So I’m reading a new book titled “The Fascist Experience in Italy” in an effort to learn about Fascism, what caused it and the nature of the regimes which it created and I come across something. That something is the phrase “Little Italy”. It got me thinking of the similar phrase “Little England”, which was widely used during the referendum campaign, and how its meaning could be interpreted for something completely different to what its conventionally assumed to be.
In the first chapter it talks about the Pre-war culture, economic and social conditions which would enable Mussolini to rise to prominence and power and in the 1900’s it contains a small paragraph about the Nationalists. The nationalists ‘were a minority movement, but a vocal and influential one in the circles of high politics’ (Pollard, 1998,p12). The thoughts of the nationalists on Italy at this time I came across the idea of “Little Italy”, which was a term used by the nationalists to describe the poor attempt at the government to forge an empire in the same way other European countries had done in Africa and the exodus of Italian families to other more prosperous parts of the world due to the poor economic situation in Italy at the time, culminating in a national inferiority complex.
I don’t know when the term “Little Englander” was first used but I do remember the first time I started to hear and see it with more regularity than before. It was around 2013/2014 and Nigel Farage was making his way to become the anti-establishment candidate of the Right, his persistence on the subject of the EU brought it to become a household topic of discussion and more people bought into his vision of Britain outside the EU, which was important as the EU parliamentary elections were in mid 2014. One of the responses in opposition to this was to refer to these people as “Little Englanders”, solely used as a derogatory term to denote the opinions of these people as nothing more trying to recreate some mythical golden age of the British nation, firmly against immigration and in complete opposition to the modern world. After the EU elections the use of the term died down as the General Election primarily focused on domestic policies so it was of little comparison. The term resurfaced to see great usage during the EU referendum campaign, being thrown around like a trawler stranded in the middle of a storm out on the high seas, primarily by some prominent remain politicians such as Tim Farron. Again to devalue the opinions of those who wished to leave the European Union.
After seeing the phrase “Little Italy”, how it referred to the state of Italy at the time rather than where it was heading, it got me thinking about how to interpret the meaning of “Little England”. Instead of seeing it as a derogatory phrase which describes going back in time to the aforementioned golden age and all that comes with it, what if we are living in a period of “Little England”. Although to define the term in this circumstance is slightly different to the equivalent “Little Italy”as there is no exodus of British nationals to other parts of the world to find prosperity. Though I could see similarities between the failed African ventures of the Italian regime of the time and the, not only failed but sometimes catastrophic ventures of the British (as well as their NATO allies) into the Middle East. Failing to successfully topple dictatorships and aid rebels in their fight against oppressive regimes. Then there was the British membership of the European Union which was seen by some as a subjugation of the British lion under the Brussels yolk, in essence removing us from the forefront to assume a more backseat driver role in some aspects of the international theater, in effect reducing our prestige. To add to this is the major loss of manufacturing and industry which happened to Britains’ economy in the 80’s and 90’s which has taken its toll.
So maybe we are experiencing what is really “Little Britain” and what comes later down the line could be the Great Britain that we were brought up to believe in, setting ourselves firmly on the world stage and forging our destiny as a great power once more. Strange how reading about the preexisting columns from which the Italian Fascists would build their empire upon caused me to think of this.