29 September 1911

Italy declares war on the Ottoman Empire.


The Ottoman Empire, long considered the “Sick Man of Europe,” was the ostensible ruler of the Muslim and Arab-speaking North African provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenacia (now both known as Libya). Neighboring Egypt was also technically an Ottoman possession, but had been occupied and controlled by the British for decades. The Ottomans thus had no land connection to their Libyan provinces.

Italy, united into one nation only in the 1860s, was late in joining the other nations of Europe in conquering and occupying African land to turn into colonies for the purposes of profit, glory and power. After losing out on a claim to the North African region of Tunisia, Italy turned to Tripolitania and Cyrenacia for imperial expansion.

After securing the complicity or neutrality of the other “Great Powers” of Europe, Italy presented the Ottoman government with an ultimatum on September 28, 1911 demanding that Italy be allowed to occupy Tripolitania and Cyrenacia under the pretext of protecting Italian citizens living there from the alleged threats of Muslim extremists. The Ottomans rebuffed the Italians, but indicated that they were open to negotiations. Obviously anticipating a rejection of their demands, Italy declared war on September 29, 1911.