For much of the twentieth century the Mediterranean was a colonized sea. Italy’s Sea: Empire and Nation in the Mediterranean (1895-1945) reintegrates Italy, one of the least studied imperial states, into the history of European colonialism. It takes a critical approach to the concept of the Mediterranean in the period of Italian expansion and examines how within and through the Mediterranean Italians navigated issues of race, nation and migration troubling them at home as well as transnational questions about sovereignty, identity, and national belonging created by the decline and collapse of the Ottoman empire in North Africa, the Balkans, and the eastern Mediterranean, or Levant. While most studies of Italian colonialism center on the encounter in Africa, Italy’s Sea describes another set of colonial identities that accrued in and around the Aegean region of the Mediterranean, ones linked not to resettlement projects or to the rhetoric of reclaiming Roman empire, but to cosmopolitan imaginaries of Magna Graecia, the medieval Christian crusades, the Venetian and Genoese maritime empires, and finally, of religious diversity and transnational Levantine Jewish communities that could help render cultural and political connections between the Italian nation at home and the overseas empire in the Mediterranean. Using postcolonial critique to interpret local archival and oral sources as well as Italian colonial literature, film, architecture, and urban planning, the book brings to life a history of mediterraneità or Mediterraneanness in Italian culture, one with both liberal and fascist associations, and enriches our understanding of how contemporary Italy—as well as Greece—may imagine their relationships to Europe and the Mediterranean today.
“This book is a much needed and welcome addition to the growing body of work on Italian colonialism, as well as broader Mediterranean studies, that also sheds new light on Italian fascism. Valerie McGuire provides an empirically rich and conceptually sophisticated analysis of one of Italy’s lesser studied “colonies”: the Dodecanese Islands."
Pamela Ballinger, University of Michigan
'In Valerie McGuire’s Italy’s Sea, we encounter two kinds of Italian Mediterranean imaginary. In unearthing the largely forgotten history of Italy’s colonial rule in the Aegean (1924–1943, but de facto since 1912) the author distinguishes between two phases of colonial administration that were characterized respectively by two different Mediterraneanist ideologies. [...] Through thorough research of largely unexplored material [...] the author offers a masterful account not only of how Italian colonial subjecthood was imagined in the Aegean but also of how it was practiced by both colonizers and colonized. [...This book] is a welcome and valuable addition to the field of Italian and Mediterranean studies. [It] deserves high praise for [its] interdisciplinarity and for providing useful tools for addressing the issues with which [it is] concerned.'
Konstantina Zanou, Italian American Review