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In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. Eritrea is Number 126 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. At the time the study was written, Eritrea was an Italian colony. With the encouragement of the Italian government, the Rubattino Shipping Company began acquiring territories from local sultans on the shores of the Red Sea as early as 1869, and in 1890 Italy consolidated its possessions on the Red Sea under the name Eritrea. The historical section traces the late-19th century struggle for influence and control in the region involving, at different times, Egypt, Turkey, Britain, and Abyssinia (Ethiopia). The economic section discusses prospects for development of the colony itself, chiefly as a location for Italian-owned plantations worked by indigenous labor, and its importance as an outlet to the sea for Abyssinia. Eritrea remained an Italian colony until World War II, when it was occupied by the British. In December 1952 it was federated with Ethiopia. After a long war of independence, it gained international recognition as an independent country on May 24, 1993.


Map of early days