Italy's history with Ethiopia
In the prologue of the book, Igiaba details a battle that took place on January 18, 1887, known as the Battle of Dogali, where the Italians were out-maneuvered by the Ethiopians.
Why were Italians there in the first place, especially so soon after unification? A lot of it goes back to British and French influence where the British allowed Italy to take the territory but the French declared Ethiopia a protectorate. A move that came to be known as Schiaffo di Tunisi, The Slap of Tunis.
Naturally, Ethiopia had no desire to be controlled by a foreign nation but as we all know, colonialists don’t care about that. So while Italy occupied the country they committed a number of atrocities on the people. Ethiopia’s struggle for freedom would continue through the later part of the 1800s, finally coming to a rest in 1897, with Italy finally calling it quits.
On October 3, 1935, successfully Italy invaded Ethiopia. And while many of the western nations condemned Italy’s actions they did nothing to stop him. And while the democracies did nothing, Italy used chemical weapons, had concentration camps, and attacked Red Cross facilities.
While we have a tendency to romanticize Italy and its history, we also have a duty to look at the unattractive parts. The parts that don’t look so nice on the travel brochures. In exploring these stories we see a true picture of the country with a better understanding.
This is one of the reasons why I love reading historical fiction. A good historical fiction novel, such as The Color Line, will present the full history. Both the good and the ugly for us to not only see it but explore through someone else’s eyes.
Pick up your copy of The Color Line.