Date: Monday, 05 February 2018
“The Eritrean Askari believes to be the best soldier in the world!”
How the Eritrean colonial soldiers were represented in Italian military memoirs Student:
Aldo Giuseppe Scarselli
Master Colonial and Global History 2014-2015
Supervisor: Prof. dr. J.B. Gewald
Second Reader: mr. Dr. S. Bellucci
February 05, 2018
During a recent journey to the city of Rome, walking along boulevards, flanking the Tiber waterfronts and crossing the majestic squares of the Capital, it was very easy to spot street names like viale Libia, viale Eritrea, via Assab, via dell’Amba Aradam, via Adua, via del Tembien or largo Somalia - all names that send me back to the colonial heritage of Italy. Near Via Luigi Einaudi it is possible to find the obelisk of Dogali, a commemorative monument to the Italian colonial soldiers killed during the Battle of Dogali, Eritrea, of 26ThJanuary 1887, while near the metro station of Lepanto, in front of the Nazario Sauro military barracks, two bronze busts portray Major Pietro Toselli, who died during the aforementioned battle
of 1887, and Lieutenant Colonel Giuseppe Galliano, who strenuously defended the Eritrean fort of Macallè from the Abyssinian siege of 1895-1896. All these names came from Italian conquests, military heroes and even colonial defeats. According to Nicola Labanca the colonial past lingers in Italy, because “in almost all the cities of the Peninsula the topographic memory of the colonial enterprises of the unified Italy endures”1.
From 1882 to 1941 Italy, the last of the colonial powers, directed its expansion toward what is modern day Eritrea (1882), the eastern part of Somalia (1888), a concession in the Chinese bay ofTianjin (1902), Libya and the Dodecanese Islands (1912) and Ethiopia (1935).While they were following these imperialistic vectors, Italians entered into contact with local realities, peoples, and cultures, sometimes considering them enemies to fight and subdue, at other times considering them precious allies to absorb into the colonial dimension. During the victories and defeats that gave their names to streets and monuments, the Italians were not alone; they recruited local military forces to reinforce their presence in the area.
In this research I am going to analyse one of thesecases: the Eritrean askari, African soldiers recruited in the first Italian colony, Eritrea. They were the objects of attention of an entire colonial class, and it is precisely this peculiar attention and interest that will be the pivotal element of my analysis……………..
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