‘Places in the African Sun’: Social Darwinism, Demographics and the Italian Invasion of Ethiopia
Italian infantry and light tanks rolled across the Eritrea-Ethiopia frontier on 3 October 1935. Fascist Italy's invasion of Ethiopia, a sovereign empire in its own right and a member of the League of Nations, proved cruel even by the dismal standards of the era. The doyen of Italian historians of Italian fascism, Renzo De Felice, argued that a series of 'historical and psychological' reasons drove Mussolini's calculations, including a search for increased prestige and power. Mussolini's beliefs about the fundamental importance of population demographics dovetail closely with his social Darwinism. Mussolini's racialist and expansionist mentalité encapsulated social Darwinist and demographic beliefs common in Europe, and these beliefs proved to be the driving force in Fascist Italy's brutal invasion of Ethiopia and the subsequent reign of terror inflicted on the Ethiopian people. Raffaele Guariglia urged the creation of a demographic colony that would expand Italian power and would eliminate the threat to Italy's East African colonies.