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Italian Empire 1864-1946

Libya - Italy's southern shore

The Ottoman Turks conquered the country in the mid-16th century. Libya remained part of their empire--although at times virtually autonomous--until Italy invaded in 1911 and, in the face of years of resistance, made Libya a colony.

In 1934, Italy adopted the name "Libya" (used by the Greeks for all of North Africa, except Egypt) as the official name of the colony, which consisted of the Provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania, and Fezzan. King Idris I, Emir of Cyrenaica, led Libyan resistance to Italian occupation between the two World Wars.

The Italian Empire in 1942

Around the turn of the century the kingdom of Italy had taken Libya and Somalia (south of this map) in Africa. Mussolini's only real success at Empire building was his annexation of Ethiopia in 1936 and Albania in 1939. During World War 2 the Italians were able to annex or occupy the European territories shown above with some German assistance.

Land or countries shown occupied or annexed, French Riviera (Nice, Savoy), Dalmation Coast (Yugoslavia), Albania (Montenegro), Greece (Dodecanese islands), and Libya.


Solid color = Annexed

    Dotted Color = Occupied

Italy's east african territory

Eritrea: Italy purchased the port of Assab from a commercial company that was administering it. Encouraged by the British, who were then attempting to contain France's colonial asspirations in the Horn, Italy proceeded to colonize the region. Italy moved to transform Eritrea, with its access to sea and agricultural potential, into a permanent colony. The king of Italy issued a decree that formally established Eritrea on 1 January 1890. Eritrea was defined as a Nation State, and a colony of Italy.

Somalia: In 1885, Italy obtained commercial advantages in the area from the sultan of Zanzibar and in 1889 concluded agreements with the sultans of Obbia and Aluula, who placed their territories under Italy's protection. Between 1897 and 1908, Italy made agreements with the Ethiopians and the British that marked out the boundaries of Italian Somaliland. The Italian Government assumed direct administration, giving the territory colonial status.

Italian occupation gradually extended inland. In 1924, the Jubaland Province of Kenya, including the town and port of Kismayo, was ceded to Italy by the United Kingdom. The subjugation and occupation of the independent sultanates of Obbia and Mijertein, begun in 1925, were completed in 1927. In the late 1920s, Italian and Somali influence expanded into the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia.

Following Italy's declaration of war on the United Kingdom in June 1940, Italian troops overran British Somaliland and drove out the British garrison.

Ethiopia: Menelik signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation with Italy at Wuchale in 1889. Due to a dispute over the meaning of the treaty (Italy claimed it had been given a protectorate over Ethiopia, which Menelik denied), Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1895 but was decisively defeated by Menelik's forces at Adwa on March 1, 1896.

Mussolini, who was determined to expand the Italian Empire and to avenge the defeat at Adwa. A border clash at Walwal in Southeast Ethiopia along the border with Italian Somaliland on December 5, 1934, increased tension, and on October 3, 1935, Mussolin's Legions invaded. Italy quickly defeated the Ethiopians and in May, 1936, Addis Ababa was captured and Haile Selassie fled the country. On June 1, 1936, the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III was also made Emperor of Ethiopia. The country was combined with Eritrea and Italian Somaliland to form Italian East Africa.

Later British Somaliland and French Somaliland would be added to Italian East Africa, After World War 2 had begun, these were quick victories.



Italian Empire