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ITALO-TURKISH WAR (1911-2): Karte von Tripolis und dem östlichen Mittelmeer, dem Schauplatz des italienisch-türkischen Konfliktes.



A scarce separately-issued, large-format map of the theatre of the Italo-Turkish War (1911-2), an important precursor to WWI during which Italy conquered Libya and Greece’s Dodecanese Islands from the Ottoman Empire.


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This fascinating map embraces all of the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, being the greater theatre of the Italo-Turkish War (1911-2), a brief, but sharp conflict that was an important precursor to World War I, which would commence only two years later.  The map shows all of the jurisdictions in the region as colour-coded depending on their political control.  Italy is coloured in aquamarine blue, while Ottomans lands are coloured in pink.  Libya, which was the main target of the Italian invasion is pink, but is overlaid with diagonal blue lines, owing to its status as being under Italian attack; likewise Albania is coloured pink but overlaid with blue lines, as its populous was then engaged in an Italian-backed rebellion against Ottoman rule.  Major Italian shipping routes and strategic targets for possible attack are also coloured in blue.  Other major players in the region included Britain (which occupied Egypt and Cyprus) and France (which governed Tunisia and Algeria), though while non-combatants, quietly supported the Italian side.  A large inset in the upper-right corner of the work presents a detailed map of Libya, while along that bottom of the composition is a detailed map of the Tripoli area, Italy’s foremost target during the war, plus and a lovely profile view of the harbour of Tripoli.

The Italo-Turkish War (known in Italy as Guerra di Libia), was fought between Italy and the Ottoman Empire from September 29, 1911 to October 18, 1912.  The Ottoman Empire was experiencing the twilight a long decline, having gradually lost territory to European entities in North Africa and Southeastern Europe.  The Kingdom of Italy, which had grand ambitions, but no overseas colonies, coveted Ottoman Libya, which lay only short distance across the sea form Sicily.

Responding to Italian pressure, the Ottomans actually agreed to transfer functional control of Libya to Italy, in exchange for a ban on hostilities and the preservation of technical Ottoman suzerainty over the country (an arrangement similar to the British control of Ottoman Egypt).  The Italians refused this generous offer, fully revealing their bellicose intentions.  The Italian government wanted a (winnable) war, not just to gain territory, but to rally national morale.  The Italian propaganda machine grossly exaggerated the natural resources of Libya (while today Libya is rich in oil, this was entirely unknown at the time) in order to convince the Italian public that the country was worth fighting for.

The Ottoman Army and Navy were in total disarray and Italy, while not a stellar fighting force, had a strong technological and logistical edge.  Italy scored a quick victory against the Ottoman Navy at the Battle of Preveza, Greece (October 1, 1911), marked on the present map as ‘Prévyza’, which hobbled the Turks’ ability to shore up their weak position in Libya.

An Italian force of 20,000 men began landing in Libya on October 11, 1911.  While they initially were able to conquer many of the main cities with relative ease (including Tripoli), in a situation familiar to modern Western powers in Arab lands, they soon became bogged down in an Ottoman-backed guerrilla war, resulting in horrendous Italian casualties.  One of the leaders of the guerrilla campaign was the young Turkish Colonel Mustafa Kemal (later known as ‘Atatürk’, the founding President of the Republic of Turkey), who here established his reputation as masterful commander.

Technologically, the Italo-Turkish War also notable as the first time that airplanes and dirigibles were used in active military combat.

While the guerrilla campaign showed the Italian invasion to be something of a mess (a fact withheld from the Italian public by the country’s jingoistic, censured media), the Ottomans were in no position to continue the war, and so were ready to agree to peace on Italian terms.  At the First Treaty of Lausanne (1912), the Ottomans ceded Libya to Italy, which henceforth became Italian Libya.  During the war, the Italians had also conquered the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea (notably Rhodes).  While by the treaty, they agreed to return them to the Turks, this never happened, such that Italy retained the islands into World War II.

Well beyond the relatively modest size of the conflict and the territorial exchanges, the war’s significance was that it revealed the Ottoman Empire to be utterly incapable of defending its territories outside of Turkey proper, so emboldening Britain, France and Russia on the road to World War I.

The maker of the map, Paul Langhans (1867 – 1952), was an important German cartographer, long associated with the leading map publishing house of Justus Perthes of Gotha (established 1785).  He became especially well known for his finely-designed and colourful large-format maps of contemporary events, such as the present map of the Italo-Turkish War.  His most renowned work was perhaps the Deutscher Kolonial-Atlas (Gotha, 1893–7), which depicted all of the German colonies as well as the numerous German emigrant communities across the world.

References: OCLC: 823646451 / 494860527.

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