- In the 16th century, the Ottoman Turks combined Tripolitania, Cyrenaica, and Fezzan to form Libya. Two hundred years later, a Libyan dynasty established independence from Turkey. Turkish control was reestablished in 1835. By 1887, Italy had secured the acquiescence of Europe’s Great Powers for eventual Italian initiatives in Libya. Following France’s annexation of Morocco in 1911, the Italian government insisted on a counter for French gains. In October 1911, Italy landed troops and quickly proclaimed the annexation of Libya; Giovanni Giolitti proclaimed on the eve of the landing that the invasion was a “historical inevitability.” Within months, 150,000 Italian settlers had arrived in Libya. Libya was proclaimed to be under “the full and entire sovereignty of the kingdom of Italy” on 5 November 1911. Determined resistance, initially by Turkey’s Enver Bey, continued until 1931, however, when Italian forces under Rodolfo Graziani captured and executed the Senussi leader, ’Umar al-Mukhtar.Italy carried the war against Turkey into the eastern Mediterranean. In April and May 1912 Italian warships entered the Dardanelles and shelled, then occupied, the island of Rhodes and some of the Dodecanese Islands. By the fall, several Balkan states had declared war on Turkey, leading it to sign the Treaty of Lausanne with Italy on 18 October 1912. Under its terms, Italy was to end its occupation of the islands (which it failed to do) in exchange for the Turks leaving Tripoli (although they were to retain religious primacy by appointing a caliph). Libya’s role in World War II was as a springboard for Italian moves against Egypt—and subsequently, as a theater of Italian military debacles. Italy’s armed forces suffered a series of disastrous defeats in Libya, and the territories were liberated by the British. Libya was recognized as an independent state after Italy signed the peace treaty with the Allies in February 1947. Subsequently, the United Nations established Libyan independence from Italy (1951) under a Senussi monarch, Idris I. By 1969, oil revenues had inspired a group of ambitious army officers, led by Mu’ammar Gadafi, to overthrow the monarchy in favor of “modernization.” One of Gadafi’s first acts, between January and July 1970, was to seize all property belonging to Jews and to 35,000 Italians. While the Jewish community was compensated with 15-year bonds, the Italian community was denied any compensation as reparations for the depredations Libya had suffered during Italian rule. Relations between the two countries became extremely strained, although in February 1974 Italy and Libya signed an accord in Rome that committed Libya to send to Italy 30 million tons of oil (up from 23 million) in exchange for technical assistance in building petrochemical facilities and shipyards, and improving agriculture.
Historical Dictionary of Modern Italy. Mark F. Gilbert & K. Robert Nilsson. 2007.
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