From the European South

a transdisciplinary journal of postcolonial humanities

The “lost colony”: Italian colonial irredentism (1864-1912)

Gabriele Montalbano


This paper focuses on the place that Tunisia held in Italian colonial imaginary from the Majba Revolt (1864) until the Italo-Turkish War (1912). The main interest is to point out how geography, and geographical imagination, has been used as a colonial tool to legitimate the imperialist aims of Italy over Tunisian Regency and secondly to Tripoli. Tunisia occupied a particular status of an ‘unredeemed’ colony, linking the nationalist irredentist narration of the North-Eastern Italian border with the colonialist one on the Southern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Starting from speeches and declarations of geographers, politicians and policymakers of the second half of 19th century, this research uses the writings of nationalist intellectuals and politician of the 1910s that played a major role in Italian public opinion to encourage the war against the Ottoman Empire. The paper aims to demonstrate not only the importance of geographical imagination in legitimating colonial ambitions but also the pivotal role of foreign colonial spaces in the imperialist imaginary of other metropolises as, in this case study, the place of the French protectorate of Tunisia in Italian colonialism.


Tunisia, Italy, irredentism, migration, colonialism, Libya



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