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Michele Sollai

Dr. Michele Sollai

Visiting Scholar


Michele Sollai is a Swiss National Science Foundation postdoctoral researcher. He earned his PhD in international history from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (IHEID), Geneva, in 2022. Michele’s PhD project focused on the history of agrarian development in Ethiopia from the fascist occupation to the early post-World War II years. This study delved into the “practice” of agrarian development, i.e., how development plans and their scientific precepts were understood, lived, and transformed by local actors on the ground.

At the Rachel Carson Center, Michele will work on his postdoc project “The Global Battle of Wheat,” focusing on the role of several agrarian sciences—from agronomy and agrarian ecology to plant breeding and plant pathology—in the transformation of Italy’s farming and natural environment during fascist rule. In particular, the project will examine the global trajectories as well as the local environmental and social impacts of the razze elette (superior wheat races), the scientific backbone of fascist Italy’s masterplan of wheat autarky.

RCC Research Project: The Global Battle of Wheat: Mobilizing Science for Agrarian Development in Fascist Italy, 1920s–1940s

Selected Publications:

  • “How to Feed an Empire? Agrarian Science, Indigenous Farming, and Wheat Autarky in Italian-Occupied Ethiopia (1937–1941).” Agricultural History 96, no. 3 (forthcoming).
  • “Microcosms of Colonial Development: Italian and Ethiopian Farmers at the Crossroads of Fascist Empire Building (1937–1941).” Contemporanea. Rivista di storia dell'800 e del '900 24, no. 1 (2021): 79–101.