But We Built Roads for Them: The Lies, Racism, and Amnesia that Bury Italy’s Colonial Past


In the fiery political debates in and about Italy, silence reigns about the country’s colonial legacy. By reducing European colonial history to Britain and France, Italy has effectively concealed an enduring phenomenon in its history that lasted close to 80 years (1882 to 1960). It also blotted out the history of the countries it colonized in Northeastern Africa.

SKU: 978-1-77186-262-2-2 Categories: ,


Baraka Books
Trade Paperback

ISBN: 978-1-77186-341-4
English: 280 pages, maps, 5.5 X 8.5 inches

Translated from the Italian by Domenic Cusmano
$27.95 – Canada, US

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Italian colonial history began in 1882 with the acquisition of Assab Bay and came to a formal end only on July 1, 1960 when the Italian flag was lowered in Mogadishu, Somalia. It began well before Mussolini’s rise to power and lasted for many years thereafter. It involved both the Kingdom of Italy in the liberal period and the Republic of Italy after World War II.

Francesco Filippi challenges the myth of Italians being “nice people” or “good” colonialists who simply built roads for Africans. Despite extensive historiography, the collective awareness of the nations conquered and the violence inflicted on them remains superficial, be it in Italy or internationally. He retraces Italy’s colonial history, focusing on how propaganda, literature and popular culture have warped our understanding of the past and thereby hampered our ability to deal with the present.

As in his previous No. 1 Italian bestseller Mussolini Also Did A Lot of Good, Filippi pits historical facts against tenacious popular myths about Italy and Italy’s colonial history.

The original Italian title is Noi Però Gli Abbiamo Fatto Le Strade, Le colonie italiane tra bugie, razzismi et amnesie.

With a Foreword by Robin Philpot, publisher of Baraka Books.


Francesco Filippi is a historian of mentalities and an educator who has specialized in the relationship between memory and the present. He is co-founder of Deina, an association that organises trips of memory and training courses all over Italy. Filippi is the author of five books including the Italian bestseller Mussolini Also Did A Lot of Good (Baraka Books 2021). He lives in Trento, Italy.

Domenic Cusmano is a Montreal communications professional and translator whose previous translations include books from Italian and French into English. Publisher and editor of Accenti Magazine, he holds degrees from the Université de Montréal and McGill University. His work as a photojournalist has taken him throughout Europe, Africa, and South America.


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