Italo-Turkish War

Italo-Turkish War
   A conflict between Italy and the Ottoman Empire over the Ottoman North African province of Libya. Italian imperialists had long wanted to acquire Tunis, already home to a substantial number of Italian émigrés. Surprising the Italians, however, the French occupied the city in 1881, humiliating Italy and forcing it to seek compensation in Abyssinia. The defeat at the Battle of Adowa dashed these hopes as well and marred Italian prestige until growing economic prosperity inspired a new generation of imperialists. In parliament these Nationalist deputies urged Prime Minister Giovanni Giolitti to seize the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to restore Italy’s lost military honor. Other politicians wanted the government to address the emigration problem by turning Libya into Italy’s “Fourth Shore,” an agricultural colony where its excess population would not be lost to the economic benefit of foreign states.
   The Ottomans maintained a system of indirect rule over their two provinces, which encouraged political instability and independence among the Arab tribes. According to Rome this endangered the region, hurt Italian interests in Tripoli, specifically the Bank of Rome, and might entice France to occupy the two provinces being so close to Tunisia. On September 28, 1911, Italy demanded the surrender of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica on the grounds that the Ottomans were incapable of governing. The Turks naturally refused, so Italy declared war the next day expecting to quickly defeat the Turks and liberate the Arabs. In the first week of October, Italian naval forces attacked and seized the provinces’ ports. The Italian army then began a limited advance toward the highlands and desert, as the Turks retreated and drew support from the Arab tribes, which dragged the fighting out well into the next year.
   The Italians expanded the war with naval attacks against Turkish ports in the eastern Mediterranean, Aegean, and Red Seas, the occupation of the Dodecanese Islands, and a quick raid into the Turkish Straits. Peace negotiations lingered on into 1912, with continued Arab and Turkish attacks inside Libya, and were concluded only after the Balkan states attacked the Ottomans during the First Balkan War. The Treaty of Ouchy in 1912 ended the Italo-Turkish conflict and awarded sovereignty over Libya to Italy. The Arabs, however, continued to resist until 1932, which hindered the exploitation of the colony and forced Italy to maintain a garrison of 50,000 troops.
   See also <>; <>.
    Beehler, W. H. The History of the Italian-Turkish War. Annapolis: Advertiser-Republican, 1913.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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