SOAS University of London

Department of History, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

The Geopolitics of Uncertainty: Italy and Egypt from 1943-1953

Joseph Viscomi (Birkbeck)

Date: 18 February 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 18 February 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: 0

In this seminar, I look at how the political orientation of the Italian community in Egypt that had formed during the interwar period was dislocated from emerging postwar Mediterranean geopolitical constellations. The fall of the fascist government in Rome in 1943 and the creation of the Egyptian republic in 1953 made “uncertainty” a defining condition of life for Italian residents in Egypt. Upon abdicating in 1946, the Italian king Vittorio Emanuele III settled in Egypt, where he was welcomed by King Faruk and by a largely sympathetic community of Italians. Meanwhile, nascent political actors in the Mediterranean, such as the United States, sought to profit from historical ties connecting Italy and Egypt: by 1949, the former propagandist for the National Fascist Party, Ugo Dadone, who had played an important role influencing foreign and Egyptian positions on regional politics, was on the payroll of the OSS. Through him, the OSS (and later CIA) aimed to gain intelligence on and access to Egyptian nationalist circles. When King Faruk was then exiled after the 1952 coup d’état, he departed for Italy, where the Italian government negotiated his reception in terms of “historic” hospitality and exchange between the two nations. This material and symbolic exchange paved the way for entitlement to oil exploration rights for Italian oil-tycoon Enrico Mattei, who later aided Italy’s reassertion of itself as a regional political force. Although diplomatic relations had been formally reestablished by 1947, many Italian residents’ concerns about their status as foreign subjects went unresolved. While the political-economic ties between Italy and Egypt tightened around this history of exchange, Italian residents fell into greater uncertainty. 

Dr Joseph Viscomi is a Lecturer in Modern European History at Birkbeck College. He received his doctorate from the University of Michigan. He joined Birkbeck in 2018, after holding a faculty fellowship at NYU’s Center for European and Mediterranean Studies. He is an affiliated researcher with the ERC project ‘Crosslocations: Rethinking relative location in the Mediterranean’ based at the University of Helsinki.

Organiser: Ceyda Karamursel

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