With the conquest of the former Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, Fascist Italy (rhetorically) claimed its place among European colonial powers. On the basis of the area’s ancient Roman past, Libya was considered as an Italian province (the so-called ‘fourth shore’). Within the frame of the Fascist political narrative, after the successes of the Pontine Marshes’ reclamation, and in order to manage the demographic overspill in Italy, in 1938, the Regime launched a large campaign for the agricultural colonization of Libya.
Between 1938 and 1939 24 new settlements were built on the coasts of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, and further 6 were dedicated to settle local Arab population. About 37.000 people were dislocated from Italy to the new settlements.
The outbreak of WWII interrupted migration to Libya, and almost all the Italian settlers moved back to Italy between the Italian defeat and the rise of Gaddafi.
These settlements were based on the creation of very boldly modernist and expressive village centres, with collective facilities gathered around a public ‘piazza’. Around these centres, settlers lived in singlehousehold farms dispersed in the barren dry-farming coastal plains.
A fair amount of scholarship has been produced on this limited in extent case-study. Most plans and debates of the period are well-documented, and thorough surveys of the remaining farms and public buildings have been conducted by Dr. Capresi (2009). Most have been reused by the local population throughout the Libyan independence decades, mainly as functional shelters for totally different uses. Defined by some scholars as a mainly propaganda-feat, the interest of this case-study lays mainly on the documenting the actual uses and perceptions of their settlements by the Italian settlers themselves against the image offered by the Fascist Regime through different media.
Considering the region’s instability, surveys and on-site fieldwork are not viable activities. More feasible and necessary is collecting personal archives, memories and perceptions from the former Italian settlers, some of which are still alive and have been traced back by Dr. Capresi in different locations throughout Italy and Europe.