Colony of Eritrea
|Status||Colony of Italy|
|Common languages|| Italian (official)|
Tigrinya, Tigre, Kunama, Nara, Saho, Bilen, Hejazi
|Religion|| Catholicism |
|Victor Emmanuel III|
• 1890 (first)
• 1935-1936 (last)
|Historical era||New Imperialism|
|15 November 1869|
• Government control
|5 July 1882|
|5 February 1885|
|2 May 1889|
• Colony of Eritrea
|1 January 1890|
|1 June 1936|
|19 May 1941|
|10 February 1947|
|15 September 1952|
|1936||121,000 km2 (47,000 sq mi)|
|Currency|| Eritrean tallero |
Italian Eritrea was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy in the territory of present-day Eritrea. The first Italian establishment in the area was the purchase of Assab by the Rubattino Shipping Company in 1869, which came under government control in 1882. Occupation of Massawa in 1885 and the subsequent expansion of territory would gradually engulf the region and in 1889 borders with the Ethiopian Empire were defined in the Treaty of Wuchale. In 1890 the Colony of Eritrea (Italian : Colonia Eritrea) was officially founded.
In 1936 the region was integrated into Italian East Africa as the Eritrea Governorate. This would last until Italy's loss of the region in 1941, during the East African campaign of World War II. Italian Eritrea then came under British military administration, which in 1951 fell under United Nations supervision. In September 1952 it became an an autonomous part of Ethiopia.
Part of a series on the
|History of Eritrea|
The leading figure of the early history of Italian enterprises in the Red Sea was Giuseppe Sapeto. When a young monk, preparing himself in Cairo for missionary work, he had been dispatched in 1837 into Abyssinia. Afterward, he became an active advocate of European penetration, initially encouraging the French to establish themselves in the area. After 1866, following the political unification of Italy, he sought to develop Italian influence instead. As the Suez Canal neared completion, he began to visualize the establishment of a coaling station and port of call for Italian steamships in the Red Sea. Sapeto won over the Italian minister for foreign affairs, and King Victor Emmanuel II, to whom he explained his ideas.
In the autumn of 1869 he, together with Admiral Acton, was sent by the government to the Red Sea to choose a suitable port and arrange for its sale. This he did by paying a small deposit to the Danakil chiefs at Assab Bay in return for their promise to sell their territory to him on his return. Meanwhile, the government had been in touch with Raffaele Rubattino, whose company was planning to establish a steamship line through the newly opened Suez Canal and the Red Sea to India. It was agreed that the company would buy the territory in its own name and with its own funds, but should undertake to use it in the national interest. Sapeto returned to the Red Sea on behalf of the company, completed the purchase and bought more land to the south.
By March 1870, an Italian shipping company had thus become claimant to territory at the northern end of Assab Bay, a deserted but spacious bay about half-way between Annesley Bay to the north and Obock to the South.However, the area, — which had been long dominated by the Ottoman Empire and Egypt — was not settled by the Italians until 1880. Two years later, Italy formally took possession of the nascent colony from its commercial owners.
Most of the western coast of the Red Sea was then formally claimed by the Khedivate of Egypt (under the notional rule of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, who held the eastern coast) but the region was thrown into chaos by major Egyptian defeats in the Ethio-Egyptian War and by the success of the Mahdi's uprising in the Sudan. In 1884, the British Hewett Treaty promised the Bogos—the highlands of modern Eritrea—and free access to the Massawan coast to Emperor Yohannes IV in exchange for his help evacuating garrisons from the Sudan;
In the vacuum left by the Egyptian withdrawal, though, British diplomats were concerned about the rapid expansion of French Somaliland, France's colony along the Gulf of Tadjoura. Ignoring their treaty with Ethiopia, they openly encouraged Italy to expand north into Massawa, which was taken without a shot from its Egyptian garrison. Located on a coral islandsurrounded by lucrative pearl-fishing grounds, the superior port was fortified and made the capital of the Italian governor. Assab, meanwhile, continued to find service as a coaling station. As they were not a party to the Hewett Treaty, the Italians began restricting access to arms shipments and imposing customs duties on Ethiopian goods immediately.
In the disorder that followed the 1889 death of Emperor Yohannes IV, Gen. Oreste Baratieri occupied the highlands along the Eritrean coast and Italy proclaimed the establishment of a new colony of Eritrea (from the Latin name for the Red Sea), with capital Asmara in substitution of Massawa.
In the Treaty of Wuchale (It. Uccialli) signed the same year, King Menelik of Shewa—a southern Ethiopian kingdom—recognized the Italian occupation of his rivals' lands of Bogos, Hamasien, Akkele Guzay, and Serae in exchange for guarantees of financial assistance and continuing access to European arms and ammunition. His subsequent victory over his rival kings and enthronement as Emperor Menelek II (r. 1889–1913) made the treaty formally binding upon the entire country.
Once established, however, Menelik took a dim view towards Italian involvement with local leaders in his northern province of Tigray; —but not Amharic —version of the Treaty of Wuchale had prohibited Ethiopia with foreign negotiations except through Italy, effectively making the realm an Italian protectorate. Secure both domestically and militarily (thanks to arms shipments via French Djibouti and Harar), Menelik denounced the treaty in whole and the ensuing war, culminating in Italy's disastrous defeat at Adwa, ended their hopes of annexing Ethiopia for a time.while the Italians, for their part, felt bound to involvement given the regular Tigrayan raiding of tribes within their colony's protectorate and the Tigrayan leaders themselves continued to claim the provinces now held by Italy. Negotiations with the French over a railway brought things to a head: the Italian
During the late twentieth century Assab would become Ethiopia's main port, but it was long overshadowed by nearby Djibouti, whose railway (completed to Dire Dawa in 1902) permitted it to quickly supplant traditional caravan-based routes to Assab and Zeila. Massawa remained the primary port for most of northern Ethiopia, but its relatively high customs dues, dependence on caravans, and political antagonism limited the volume on its trade with Ethiopia.
Seeking to develop their own lands, the Italian government launched the first development projects in the new colony in the late 1880s. The Eritrean Railway was completed to Saati in 1888and reached Asmara in the highlands in 1911.
The Asmara–Massawa Cableway (dismantled by the British as war reparations in World War II) was the longest line in the world during its time. Italian administration of Eritrea also brought improvements in the medical and agricultural sectors of Eritrean society. Despite an imposition of racial laws, all urban Eritreans had access to modern sanitation and hospital services.
The Italians also employed local Eritreans in public service, particularly the police and public works departments. In a region marked by cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity, a succession of Italian governors maintained a notable degree of unity and public order.
Nicknamed Colonia Primogenita ("First-born Colony") in contrast to the newer and less-developed territories of Italian Somaliland and Libya, century and settled around Asmara and Massawa.Eritrea boasted a larger native Italian settlement than the other lands. The first few dozen families were sponsored by the Italian government around the start of the 20th
The Italian-Eritrean community then grew from around 4,000 during World War I to nearly 100,000 at the beginning of World War II.While tolerating Islamic adherence, the Italians endorsed a huge expansion of Catholicism in Eritrea and constructed many churches in the highlands around Asmara and Keren, centered on the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary in the capital.
By the early 1940s, Catholicism was the declared religion of around 28% of the colony's population, while Christianity was the religion of more than half the Eritreans
Benito Mussolini's rise to power in Italy in 1922 brought profound changes to the colonial government in Eritrea. After il Duce declared the birth of Italian Empire in May 1936, Italian Eritrea (enlarged with northern Ethiopia's regions) and Italian Somaliland were merged with the just conquered Ethiopia in the new Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana) administrative territory. This Fascist period was characterized by imperial expansion in the name of a "new Roman Empire".
Eritrea was chosen by the Italian government to be the industrial center of Italian East Africa:
After the establishment of new transportation and communication methods in the country, the Italians also started to set up new factories, which in turn made due contribution in enhancing trade activities. The newly opened factories produced buttons, cooking oil, and pasta, construction materials, packing meat, tobacco, hide and other household commodities. In the year 1939, there were around 2,198 factories and most of the employees were Eritrean citizens, some even moved from the villages to work in the factories.The establishment of industries also made an increase in the number of both Italians and Eritreans residing in the cities. The number of Italians residing in the country increased from 4,600 to 75,000 in five years; and with the involvement of Eritreans in the industries, trade and fruit plantation was expanded across the nation, while some of the plantations were owned by Eritreans.
The capital of Eritrea experienced a huge increase in population: in 1935 there were only 4,000 Italians and 12,000 Eritreans; in 1938 there were 48,000 Italians and 36,000 Eritreans. Historian Gian Luca Podesta wrote that practically Asmara has become an Italian city ("in pratica Asmara era diventata una citta' italiana").
The Italian government continued to implement agricultural reforms but primarily on farms owned by Italian colonists (exports of coffee boomed in the 1930s). In the area of Asmara, there were in 1940 more than 2,000 small and medium-sized industrial companies, which were concentrated in the areas of construction, mechanics, textiles, food processing and electricity. Consequently, the standard of living in Eritrea in 1939 was considered among the best on the continent for both the local Eritreans and the Italian settlers.
Mussolini's government considered the colony as a strategic base for future aggrandizement and ruled accordingly, using Eritrea as a base to launch its 1935–1936 campaign to conquer and colonize Ethiopia. Even in World War II the Italians used Eritrea to attack Sudan and occupy the Kassala area. Indeed, the best Italian colonial troops were the Eritrean Ascari, as stated by Italian Marshall Rodolfo Graziani and legendary officer Amedeo Guillet.Furthermore, after World War I, service with the Ascari become the main source of paid employment for the indigenous male population of Italian Eritrea. During the expansion required by the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1936, 40% of eligible Eritreans were enrolled in these colonial troops.
According to the Italian census of 1939 the city of Asmara had a population of 98,000, of which 53,000 were Italians. This fact made Asmara the main "Italian town" of the Italian empire in Africa. Furthermore, because of the Italian architecture of the city, Asmara was called Piccola Roma (Little Rome).The total number of Italians in all of Eritrea was 75,000 in that year.
Asmara was known to be an exceptionally modern city, not only because of its architecture, but Asmara also had more traffic lights than Rome did when the city was being built. The city incorporates many features of a planned city. Indeed, Asmara was an early example of an ideal modern city created by architects, an idea which was introduced into many cities across the world, such as Brasilia, but which was not altogether popular. Features include designated city zoning and planning, wide treed boulevards, political areas and districts and space and scope for development. Asmara was not built for the Eritreans however; the Italians built it primarily for themselves and made the city a typical Italian city with even its own car race (called the Asmara circuit).
The city has been regarded as "New Rome" due to its quintessential Italian touch, not only for the architecture but also for the wide streets, piazzas and coffee bars. While the boulevards are lined with palms and indigenous shiba'kha trees, there are numerable pizzerias and coffee bars, serving cappuccinos and lattes, as well as ice cream parlours.
Many industrial investments were endorsed by the Italians in the area of Asmara and Massawa, but the beginning of World War II stopped the blossoming industrialization of Eritrea.
British Military Administration in Eritrea
|UN High Commissioner|
|Eduardo Anze Matienzo|
|19 May 1941|
• UN supervision
|19 February 1951|
|15 September 1952|
When the British army conquered Eritrea in January 1941, most of the infrastructure and the industrial areas were extremely damaged and the remaining ones (like the Asmara-Massawa Cableway) were successively removed and sent toward India and British possessions in Africa as a war booty.
The following Italian guerrilla war was supported by many Eritrean colonial troops (like the "hero" of Eritrean independence, Hamid Idris Awate)until the Italian armistice in September 1943. Eritrea was placed under British military administration after the Italian surrender in World War II.
The Italians in Eritrea started to move away from the country after the defeat of the Kingdom of Italy by the Allies, and by the time of the British census of 1949 Asmara had only 17,183 Italian Eritreans of a total population of 127,579. Most Italian settlers left for Italy, with others to United States, Middle East, and Australia.
The British maintained initially the Italian administration of Eritrea, but the country soon started to be involved in a violent process of independence (from the British in the late forties and after 1952 from the Ethiopians, who annexed Eritrea in that year).
During the last years of World War II some Italian Eritreans like Dr. Vincenzo Di Meglio defended politically the presence of Italians in Eritrea and successively promoted the independence of Eritrea.He went to Rome to participate in a Conference for the independence of Eritrea, promoted by the Vatican.
After the war Di Meglio was named Director of the "Comitato Rappresentativo Italiani dell' Eritrea" (CRIE). In 1947 he supported the creation of the "Associazione Italo-Eritrei" and the "Associazione Veterani Ascari", in order to get alliance with the Eritreans favorable to Italy in Eritrea.
As a result of these creations, he cofounded the "Partito Eritrea Pro Italia" (Party of Shara Italy) in September 1947, an Eritrean political Party favorable to the Italian presence in Eritrea that obtained more than 200,000 inscriptions of membership in one single month.
Indeed, the Italian Eritreans strongly rejected the Ethiopian annexation of Eritrea after the war: the "Party of Shara Italy" was established in Asmara in 1947 and the majority of the members were former Italian soldiers with many Eritrean Ascari (the organization was even backed up by the government of Italy).
The main objective of this party was Eritrean freedom, but they had a pre-condition that stated that before independence the country should be governed by Italy for at least 15 years.
With the Peace Treaty of 1947 Italy officially accepted the end of the colony. As a consequence the Italian community started to disappear, mainly after the Ethiopian government took control of Eritrea.
However some Italo-Eritrean were welcomed by the Ethiopian government, like the brothers Italo Vassalo and Luciano Vassalo, champions of football who won the 1962 African Cup of Nations.
"Eritrea" is an ancient name, associated in the past with its Greek form Erythraia, Ἐρυθραία, and its derived Latin form Erythræa. This name relates to that of the Red Sea, then called the Erythræan Sea, from the Greek for "red", ἐρυθρός, erythros. The Italians created the colony of Eritrea in the 19th century around Asmara, and named it with its current name. After World War II Eritrea was annexed to Ethiopia. In 1991 the Eritrean People's Liberation Front defeated the Ethiopian government. Eritrea officially celebrated its 1st anniversary of independence on May 24, 1991.
The First Italo-Ethiopian War was fought between Italy and Ethiopia from 1895 to 1896. It originated from the disputed Treaty of Wuchale which, the Italians claimed, turned the country into an Italian protectorate. During the war, the Ethiopians were vastly numerically superior and armed with rifles supplied by Russia and France, who also provided military advisers and army training. In contrast, Italy was a young and mostly poor nation, and its force in Ethiopia was equipped with antiquated weapons.
Italian East Africa was an Italian colony in the Horn of Africa. It was formed in 1936 through the merger of Italian Somalia, Italian Eritrea, and the newly occupied Ethiopian Empire, conquered in the Second Italo-Ethiopian War.
The Eritrean Railway is the only railway system in Eritrea. It was constructed between 1887 and 1932 during the Italian Eritrea colony and connects the port of Massawa with Asmara. Originally it also connected to Bishia. The line was partly damaged by warfare in subsequent decades, but was rebuilt in the 1990s. Vintage equipment is still used on the line.
French Somaliland was a French colony in the Horn of Africa. It existed between 1883 and 1967. Djibouti is its legal successor state.
Massawa, or Mitsiwa, is a port city in the Semienawi Keyih Bahri Region of Eritrea, located on the Red Sea at the northern end of the Gulf of Zula beside the Dahlak Archipelago. It has represented a historically important port for many centuries.
The East African campaign was fought in East Africa during the Second World War by Allies of World War II, mainly from the British Empire, against Italy and its colony of Italian East Africa, between June 1940 and November 1941. The British Middle East Command with troops from the United Kingdom, South Africa, British India, Uganda Protectorate, Kenya, Somaliland, West Africa, Northern and Southern Rhodesia, Sudan and Nyasaland participated in the campaign. These were joined by the Allied Force Publique of Belgian Congo, Imperial Ethiopian Arbegnoch and a small unit of Free French.
Modern banking in Eritrea started with the arrival of the Italian colonizers. However, from 1974 on, the banking sector became a government monopoly. This situation continued after Eritrea achieved its independence. The Bank of Eritrea is the central bank of Eritrea.
Articles related to Eritrea include:
Eritrea, officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in Eastern Africa, with its capital at Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline along the Red Sea. The nation has a total area of approximately 117,600 km2 (45,406 sq mi), and includes the Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands.
The Italian colonial empire, known as the Italian Empire between 1936 and 1943, comprised the colonies, protectorates, concessions, dependencies and trust territories of the Kingdom of Italy. The genesis of the Italian colonial empire was the purchase in 1869 of Assab Bay on the Red Sea by an Italian navigation company which intended to establish a coaling station at the time the Suez Canal was being opened to navigation. This was taken over by the Italian government in 1882, becoming modern Italy's first overseas territory.
Italian Eritreans are Eritrean-born descendants of Italian settlers as well as Italian long-term residents in Eritrea.
The Eritrean Ascari were indigenous soldiers from Eritrea, who were enrolled as askaris in the Royal Corps of Colonial Troops of the Royal Italian Army during the period 1889–1941.
Vincenzo DiMeglio, called also Vincenzo Di Meglio (1903-1987), was an Italian doctor who worked in the Africa Orientale Italiana in the late thirties and during World War II. He was also an Italian Eritrean politician who saved Eritrea from being divided in 1947 between Sudan and Ethiopia
The Eritrean–Ethiopian border conflict was a violent standoff and a proxy conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It consisted of a series of incidents along the then-disputed border; including the Eritrean–Ethiopian War of 1998–2000 and the subsequent Second Afar insurgency. The border conflict was a continuation of the Eritrean–Ethiopian War of 1998–2000. It included multiple clashes with numerous casualties, including the Battle of Tsorona in 2016. Ethiopia stated in 2018 that it would cede Badme to Eritrea. This led to the Eritrea–Ethiopia summit on 9 July 2018, where an agreement was signed which demarcated the border and agreed a resumption of diplomatic relations.
The Italian colonial railways started with the opening in 1888 of a short section of line in Italian Eritrea, and ended in 1943 with the loss of Italian Libya after the Allied offensive in North Africa and the destruction of the railways around Italian Tripoli. The colonial railways of the Kingdom of Italy reached 1,561 kilometres (970 mi) before WWII.
The following is a timeline of the history of the city of Asmara, Eritrea. Asmara was under Italian colonial rule from 1889 until 1941.
The Imperial Line was a flight route of the Italian national airline Ala Littoria between 1935 and 1941 during the Fascist era. It was the longest route in the Italian colonial empire in Africa and "the jewel in Ala Littoria's crown". It connected Rome with Benghazi (Libya), Asmara (Eritrea), Addis Abeba (Ethiopia) and Mogadishu (Somalia). It carried passengers and mail. Italy ultimately lost control of the route during World War II.
The Petrella Airport was the first international airport in Italian Somalia. It was opened in 1928 -just 3 miles south of Mogadishu- with the name "Enrico Petrella" in honor of an Italian pilot who died a few years before in the same airport of Italian Mogadiscio. In 1941 the airport was partially destroyed during WW2 and remained inactive for some years as a civilian airport: only military airplanes used it. In 1950 was reopened as a civilian airport by the Italian authorities of the ONU Fiduciary Mandate.
The Italo-Ethiopian War of 1887–1889 was an undeclared war between the Kingdom of Italy and the Ethiopian Empire occurring during the Italian colonization of Eritrea. The conflict ended with a treaty of friendship, which delimited the border between Ethiopia and Italian Eritrea but contained clauses whose different interpretations led to another Italo-Ethiopian war.