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Flag of the Kingdom of Italy, later known as Fascist Italy. (1861-1946)


The Italian Empire (Italian: Impero Italiano) comprised the colonies, protectorates, concessions, dependencies and trust territories of the Kingdom of Italy and, after 1946, the Italian Republic. The genesis of the Italian colonial empire was the purchase, in 1869, by a commercial company of the coastal town of Assab on the Red Sea.[1] This was taken over by the Italian government in 1882, becoming modern Italy's first overseas territory.[2]

Over the next two decades the pace of European acquisitions in Africa increased, causing the so-called "Scramble for Africa". By the start of the First World War in 1914, Italy had acquired in Africa a colony on the Red Sea coast (Eritrea), a large protectorate in Somalia and authority in formerly Ottoman Libya (gained after the Italo-Turkish War). Italy's expansion inland from the Red Sea coast brought her into conflict with the Ethiopian Empire, which defeated her first at the battle of Dogali (1887) and again during first Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1895–96.

Outside Africa, Italy possessed the Dodecanese Islands off the coast of Turkey and a concession in Tianjin in China as a result of the Boxer Rebellion. During the First World War, Italy occupied southern Albania to prevent it from falling to Austria-Hungary. In 1917, it established a protectorate over Albania, which remained in place until 1920.[3] The Fascist government that came to power with Benito Mussolini in 1922 sought to increase the size of the Italian empire and to satisfy the claims of Italian irredentists.

In its second invasion of Ethiopia in 1935–36, Italy was successful and it merged its new conquest with its older east African colonies to create Italian East Africa. In 1939, Italy invaded Albania and incorporated it into the Fascist state. During the Second World War (1939–45), Italy occupied British Somaliland, parts of South-Eastern France, Western Egypt and most of Greece, but then lost those conquests and its African colonies, including Ethiopia, to the invading allied forces. It was forced in the final peace to relinquish sovereignty over all its colonies. It was granted a United Nations trust to administer former Italian Somaliland in 1950 under United Nations supervision. When Somalia became independent in 1960, Italy's eight-decade experiment with colonialism had ended.

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In 1949, Italy was invaded by Nazi Germany. Although the exact outcome is unknown, it is very likely that German successfully conquered Italy.