Italian Tripolitania

Italian Tripolitania was an Italian colony, located in present-day western Libya, that existed from 1911 to 1934. It was part of the territory conquered from the Ottoman Empire after the Italo-Turkish War in 1911. Italian Tripolitania included the western northern half of Libya, with Tripoli[1] as its main city. In 1934, it was unified with Cyrenaica in the colony of Italian Libya.

Italian Tripolitania

Tripolitania Italiana
Flag of Tripolitania
Coat of arms of Tripolitania
Coat of arms
A 1913 map of Italian Tripolitania; green indicates agricultural areas
A 1913 map of Italian Tripolitania; green indicates agricultural areas
Common languagesItalian
Roman Catholicism
GovernmentColonial administration
• 1911-1934
Victor Emmanuel III
• 1911 (first)
R.B.R. d'Olmo
• 1928-1934 (last)
Pietro Badoglio
Historical eraInterwar period
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Ottoman Tripolitania
Italian Libya


This 1-lire airmail stamp, depicting an Arab horseman pointing to an airplane passing overhead, was used in 1931.

Italian Tripolitania and Italian Cyrenaica were formed in 1912, after the conquest of Ottoman Tripolitania in the Italo-Turkish War. In 1934, Italian Tripolitania became part of Italian Libya.

A large number of Italian colonists moved to Tripolitania in the late 1930s. These settlers went primarily to the area of Sahel al-Jefara, in Tripolitania, and to the capital Tripoli. In 1939 there were in all Tripolitania nearly 60,000 Italians, most living in Tripoli (whose population was nearly 45% Italian).[2] As a consequence, huge economic improvements arose in all coastal Tripolitania. For example, Italians created the Tripoli Grand Prix, an internationally renowned automobile race.[3]

In December 1934, certain rights were guaranteed to autochthonous Libyans (later called by Benito Mussolini "Moslem Italians"[4]) including individual freedom, inviolability of home and property, the right to join the military or civil administrations, and the right to freely pursue a career or employment.

Postcard of Tripoli in 1934

In 1937, northern Tripolitania was split into Tripoli Province and Misrata Province. In 1939 Tripolitania was included in the 4th Shore of the Kingdom of Italy.

The Province of Tripoli (the most important in all Italian Libya) was subdivided into:

In early 1943 the region was invaded and occupied by the Allies; this was the end of the Italian colonial presence.

Italy tried unsuccessfully to maintain the colony of Tripolitania after World War II, but in February 1947 relinquished all Italian colonies in a Peace Treaty.


In Italian Tripolitania, the Italians made significant improvements to the physical infrastructure: The most important were the coastal road between Tripoli and Benghazi and the railways Tripoli-Zuara, Tripoli-Garian and Tripoli-Tagiura. Other important infrastructure improvements were the enlargement of the port of Tripoli and the creation of the Tripoli airport.

A group of villages for Italians and Libyans was created on coastal Tripolitania during the 1930s.[5]

Main military and political developmentsEdit

  • 1911: Beginning of the Italo-Turkish War. Italian conquest of Tripoli, and Al Khums.[6]
  • 1912: Treaty of Lausanne [it] ends the Italo-Turkish war. Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were ceded to Italy.[6]
  • 1914: Italian advance to Ghat (August) makes Tripolitania (including Fezzan) initially under Italian suzerainty, but because of the recapture of Sabha (November) by Libyan resistance men, the advance turns into retreat.[6]
  • 1915: Italian reverses at the battles of Wadi Marsit, and Al Gardabiya, forced them to withdraw and eventually to retire to Tripoli, Zuwara, and Al Khums.[6][7]
  • 1922:Italian forces occupy Misrata, launching the reconquest of Tripolitania.[6]
  • 1924: With the conquest of Sirt, most of Tripolitania (except the Sirt desert) is in Italian hands.[6]
  • Winter 1927-8: Launching the "29th Parallel line operations", as a result of coordination between the governments of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, led to the conquest of gulf of Sidra, and linking the two colonies.[8]
  • 1929: Pietro Badoglio becomes a unique governor of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.[6]
  • 1929-1930: Conquest of Fezzan.[6]
  • 1934: Tripolitania is incorporated into the Colony of Libya.
  • 1939: Tripolitania is made part of the 4th Shore of the Kingdom of Italy.


  1. ^ Italian Tripoli
  2. ^ Images of old Tripoli
  3. ^ Video of Tripoli Grand Prix
  4. ^ Sarti. The Ax within p 190
  5. ^ Chapter Libya-Tripolitania (in Italian)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h خليفة Kalifa Tillisi, “Mu’jam Ma’arik Al Jihad fi Libia1911-1931”, Dar Ath Thaqafa, Beirut, Lebanon, 1973.
  7. ^ Habib W. El-Hesnawi, "The Story of the Libyans' Jihad (Resistance) Against Italian Colonialism 1911-1943", Markaz Jihad al Libiyeen dhid al Ghazw al Itali, 1988.
  8. ^ Attilio Teruzzi, "Cirenaica Verdi", translated by Kalifa Tillisi, ad Dar al Arabiya lil Kitab, 1991.


  • Chapin Metz, Hellen. Libya: A Country Study. Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1987.
  • Del Boca, Angelo. Gli italiani in Libia. Vol. 1: Tripoli bel suol d'Amore. Milano, Mondadori, 1997.
  • Sarti, Durand. The Ax within: Italian Fascism in Action. Modern Viewpoints. New York, 1974.

See alsoEdit