The First Italo-Ethiopian Clash over the Control of Eritrea and the Origins of Rome's Imperialism

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Nikolaos Mavropoulos EUI, Florence, Italy

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In the wake of Italy's unification, the country's expansionist designs were aimed, as expected, toward the opposite shore of the Mediterranean. The barrage of developments that took place in this strategic area would shape the country's future alliances and colonial policies. The fear of French aggression on the coast of North Africa drove officials in Rome to the camp of the Central Powers, a diplomatic move of great importance for Europe's evolution prior to World War I. The disturbance of the Mediterranean balance of power, when France occupied Tunisia and Britain held Cyprus and Egypt, the inability to find a colony in proximity to Italy, and a series of diplomatic defeats led Roman officials to look to the Red Sea and to provoke war with the Ethiopian Empire.

Contributor Notes

Nikolaos Mavropoulos is currently Max Weber Postdoctoral Researcher at EUI, Florence. He completed his BA in Balkan Studies and his MA in European History in Greece. In 2014, he was awarded with the Sapienza University's PhD fellowship for Foreign Nationals educated abroad. In September 2018, he received his doctoral degree from Sapienza University of Rome's Department of History, Culture, and Religion. His research interests revolve around imperial antagonisms, colonialism, and contemporary and modern history. Email:

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