Vittorio Emmanuel, King of Italy

 

One of the last of the wars of European colonial expansion.

 

In the early years of the twentieth century, Libya was an obscure and underdeveloped corner of the Ottoman Empire. Italy had ambitions in northern and eastern Africa and had long been interested in Libya as a convenient base. Worried that France or Germany might grab it first and pressured by business interests and by the nationalist right, the Italian government suddenly invaded in the fall of 1911. It was a mistake. The Turks organized the tough local tribesmen into an effective partisan force and the unprepared Italians soon found themselves bogged down, though they eventually secured most of the coastal area and seized Turkish-ruled islands in the Aegean. The onset of the Balkan Wars in the fall of 1912 induced the Turks to make peace, but the Italians had to contend with a guerilla conflict in Libya for many years. The war helped to destabilize Italian politics, weakening the center and the left, strengthening the strident nationalists, and contributing to the later rise of fascism.


 
 
 

1907
== > The Banco di Roma establishes a branch in Tripoli. Italian economic interests are increasingly penetrating Libya.

 

1910
==Oct.--- > Ibrahim Pasha, the new Ottoman governor, arrives in Tripoli with orders prohibiting foreign corporations from buying land. Italy believes that it’s being frozen out by German influence.

 



1911  
==Jun.--- > Germans are buying up land in Tripolitania.

==Aug.--- > The King of Italy suspects that Germany is about to seize Libya.

 

==Sep.03 > 80,000 Italian troops are demobilized after their annual maneuvers; evidently, at this late date Italy still has no plans for invading Libya.

 

==Sep.23 > Italy issues a warning on Libya to the Turks.
==Sep.26 > An Ottoman troop transport arrives in Tripoli, alarming the Italian government
==Sep.27 > Italy calls up its reservists.
==Sep.28 > Italy issues a 24-hour ultimatum to the Turks. The Turks respond by offering Italy broad guarantees on Libya, to no avail. The Italian fleet takes up positions off Tripoli.

 

==Sep.29 > The Tripolitanian War breaks out: an unprepared Italy declares war on the Ottoman Empire, with no prior orders to the Italian military to mobilize an invasion force, no discussions in the Italian cabinet, and no information given to Parliament. The Italian public is told that the war will be quick with few casualties. The Italian left is soon alienated and isolated, and support for liberal Premier Giolitti erodes.

 

==Sep.29 > The Italian crisis brings down Ibrahim Hakki’s government in Constantinople. The popularity of the CUP (better known as the Young Turks) suffers.

 

==Sep.29-30 > Italian warships shell Preveza in Turkish Epirus.

==Sep.30 > The Italian fleet blockades Tripoli.
==Oct.03-05 > Italian warships bombard Tripoli. Turkish forces evacuate, and Italian forces occupy the town on Oct.05.

==Oct.04 > Italian troops land near Tobruk.

 

==Oct.early > Young Turk leader Enver persuades the Turkish government to send officers to Libya to organize a guerrilla war against the Italians

 

==Oct.08 > A Turkish force attacks the Italians at al-Karkaf near Derna.

 

==Oct.14 > The ultra-radical Italian socialist Benito Mussolini is arrested for fomenting anti-war riots.

 

==mid.Oct > A severe cholera outbreak erupts in Italian-occupied Tripoli.

 

==Oct.20 > Italian forces capture Benghazi.

 

==Oct.22 or Oct.23 > The first use of an airplane in war: Captain Piazza flies a reconnaissance mission between Tripoli and Azizia.  

 

==Oct.23-26 > The Italians are defeated by the Turks and the Arabs at al-Hani outside Tripoli. The Italian advance stalls
==Oct.23-May 1912 > Fighting around al-Markib, near al-Khums in Tripolitania.
==end.Oct > Panicky Italian troops execute 1000 Arab prisoners of war.


==Oct.30 > In Bologna, an Italian colonel exhorting his troops on the Libyan War is run over by an automobile driven by a disgruntled soldier shouting “Anarchy lives!”


==Oct.--- > The Italians have occupied Derna and Homs. They pledge equality for Arabs and protection for the Islamic religion, but the Libyans rally to the Turks.
==fall > An Italian landing at Misurata makes little headway. About the same time, the Italians are defeated at Rumeila.


==fall > Enver and other pro-CUP Turkish officers arrive in Libya to organize guerilla resistance against the Italians. Mustafa Kemal (later known as Ataturk) arrives in December.


==Nov.01 > Italian planes bomb an oasis in Libya - the world’s first aerial bombing and the first offensive use of an aircraft.


==Nov.02 > Martial law is proclaimed in Cairo in response to Egyptian unrest over the Tripolitanian War.


==Nov.05 > Italy proclaims the annexation of Libya. The international response is negative.


==Nov.12 > Enver is appointed the commander of Ottoman forces in Cyrenaica


==Nov.20 > The Moslem Sanusi sect signs a peace accord with Italy, but soon abandons it under Turkish pressure.


==Nov.28 > Fighting near Benghazi - the Italians are driven back into the city.

 



1912  
==Jan.-Feb. > Austria warns Italy against undertaking any military actions on the Aegean or Balkan coasts.


==Jan.--- > The Carthage-Manouba Incident: Italy detains two French ships suspected of aiding the Turks. France sharply protests.
==Jan.-Feb. > Italian warships shell Syrian coastal towns.


==Feb.24-25 > In Tripoli, Captain Piazza takes the first known aerial photos of enemy forces.


==Feb.--- > The Italian assembly is finally recalled to endorse the declaration of war on theTurks. Premier Giolitti tells them that military affairs and foreign policy are royal prerogatives and cannot be questioned by parliament. Few deputies object to these claims.


==Feb.--- > The Italian fleet enters the Red Sea and shells Hodeida


==Mar.03 > Arab and Turkish forces clash with the Italians at Sidi Abdallah near Derna and at al-Nadura near Tobruk.


==Mar.09 > The European powers ask Italy to state the terms on which it would agree to end the war.


==Mar.10-Jun. > Italy begins using non-rigid airships in Libya for reconnaissance and light bombing.


==Mar.--- > Italian warships bombard Beirut.
==Apr.16-19 > The Italian fleet shells the Turkish defenses at the Dardanelles.
==Apr.18-May.04 > The Turks close the Straits in response to the Italian naval attack, dealing a blow to Russian commerce.


==Apr.19 > The Italians take the first known aerial movies of enemy positions, from an airship over Tripoli.


==Apr.24-May.20 > Italy occupies Rhodes and the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean.


==May.02 > Italian forces secure al-Markib near al-Khums in Tripolitania, after five months of clashes.


==May.--- > The Italian Republican Party splits over the war. The war is radicalizing the left-of-center Republican, Radical, and Socialist parties, and is strengthening the far-right nationalists.


==Jul.19 > Italian warships again attack the Dardanelles.


==Jul.-Oct. > Italian forces push out from their enclaves on the Libyan coast.


==Sep.--- > Italy shakes up its Libyan command and threatens to launch an Aegean offensive. Turkish-Italian peace talks soon begin at Lausanne.
==Oct.15 > The secret Italian-Ottoman Treaty of Ouchy: the Turks recognize Italian sovereignty over Libya, although the Ottoman Sultan remains the nominal religious head.
==Oct.18 > The public Italian-Ottoman Treaty of Lausanne formally ends the Tripolitanian War, though fighting continues in Libya.


==Nov.--- > The Sanusi religious sect claim to be the legitimate rulers of Libya, supposedly endorsed by verbal instructions from the Ottoman Sultan.


==1912 >The Italian treasury is depleted by the Libyan War, and the nation is facing serious budget deficits.

 



1913  
==Apr.--- > The Italians take Tulmaitha, Barqa, and Abiar in Cyrenaica.
==May.16 > After taking Martuba, an Italian offensive near Derna is defeated by the Arabs at Yawm al-Djuma (Sidi Aziz).
==Sep.--- > Italian forces take al-Zawiya and al-Baida in Libya, and surround the Sanusi stronghold in the Jabal al-Akhdar.
==end.1913 > The Italians control all important coastal towns, Ghadamis and Jabal Nafusa near the Tunisian border, and Marzua in the Fezzan. Turkish officers who have been secretly aiding the Arabs are withdrawn from Libya.
 

1914  
==Mar.--- > Italian forces occupy Nawfaliyya. Italy controls all main positions on the Libyan coast, but sporadic fighting continues in the interior.


 
 

The sources for this section include:
Jamil M. Abun-Nasr.  A History of the Maghrib, Second Edition.
Andrew Mango.  Atatürk: The Biography of the Founder of Modern Turkey.
Stanford S. Shaw and Ezel Kural Shaw.  History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey.
Dennis Mack Smith.  Italy and Its Monarchy.

Vittorio Emmanuel courtesy of
Photos of the Great War  (World War I Docoument Archive)

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