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A CLOSED OR AN OPEN HISTORICAL PARENTHESIS? ITALIAN LABOUR AND THE “VALORISATION” POLICIES IN THE HORN OF AFRICA, 1890-1941 [Abstract ID: 0303-05]
Italian colonialism constituted a relatively brief period in the modern history of the Horn of Africa. However, Italian investments – despite the fact that Italy was not a country with much capital and goods to export – in the region were rather significant and produced important structural changes in some local economies. The paper analyses the labour policies that were put in place by Italians during the colonial years in Eritrea and Somalia and during the military occupation in Ethiopia (and in the AOI). The paper concentrates especially on the agency of Italian labour immigrants working in colonial enterprises. Three are the economic sectors that will be taken into consideration: agriculture, public works, and the military. What the paper will try to examine is the labour regimes set up by Italians within these sectors and possibly if these policies produced any lasting effect in the local economies. Italians were mainly either farmers’ concessionaries or free wage workers. Farmers were owners of their means of production and employers of other Italian workers but also Africans, from the Horn and beyond. Wage workers were working for the colonial state, for big investors in public and private works, and for “adventurous entrepreneurs”. The labour and industrial relations introduced by the Italians differed from the mode of production of imperial Ethiopia (referred to by some historians as feudal mode of production); and this paper will try to explain how these systems of labour exploitation did not leave the region with the departure of Italians after 1941.