VI. The World Wars and the Interwar Period, 1914–1945 > B. World War I, 1914–1918 > 5. The Intervention of Italy, 1915
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
5. The Intervention of Italy, 1915
On the plea that the Austrian action against Serbia was an offensive action and therefore incompatible with the terms of the Triple Alliance, the Italian government in July 1914 refused to join the Central powers and declared neutrality (Aug. 3). But almost from the outset the Italian government maintained that under Art. VII of the Triple Alliance, Italy was entitled to some compensation to counterbalance the Austrian gains in the Balkans. These claims were advanced the more persistently when the foreign ministry was given to Baron Sidney Sonnino (Nov. 3), following the sudden demise of Marquis Antonio di San Giuliano (Oct. 16).  1
The necessity of making some concession to Italy in order to keep it neutral was fully recognized in Berlin, but the Austrian foreign minister (Baron Leopold von Berchtold) refused to entertain suggestions of territorial cessions.  2
1914, Dec. 20
Prince Bernhard von Bülow, former German chancellor, arrived in Rome on a special mission. He admitted the Italian claim to the Trentino, and the German government made every effort to persuade the Austrians to give in (mission of Count Betho von Wedel to Vienna, Jan. 16, 1915).  3
1915, Jan. 13
Count Stephen Burian appointed Austro-Hungarian foreign minister to replace Berchtold. Burian finally agreed to the cession of territory (March 9) but was willing to cede the Trentino only after the conclusion of peace. This was not enough to satisfy the Italians, who were already negotiating with the Entente powers. Sonnino demanded of Austria the immediate cession of the South Tyrol, the district of Gorizia and Gradisca, the establishment of Trieste and its neighborhood as a free state, the cession to Italy of the Curzolari Islands off the Dalmation coast, and full sovereignty over the island of Saseno and over Valona on the Albanian coast (Italian occupation of Saseno, Oct. 30, 1914; “provisional” occupation of Valona, Dec. 26, 1914). These demands were exorbitant, from the Austrian point of view, but the Germans finally (May 10) induced their allies to agree to substantially all the Italians were holding out for. As it turned out, the Austrians yielded too late.  4
April 26
Britain, France, Russia, and Italy concluded the secret Treaty of London. Antonio Salandra, the Italian prime minister, had envisaged Italian intervention on the Entente side almost since the beginning of war, but the noninterventionists, led by Giovanni Giolitti, were too strong to make that at first a practicable policy. During the winter, however, the interventionist movement gathered strength (Mussolini broke with the Socialist Party and became an active proponent of intervention). The western powers, meeting with failure on the western front, were ready to offer much. Negotiations were embarked upon in Feb. 1915 but were delayed by the opposition of the Russian foreign minister, Sazonov, to the assignment of the Dalmatian coast to Italy, in view of Serbian aspirations in that region. Under the terms of the treaty as finally concluded, a military convention was to be drawn up to protect Italy against the full force of Austrian attack. The political clauses promised Italy the South Tyrol and Trentino, Gorizia, Gradisca, Trieste, Istria, the most important Dalmatian Islands and the southern part of the province of Dalmatia, Saseno and Valona, and full sovereignty over the Dodecanese Islands (occupied since 1912). Moreover, in the event of the partition of Turkey, Italy was to have the province of Adalia; and in the event of Britain and France enlarging their empires by the addition of German colonies, Italy was to receive extensions of its territory in Libya, Eritrea, and Somaliland. Italy was further to receive a loan, and ultimately part of the war indemnity. The Entente powers were to support Italy in preventing the Holy See from taking diplomatic steps for the conclusion of peace. Italy was to commence hostilities within a month of the signature of the treaty.  5
May 3
The Italian government denounced the Triple Alliance.  6
May 10
Conclusion of a naval convention among Britain, France, and Italy.  7
May 23
Italy mobilized and declared war on Austro-Hungary. Germany at once severed diplomatic relations (May 24), but for various financial reasons Italy did not declare war on Germany until Aug. 28, 1916.  8
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.