Modern Italy as a unified state only existed from 1861. By this time France, Spain, Portugal, Britain, and the Netherlands, had already carved out large empires over several hundred years. Italy had arrived late to the colonial race, and its relative weakness in international affairs meant that it was dependent on the acquiescence of Britain, France and Germany toward its empire-building. One of the last remaining areas open to colonization was on the African continent.
By the outbreak of World War I in 1915, Italy had annexed Eritrea and Somalia, and had wrested control of portions of the Ottoman Empire (Libya and Dodecanese), though it was defeated in its attempt to conquer Ethiopia.
Under Fascist Italy (from colonies to provinces)
Before the fascist takeover of 1923, there was a lack of interest on the African colonies. They were considered the spoils of war and a symbols of Italy has a colonial power and great power in Europe. Under the fascist government, it was urged that Italy needed an outlet for its "surplus population", and that it would therefore be in the best of interests to aid in this expansion. During the 1930s, emigration to the colonies was encouraged due to a belief that Italy was suffering from "excess population". Most went to Libya, primarily concentrated in the coastal cities of Tripoli and Benghazi. The coastline of Libya was referred to as Italy's "Fourth Shore" (quarta sponda). There was emigration to Italian East Africa as well. Farming villages where built in Libya, Eritrea and Italian Somalia for colonist. The native population was forced to settle in urban centers, new villages or agricultural villages.
Extensive programs of progressive improvement included new paved roads, railroads, airports, hospitals, hotels, dozens of post offices, telephone exchanges, aqueducts, schools, and shops. Most of the economic development of Italy was the result of investments in the colonies.
In 1934, Libyans where given individual freedoms, inviolability of home and property, right to join the military or civil administrations, and the right to freely pursue a career or employment were guaranteed to Libyan. Followed by laws that allowed Muslims to be permitted to join the National Fascist Party and in particular the Muslim Association of the Lictor (Associazione Musulmana del Littorio). Later reforms allowed the creation of Libyan military units within the Italian army. Same laws and ordinances where applied to Eritrea and Italian Somalia.
Its culmination was the enactment by the Italian Social Republic (RSI) of the law on overseas provinces of Africa that made Libya, Eritrea and Somalia part of Italy has provinces. All indigenous Libyans were granted an Italian Special citizenship (Cittadinanza Italiana Speciale) and confined this type of citizenship to be valid in Libya and later rest of the Italian overseas territories.
Rebellion and Republic
The dark side of this was the constant rebellion in rural areas, specially in Libya and Italian Somalia. Besides the authoritarian framework to silence opposition of any form from Italians or Libyans.
The fall of the RSI, was marked by a series of native protest in Tripoli, Benghazi, and Cyrene, demanding end of war, full citizenship and political rights, abolition of mandatory military service, end of native pacification, along measures to deal with chronic economic crisis and failure of crops. The protesters rallied under the call of We are Italians!. The following week they spread to Asmara and Mogadishu. They were joined by a growing number of colonists demanding democracy and the end of fascists regime and Third Balkan War. Police and military repression were ordered, however some commanding army officers rebelled and took over the Governors Generals in a series of coups.
In Italy, despite censorship, it was filtered news of the rebellion. Soon strikes and mass demonstrations, along the burning of party and secret police buildings, started in Milan, Turin and Genoa, spreading to the rest of Northern Italy. These events marked the beginning of the Democratic Revolution that overthrew the RSI.
The Italian colonies where under the direction and administration of the Ministry of Colonies. After their full annexation by the RSI, the administration was in charge of the Ministry of African Affairs. Under the Italian Republic, the African regions are part of Italy and have the same organization has mainland (communes, provinces and regions).
Migration and colonization are in charge of the Public Entity for the Development of North Africa and the Corporation for the Colonization of East Africa.
Italy has the following territories in Africa and Europe:
|Colony (Kingdom of Italy) / Overseas Province (RSI) / Overseas Region (Italian Republic)||Capital||Languages||Area (Km²)||Population (in million)||Notes|
|Italian Tripolitania||Tripoli||Italian (de facto official) and Arabic||united as Italian Libya (1934)|
|Italian Cyrenaica||Benghazi||Italian (de facto official) and Arabic||united as Italian Libya (1934)|
|Fezzan||Sebha||Italian (de facto official) and Arabic||united as Italian Libya (1934)|
|Southern Military Territory||Hon||Italian (de facto official) and Arabic||Created in 1934. Administered by the Italian Army|
|Italian Libya||Tripoli||Italian (de facto official) and Arabic||1.759.840||Created in 1934. Organized in four provinces|
|Italian Eritrea||Asmara||Italian (de facto official), Tigrinya and Arabic||121.320|
|Italian Somaliland||Mogadiscio||Italian (de facto official), Somali and Arabic||501.000|
|Italian Aegean Islands or Italian Dodecanese||Rodi (Rhodes)||Italian (de facto official) and Greek||2,714||Ceded to Greece|
Italian Libya, was the result of the merge of the former colonies of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania and Fezzan. All three former parts of the Ottoman Empire.