Vol. 113 No. 2 (2019)
Research Papers

From colonialism to cooperation: the training of tropical agricultural experts in Florence (1908-1968)

Riccardo De Robertis
University of Teramo
Cover photograph: Facade of the former Overseas Agronomic Institute (ex Istituto Agronomico per l'Oltremare) in Florence (Italy). Today it hosts an office of the Italian Agency  for Development Cooperation
Published December 27, 2019
How to Cite
De Robertis, R. (2019). From colonialism to cooperation: the training of tropical agricultural experts in Florence (1908-1968). Journal of Agriculture and Environment for International Development (JAEID), 113(2), 253-271. https://doi.org/10.12895/jaeid.20192.1171


From the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries the agricultural sciences acquired a role of primary importance in the colonial scientific system. The main European powers engaged themselves in the training of its technical experts on tropical and sub-tropical agriculture to be sent mainly in government agencies and on the farms of the corresponding African and Asian territories. Despite a somewhat reduced colonial system, Italy was no exception. The new capitalist colonization project in Eritrea promoted by the governor Ferdinando Martini in the early twentieth century, it urged his first technical agrarian consultant, Gino Bartolommei Gioli, to give life to a technical-scientific center at the service of colonial, emigration and agricultural initiatives: the Istituto Agricolo Coloniale Italiano in Florence. The educational activity was the fulcrum of the institution that over time became the undisputed national center dedicated to training of middle and upper level technicians for overseas.

The purpose of this study is to follow the creation, development and operation of the Florentine school, as well as its contribution to the training of numerous professionals specialized in tropical agriculture in relation to the different stages of Italian agricultural colonization in Africa and, ultimately, in the context of the new overseas projection of Italy in the fifties and sixties.