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Libya, previously part of the Ottoman Empire, was invaded and occupied by Italy in 1911-1912. However, while the Ottoman regular forces were swiftly defeated and the coastal area with the main cities (Tripoli, Benghazi etc.) was quickly occupied and held, much more time was required to obtain control over the interior, where the local population had started a guerrilla war that was helped by World War I breaking out shortly afterwards and forcing Italy to commit all resources to the war in Europe. After the end of that war and the rise of the fascist regime, a campaign of "pacification" of Libya was launched and between 1922 and 1931 the rebellion was crushed in a – brutal and decidedly warcrimey – campaign that costed the lives of tens of thousands of Libyans, up to 100,000 according some sources (especially in Cyrenaica). Tripolitania (western Libya) was already "pacified" by 1924, Cyrenaica (eastern Libya), where the resistance was much stronger, only in 1931-32.
Therefore a true process of colonization only took place from the mid-1920s for Tripolitania, and from the early 1930s for Cyrenaica. Roads (4,000 km), schools, hospitals, infrastructures were built, especially in the main towns, and new agricultural villages were founded. By 1936 there were 112,000 Italian settlers living in Libya, mainly living in the main cities (in 1939 Italians made up 37 % of the population of Tripoli and 31 % of the population of Benghazi); in 1938 Italo Balbo, the new governor of Libya, organized the “expedition of the twenty thousand”, which saw 20,000 Italian settlers – mostly farmers, 1,290 families from Northern Italy and 520 from Southern Italy – carried to Libya by a fleet of fiteen liners. For them, 27 new agricultural settlements had been built in Tripolitania (fifteen) and Cyrenaica (twelve), with 2,035 and 1,664 farms, respectively (interestingly, Balbo built another ten such settlements for Libyans; he tried to enact a more ‘conciliatory’ policy towards them, in contrast with his predecessors’ methods). This was to be the first batch of a total of 100,000 settlers that were scheduled to come to Libya in five years (1938-1943); Libya and other Italian colonies were supposed to replace the Americas as a place of migration for poor peasant families from the agricultural areas in southern and north-eastern Italy. Large families were chosen, and Balbo’s plans envisioned the growth of the Italian population in Libya to 500,000 people by 1960. Nearly two-thirds of all settlers came from Veneto, a region in north-eastern Italy that at the time was still poor and agricultural; the others were mainly from southern Italy, especially Sicily, Calabria and Basilicata. In 1939 another group of 11,000 settlers was sent to Libya, but then the outbreak of the war and the subsequent defeat ended all these plans.
Ah Italian fascists prancing about pretending their rebuilding the glory of the Roman Empire…
From Archivio Centrale dello Stato (State Central Archive).
I also wrote another comment with some historical context, but the automoderator apparently killed it, as it does.