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Imperial Designs Italians in China 1900-1947 by Shirley Ann Smith


Imperial Designs Italians in China 1900-1947 by Shirley Ann Smith

Imperial Designs is the first text in English to deal comprehensively with the subject of the Italian colonial experience in China in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Recent scholarship on both the Liberal and Fascist Italian colonial enterprises centers on the Mediterranean and Northern Africa: expeditions, wars, ultimate occupation of territories, and their effect on Italy. This study looks at three Italian enclaves on the other side of the globe: Beijing, Tianjin, and Shanghai. These present both a window into the Italian experience in the Far East and confirmation of imperial policy. Their very presence confirms the rhetoric of conquest. Journalist Luigi Barzini, Sr.; diplomats Salvago Raggi, Vare, and Ciano; various military personnel; and other foreign nationals tell the story through letters and diaries. They all interact with the local metropolitan and rural poor and cultivate a generalized colonial white man's detachment from their surroundings. A brief summary of the presence of chinoiserie in the Italian imaginary shows how the Celestial Empire has continued to function in the construction of Italian identity as part of the dichotomy between self and other.


Shirley Ann Smith presents one of the first English-language books on Italians in China before the Second World War. Rich with anecdotes and biographies, this short book is a useful resource in conceptualizing life in China for Italians in the twentieth century under Liberalism and Fascism. Altreitalie: International Journal of Studies on Italian Migrations in the World

About the Author

Shirley Ann Smith is associate professor of Italian Language and Literatures at Skidmore College.

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Book Info

Publication date

9th March 2012


Shirley Ann Smith

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Fairleigh Dickinson University Press


208 pages


Colonialism & imperialism
European history
Asian history



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