Until the 1930s the Italian population resident in the colonies was rather small, and made up mostly of single males who often set up home, as in Eritrea, with African women. There were few Italian families, also because living conditions in the colonies were very difficult for women and children; moreover, no efficient school system had yet been established. After the conquest of Ethiopia the situation had changed: the Italian population amounted to 120,000 people in Libya and about 200,000 in Italian East Africa. The great majority of new colonists did not entertain any close relationship with African society. A new “Italy” overseas was being reproduced. Mussolini was very worried by the problem of creating a balance between males and females, in order to limit sexual intercourse between Italian men and African women. Il Duce therefore demanded that settlers should take their families with them. This policy caused several problems, because of the lack of housing and public services. Only in Eritrea the number of Italian women (about 25 % of the population) allowed the formation of a sufficient number of families. In the rest of the Empire, society was still prevalently male.A last kind of colonial family was represented by settlers selected by the fascist regime to create a “demographic colonisation” in the territories of the Empire. These were families coming from the Italian countryside, chosen on the basis of such criteria as the number of family members, industriousness, frugality, loyalty to Fascism, etc. These families were introduced into new villages especially built for the purpose. Their number rose to about 40,000 in Libya, and to several thousands in Ethiopia, Rhodes and Albania. Each family unit obtained a plot of land to farm, and would repay the state in the course of years. It was the same pattern used in Italy during the period of land reclamation. This colonisation model was very different from the classic one: the peasant families lived inside their housing agglomerates, entertaining relationships only with other colonists, without practically any contact with the African population. In Mussolini’s opinion these families, besides carrying out the economic valorisation of the Empire, would contribute to the regeneration of Italian birth-rates.
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