«Replenishing Italy»: Migration and Internal Colonization Projects
in Liberal Italy, 1868-1910
This essay focuses on internal migration and internal colonization in Liberal Italy, pointing out some relations with the global context. The second half of the XIXth century and the first 15 years of the XXth one were the age of mass migrations: while colonizing societies spread all over the world, some Italy’s intellectual and governmental milieues thought that domestic problems concerning rural unemployment and social conflicts could be solved through the diversion from outward migration to internal migration flows. According to this perspective, the Italian State had to create the colonizing myth of a «Near-South» towards uncultivated lands in Southern Italy, where mass emigration of rural workers left empty space for an ‘agrarian renaissance’. A first experiment was conducted by public institutions (the State and a Prefect) in 1889-1890, and it failed completely: some workers from Northeast Italy placed in Sardinia came back or died in a few months. Some years later, in 1905-1907, the initiative for the colonization of the Mezzogiorno was taken by the Northern socialist movement.