After achieving both unity and independence in 1871, Italy found itself in a hostile and dangerous world. On several occasions Italy and France came close to war. In 1882 Italy had joined Prussia and its former oppressor, Austria, to form the Triple Alliance, and it remained a member until the outbreak of World War I in 1914. The alliance outraged many nationalists who claimed that Italy would remain incomplete until it liberated Italian-speaking lands still under Austrian control: the Alto Adige, Trieste, and parts of Slovenia and Dalmatia. These lands were known as the Irreddenta (“Unredeemed”) territories.
To divert the nationalists, the government looked to expand Italy’s colonies in North Africa. The principal Italian settlement was in Tunis, but French Algeria blocked expansion there. In 1890 the Italians established a colony in Eritrea and then a protectorate on the Somali coast (see Somalia). In 1896, however, Italy suffered a disastrous defeat by Ethiopian troops at Adwa . This defeat was seen in Italy as a national humiliation, and it gave rise to aggressive nationalist politics that denounced liberal democracy for its failure to turn Italy into a powerful colonial power.
After 1900 the influence of the nationalists steadily increased, and their principal target was the prime minister, Giovanni Giolitti. He argued that Italy should avoid costly overseas adventures and invest instead in modernization and welfare at home. The pope strongly supported the nationalists, claiming that Italy had a moral duty to bring the Christian faith to the nonbelievers of North Africa. The industrial and banking worlds also supported colonial expansion. In 1911 Giolitti reluctantly embarked on the invasion of the former Ottoman province of Libya in an effort to appease nationalist demands and the Vatican. "Italy" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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