Ruptures, empires, revolutions

Social, political, economic, and demography change in perspective of colonial transitions in Africa

Date: 31 August 2017, 02:30–05:00

Venue: Corvinus University, Fővám tér 8, room 301



This panel focuses on the social, political, demographic, and economic events that occurred in Africa as a consequence of the continent’s colonial and post-colonial transitions. Against the backdrop of these transitions, the panel aims to explore the resulting, often large-scale and long-run socio-economic changes, including social and political reforms, shifting labour market conditions, changing social and economic orders, and altered demographic regimes. These changes will be studied not only in perspective of the different cultural, technological, and ideological underpinnings that characterised the individual nations, but also in context of contemporary international or global dynamics, including cross-border collaborations, waves of migrations, and the surrounding converging or diverging developments. 


Donatella Strangio (Sapienza University of Rome)

Jacob Weisdorf (University of Southern Denmark Odense)


Jacob Weisdorf (University of Southern Denmark Odense)


Filipa Ribeiro da Silva (International Institute of Social History Amsterdam)


Donatella Strangio (Sapienza University of Rome)

Francesca Fauri (University of Bologna)

Elena Ambrosetti (Sapienza University of Rome)

Zahia Ouadah-Bedidi (Paris Diderot University) / Jacques Vallin (National Institute for Demographic Studies Paris)

Karin Pallaver (University of Bologna)

Jacob Weisdorf (University of Southern Denmark Odense)



Donatella Strangio: Empire and labor mobilization: Migrants and recruitments in the Italian colonies in a comparative view

The issue of national immigration would become part of the organically Italian colonial policy, from the years 1889-1890, when it actually began the push of Italian troops towards the Ethiopian plateau. Objective of this work is the analysis of the connection between the forced recruitment and forced migration through two Italian case studies: that of the Pontine reclamation and the colony of Italian East Africa. The originality of this work is to relate the two cases; the methodology will be qualitative, through the examination of the literature but also quantitative, through data on the population that settled in their respective territorial areas.

Francesca Fauri: Italians migrants to Tunisia: The economic causes and consequences of the 'Sicilian invasion’

The history of Italo-Tunisian trade relations dates far back in history and so does the movement of Italians towards this country. In 1700, Italian emigration to Tunisia started to grow when a group of well-educated Italian Jews from Livorno settled in Tunis. Most of them were merchants who made use of the linkages to Mediterranean commercial networks to assume important roles in Tunis, as agents for the corsairs and their financial backers. By the 1850s, they had developed thriving trade relations with Tuscany and Sardinia, further stimulating emigration from Sardinia and Sicily towards Tunisia and slowly diverting the usual flow towards Algeria. In 1860, the new-born Italian state secured permission for its citizens to buy land in Tunisia and eight years later signed a treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation with the Bey of Tunis. In 1881, France established its protectorate over Tunisia, but out of the 20,000 Europeans living in Tunisia at the time, 11.000 were Italian and only 500 were French. In this paper, I would like to present and discuss the causes and consequences of Italian flows to Tunisia until 1914. In particular, analysing Sicilian migration to Tunisia, it clearly emerges how Sicilian peasants were certain of finding a second homeland in Tunis, they aimed at increasing their material wellbeing and often became small land owners. They indeed often took advantage of a traditional institution called enzel (or inzâl) which gave the possibility to become a perpetual lease-holder of the land through the payment of a fixed rent. However, consequences soon materialized out of the French fear of a Sicilian invasion: the colonial government passed anti-Italian immigration laws at the turn of the century, labourers were not free to move any longer and, as we shall see, they ultimately took different emigration paths.

Elena Ambrosetti: Demographic transition in Egypt: The long view

With almost 90 million inhabitants, Egypt is the most populated Arab country. While the problem of over-population has been a concern of governments for many decades, birth control policies have not succeeded in curbing fertility, which remains at a high level. As one of the few Arab countries whose demographic transition is still not fully completed, Egypt remains an exception in the rapidly evolving demographic landscape. This paper aims to elucidate this paradox by suggesting that Egypt is undergoing several demographic transitions. Lying at the heart of this strategic region, Egypt plays a key role in the Middle East and its future demographic prospects represent a major challenge for both the country and the region as a whole.

Zahia Ouadah-Bedidi / Jacques Vallin: Unexpected developments in Maghrebian fertility: A comparative view

After converging towards replacement levels, fertility in Maghreb is now following contrasting trends. In Tunisia, the total fertility rate (TFR) has levelled off and remained stable at 2.1 children per woman since 1999. In Algeria, after dipping to 2.2 in the early 2000s, fertility has increased steadily, reaching almost 2.9 in 2010. In Morocco and Libya, meanwhile, where fertility was still above replacement in 2000, the TFR has continued its rapid decline, down to 2.2 and 2.5 children per woman, respectively. Not only has fertility remained above replacement level in all of these countries, but Algeria has even seen a sharp upturn in the last decade, As in the past for fertility decline, the change in age at marriage could be the key factor behind the stabilization at 2 children per woman in Tunisia and in the increase to almost 3 in Algeria. Yet again, perhaps the two-child model has lost its appeal in these countries.

Karin Pallaver: Monetary transitions: from pre-colonial to colonial currencies in East Africa

This paper investigates the history of the introduction of colonial currencies in East Africa. The paper focuses on East Africa as a region where monetary and trade systems, both on a regional level and in terms of their connection to the wider Indian Ocean and Red Sea worlds, had emerged and developed well before the establishment of colonial rule. It explores the nature and circulation of pre-colonial currencies in the East African region, the ways in which colonial money was accepted, rejected or transformed by African communities and the effect of the creation of colonial borders on long-distance trading networks within Africa.

Jacob Weisdorf: The colonial legacy of gender inequality in British Africa: Evidence from Christian marriage registers

The colonial legacy of African underdevelopment is widely debated but hard to document. We use hitherto unused occupational statistics from Protestant marriage registers across British Africa to investigate the long-run evolution of African gender inequality and female disempowerment. Based on these data, we construct several indicators of gender inequality, including differences in male and female working-skills, literacy, numeracy, white-collar work, and waged work. We use the indicators to test Boserup’s hypothesis that gender inequality was rooted in indigenous social norms against the more recent view that it emerged during colonial times and sprung from discrimination against women among the colonisers.

Back to listing