Italian Somaliland


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Italian Somaliland is Number 128 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. Italian Somaliland (part of the present-day Republic of Somalia) came under Italian control in early 1889, when the sultan of Obbia (present-day Hobyo) concluded a treaty with Italy placing his dominions along the coast of the Indian Ocean under Italian protection. Southern Somaliland was made an Italian crown colony in 1910, while Northern Somaliland remained an Italian protectorate, “ruled by local Sultans, over whose actions the Italian Government exercises only indirect political control.” The book includes sections on physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. It chronicles the establishment of Italian control and the demarcation of boundaries between Italian Somaliland and British East Africa and Abyssinia (Ethiopia). The section on social and political conditions is brief and stresses the strict Islamic faith of the Somali tribes. The study discusses the commitment of the Italians to turning Italian Somaliland into an economically profitable colony but notes the many obstacles to be overcome, including the dry climate and shortages of water, the lack of qualified labor for agricultural work, and the rudimentary transport network. It notes the prevalence of slavery in the southern part of the colony.

Last updated: February 5, 2015