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Hope for a better life, freedom of political choice and the spirit of adventure are just a few reasons which led to the Italian diaspora, i.e. large-scale migrations of Italians across the globe. This occurred in particular from when Italy became an official nation in 1861 to the years of authoritarian fascism in the 1920s and then again after World War Two. According to one report there were 4,115,235 Italians living overseas in 2011 and several millions of second generation Italians, the children of those who migrated after the 1800s. When Italians, along with many other citizens worldwide, migrated and where they moved to are both pretty simple questions to answer; why Italians migrated and continue to do so today is, however, a much deeper issue embedded in the millions of stories of millions of Italians. So sit back and enjoy this read on just what made people leave La Bella Italia.
As in many cases poverty was the prime reason which led thousands of Italians to migrate in the 1800s. With the unification of the Italic peninsular under the official name of the Italian Republic in 1861 Southern Italy, a once extremely poor rural area, became home to hospitals and a continuous food supply which it previously lacked. This improved socio-economic condition caused a demographic boom as more and more children were born which made large masses of the population migrate to America, an ever-growing continent. Gradually the perception of America being a land of opportunities filled the minds of foreigners, both those looking for a sense of adventure and those exhausted by economic hardship, and migration began to be viewed as a chance to live the American dream.
Throughout the 18th and 19th century transatlantic ships were becoming ever more grand and accessible, accommodating both first class aristocrats and third class labourers, therefore migration became the perfect escape after World War One. The war had left Italy not only significantly impoverished but it also made clear the division between those who were in favour of entering the war and those who opposed it. In the build up to World War One Italy was part of the Triple Alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary yet once Italy entered the war in 1915 it was on the side of the Triple Entente (Britain, France and Russia). Many wanted Italy to stay neutral during the war whereas others were unsure which side Italy should fight against. Mussolini initially opposed the war but he soon changed his mind and began to refer to the war as a ‘great drama’. Italy was humiliated at the Versailles Settlement in 1919 and with the rise of fascism approximately 614,000 emigrants left the country in 1920, half of whom went to the US. One and a half million Italians moved during the first five years of fascism and by this time it was not only for political dissent or fear but also to be with their relatives who had migrated years before them and were spreading word of a better life style overseas. A similar case occurred in the aftermath of World War Two as large numbers of Italians fled to America in hope of a new start after yet another excruciating war.
Today migration is still a very much large-scale phenomenon. Having attended high school in Italy I noticed that quite a few of my friends wanted to continue their studies in the UK, which my teachers all highly recommended. Unfortunately Italy lacks an effective support system for those who continue their studies; the government will not invest in its citizens’ futures as the UK welfare system actively does and even after five years of university it is still hard for many Italians to find a suitable well paid job in their field of studies. Researches are prone to migration fleeing to countries such as the US and the UK where their work has more prominence when published and where they are given the necessary tools and monetary means to carry out their extensive research. Numerous famous Italian writers, philosophers, scientists and inventors have migrated abroad over time and even Italian singers have now started writing songs in English so they can collaborate with American artists, for example Nicole Scherzinger who featured Eros Ramazzotti in one of her songs. Many dream of a day when young aspiring scientists and talented singers will feel like they can accomplish all they desire in Italy, but for now migration is a phenomenon which doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.