 1884-5 established Italy's right, in the view of other European nation-states, to extend its influence over the north east of Africa. As Italian imperialism developed from the late nineteenth century into the twentieth, it combined opportunism and violence with the drive rapidly to achieve a system of colonial administration that had taken decades to evolve elsewhere. The struggle for expansion was motivated, as was the later intervention in the First World War, by an aspiration towards enhanced national standing and by the anticipation of economic benefit.
Bibliographical notePublisher: Berghahn Books
Other identifier: Winter