Fourth Shore

Fourth Shore

The Fourth Shore or Italy's Fourth Shore (in Italian "Quarta Sponda") was the name created by Mussolini to refer to coastal Libya while it was an Italian colony.

The terminology

The term derives from the fact that Italy is a peninsula with roughly three shores (Adriatic, Tyrrenian and Ionian) and Libya would be the fourth. The fourth shore was the southern part of the Greater Italy, a Fascist project of enlargement of Italy's national borders in the early 1940s.

After the Italian conquest of Libya in 1911, during much of the early colonial period Italy waged a war of subjugation against Libya's population. Turkey renounced its interests in Libya in 1912, but fierce resistance to the Italians continued from the Sanusi sect, a strongly nationalistic group of Suni Muslims. This group held out against Italian settlement in the region for almost two decades, but were finally defeated in 1931, and its leaders sent into exile.

After Rodolfo Graziani's victory on the Libyan resistance movement of Omar Al Mukhtar in the early thirties, all Libya was successfully italianized and many Italian colonists were moved to populate the Fourth Shore.

Libya was made an integral part of Italy in 1939 and the local population were granted a form of Italian citizenship. Tunisia was conquered by Italy in November 1942 and was added to the "Quarta Sponda" even because of the huge community of Italians living there, the Tunisian Italians.

Italy's Libia

In Libya the Italians in less than thirty years (1911-1940) built huge public works (roads, buildings, ports, etc..) and the Libian economy flourished again at a level similar to the one enjoyed during the Roman empire. Italian farmers cultivated lands that were lost to the desert for centuries. Even archeology flourished (Leptis Magna was rediscovered as a symbol of the Italian rights to colonize the region). Libya was considered the new "America" for the Italian emigrants in the thirties.

The Italians in Libya numbered 108,419 (12.37% of the total population) at the time of the 1939 census. They were concentrated in the coast around the city of Tripoli (they constituted 37% of the city's population) and Bengasi (31%). In 1938 the governor Italo Balbo brought 20,000 Italian farmers to colonize Libya, and 26 new villages were founded for them, mainly in Cyrenaica. The 22,000 Libyan Jews were allowed to integrate without problems in the society of the Fourth Shore (but after summer 1941, with the arrival of the German Afrika Korps, they started to be moved to temporary internment camps in Libya under Nazi SS control).

Mussolini wanted to assimilate even the Arabs of Libya (whom he called "Muslim Italians") and so in 1939 were created 10 villages for Arabs and Berbers: "El Fager" (Alba), "Nahima" (Deliziosa), "Azizia" (Profumata), "Nahiba" (Risorta), "Mansura" (Vittoriosa), "Chadra" (Verde), "Zahara" (Fiorita), "Gedina" (Nuova), "Mamhura" (Fiorente), "El Beida" (La Bianca). All those new villages had their mosque, school, social center (with sport installations and cinema) and little hospital.

On January 9, 1939, the colony of Libya was incorporated into metropolitan Italy and thereafter considered an integral part of the Italian state. By 1939 the Italians had built 400 km of new railroads and 4,000 km of new roads (the most important and large was the one from Tripoli to Tobruk, on the coast) in Libya. Most of these achievements were completed between 1934 and 1940 when Italo Balbo was governor of Libya.

The next year started the war between Italy and Great Britain, until the North African campaigns of World War II left Libya in British and French hands. All the Italian projects disappeared after the Italian defeat: Libya in the late forties experienced the beginning of the worldwide process of decolonization, that characterized the colonies of Europe in the fifties and sixties.

Helen Chapin Metz wrote in her book titled "Libya: A Country Study" the following:

Once pacification had been accomplished, fascist Italy endeavored to convert Libya into an Italian province to be referred to popularly as Italy's Fourth Shore. In 1934 Tripolitania and Cyrenaica were divided into four provinces--Tripoli, Misratah, Benghazi, and Darnah--which were formally linked as a single colony known as Libya, thus officially resurrecting the name that Diocletian had applied nearly 1,500 years earlier. Fezzan, designated as South Tripolitania, remained a military territory. A governor general, called the first consul after 1937, was in overall direction of the colony, assisted by the General Consultative Council, on which Arabs were represented. Traditional tribal councils, formerly sanctioned by the Italian administration, were abolished, and all local officials were thereafter appointed by the governor general. Administrative posts at all levels were held by Italians.

An accord with Britain and Egypt obtained the transfer of a corner of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, known as the Sarra Triangle, to Italian control in 1934. The next year, a French-Italian agreement was negotiated that relocated the 1,000-kilometer border between Libya and Chad southward about 100 kilometers across the Aouzou Strip, but this territorial concession to Italy was never ratified by the French legislature. In 1939 Libya was incorporated into metropolitan Italy.

During the 1930s, impressive strides were made in improving the country's economic and transportation infrastructure. Italy invested capital and technology in public works projects, extension and modernization of cities, highway and railroad construction, expanded port facilities, and irrigation, but these measures were introduced to benefit the Italian-controlled modern sector of the economy. Italian development policy after World War I had called for capital-intensive "economic colonization" intended to promote the maximum exploitation of the resources available. One of the initial Italian objectives in Libya, however, had been the relief of overpopulation and unemployment in Italy through emigration to the undeveloped colony. With security established, systematic "demographic colonization" was encouraged by Mussolini's government. A project initiated by Libya's governor, Italo Balbo, brought the first 20,000 settlers--the ventimilli--to Libya in a single convoy in October 1938. More settlers followed in 1939, and by 1940 there were approximately 110,000 Italians in Libya, constituting about 12 percent of the total population. Plans envisioned an Italian colony of 500,000 settlers by the 1960s. Libya's best land was allocated to the settlers to be brought under productive cultivation, primarily in olive groves. Settlement was directed by a state corporation, the Libyan Colonization Society, which undertook land reclamation and the building of model villages and offered a grubstake and credit facilities to the settlers it had sponsored.

The Italians made modern medical care available for the first time in Libya, improved sanitary conditions in the towns, and undertook to replenish the herds and flocks that had been depleted during the war. But, although Mussolini liked to refer to the Libyans as "Muslim Italians," little more was accomplished that directly improved the living standards of the Arab population.

The final defeat of Italy in WWII was followed by the expulsion of all the Italians from Libya. []

Only a few hundred of them have been allowed to return to Libya in the 2000s.

Italy's Tunisia

In the 1926 census of Tunisia there were 173,281 Europeans, of which 89,216 were Italians, 71,020 French and 8,396 Maltese [Moustapha Kraiem. "Le fascisme et les italiens de Tunisie, 1918-1939" pag. 57] . Indeed, this was a relative majority that made Laura Davi (in his "Memoires italiennes en Tunisie" of 1936) write that "La Tunisia è una colonia italiana amministrata da funzionari francesi" (Tunisia is an Italian colony administered by French managers).

Initially, during the 1920s, Fascism promoted only the defense of the national and social rights of the Italians of Tunisia against the tentative of amalgamation done by France [Priestley, Herbert. "France Overseas: Study of Modern Imperialism". pag 192] . Mussolini opened in Tunisia some financial institutions (Italian Banks like the "Banca siciliana") , some Italian newspapers (like "L'Unione"), and even Italian hospitals, teathers, cinemas, schools (primary and secundary) and health assistance organizations. But in the late 1930s the ideals of Italia irredenta started to appear between the Tunisian Italians. As a consequence, mainly after 1938, Fascism promoted a moderate form of Italian irredentism between the Italians of Tunisia (based on their right to remain Italians). [] . The fascist party of Tunisia actively recruited volunteers for the Mussolini wars (Spain, Ethiopia,etc..) and started to promote the ideal of a "Quarta Sponda" even for a possible Italian Tunisia.

The "March of Times" (documentary of Time magazine) in 1939 stated that "...With 1 million trained soldiers and its powerful navy, Italy is in a position to execute its plan for Mediterranean conquest. Of all Mediterranean plums, none is so tempting to land-hungry Italy as France's North African protectorate—Tunisia. For nearly 60 years, Tunisia was reasonably contented. The country is fertile—a major producer of olive oil and fertilizer, it may also have oil. Tunisia has strategic importance in a major Mediterranean war and could make Rome again master of this sea.The French employ a Muslim figurehead, who, in return for his keep, is supposed to ensure that the Muslim population is content. The fascist imperial state of Italy has sent advance men sent into Tunisia, so that there are more Italians in French Tunisia than in all African colonies. Well supplied with fascist funds, Italy's consuls and their agents have long been busy systematically undermining French influence of authority. Italian banks are generous to Italian colonists, Italians have their own schools loyal to the fascist state of Italy, and many Tunisian newspapers are subsidized by Italy. Professional agitators are actively encouraging trouble, magnifying grievances, imaginary or real. Radio programs tell Muslims that Mussolini alone is their protector. Membership in the Fascist Party is all but compulsory for every Italian male in Tunisia, and refusing to join means virtual banishment. Granted free speech and free assembly by French law, fascist leaders in Tunisia have become loud and aggressive in demanding special privileges for Italians, at the same time denouncing the French government, which tolerates their activities. Italy is making buildings that are easily convertible to military use, and building up the civil population to support a mass takeover....." []

In 1940 Mussolini requested Tunisia (with Djibouti, Corsica and Nizza) to France, when WWII was just beginning [] . But only in November 1942 Italian troops occupied (with Rommel's help) Tunisia from the Vichy regime. Tunisia administratively was added to Italy's Fourth Shore (in Italian "Quarta Sponda") with Libya, in the last tentative to create the fascist project of Mussolini called Greater Italy.

Some Tunisian Italians participated in the Italian Army, but in may 1943 the Allies conquered all Tunisia and the French authorities closed all the Italian schools and newspapers [Watson, Bruce Allen "Exit Rommel: The Tunisian Campaign, 1942-43" pag. 103] . From that moment the Italians were under harassment by the French regime and so started a process of disappearance of the Italian community in Tunisia. This process was successively aggravated in the 1950s by the war of independence of the Tunisian Arabs against France [Alberti Russell, Janice. "The Italian Community in Tunisia, 1861-1961: a viable minority". pag. 68] .

In the 1946 census the Italians in Tunisia were 84,935, but in 1959 they were only 51,702 and in 1969 less than 10,000. Today (2005) they are only 900, mainly concentrated in the metropolitan area of Tunis. Another 2000 Italians, according to the Italian Embassy in Tunis, are "temporary" residents, working as professionals and technicians in Italian companies in different areas of Tunisia.



* Alberti Russell, Janice. "The Italian community in Tunisia, 1861-1961: a viable minority". Columbia University. Columbia, 1977.
* Chapin Metz, Hellen. "Libya: A Country Study". Washington: GPO for the Library of Congress, 1987.
* Foerster, Robert. "The Italian Emigration of Our Times". Ayer Publishing. Manchester (New Hampshire), 1969. ISBN 0405005229
* Moustapha Kraiem. "Le fascisme et les italiens de Tunisie, 1918-1939". Cahiers du CERES. Tunis, 1969
* Smeaton Munro, Ion. "Trough Fascism to World Power: A History of the Revolution in Italy".Ayer Publishing. Manchester (New Hampshire), 1971. ISBN 0836959124
* Watson, Bruce Allen. "Exit Rommel: The Tunisian Campaign, 1942-43". Stackpole Military History Series. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books (1999). ISBN 978-0-8117-3381-6.

See also

*Italia irredenta
*Greater Italia
*Cesare Maria De Vecchi
*Italian Mare Nostrum
*World War 2
*Libyan resistance movement
*Tunisian Italians

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