After Italy took the area from the Ottoman Empire in 1912 it was administered as a single administrative unit called Italian North Africa. Then from 1927 to 1934, the territory was split into two separate colonies, each run by their own Italian governor: Italian Cyrenaica and Italian Tripolitania. In 1934 Italy adopted the name "Libya" (Italian Libya) as the official name of the reunified area, and administratively divided it up into the three provinces of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan. In 1937 the Cyrenaica and Tripolitania provinces split, with northern Cyrenaica becoming Benghazi Province and Darnah Province, and northern Tripolitania splitting into Tripoli Province and Misurata Province.
Fezzan was not split in 1937, but the whole southern Sahara Desert area was militarily administered as the Southern Military Territory (Territorio del Sahara Libico or Il Territorio Militare del Sud Libico).
The Libyan Sahara Territory was divided into four military districts administered from the desert oases towns of Ghat, Brak, Murzuk and Hun. The Senussi order Kufra oasis area in the southeastern Libyan Desert was not separately administered by the Italians, although in 1932 they built a fort at the holy place of El Tag above it. This territory was administered only by the Italian military, and in 1936 was increased with the Aouzou Strip from France's Chad.
The French and British occupied Libya in 1943 after the Western Desert Campaign victories, when it was again split into three provinces: Tripolitania in the northwest, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan-Ghadames in the southwest.
After independence in 1951 the three provinces continued as the subdivision system in the Kingdom of Libya, with boundaries slightly shifting, until 1963. The provinces were then replaced by the Muhafazah governorates system (muhafazah) system in the kingdom and subsequent Libyan Arab Republic, until superseded by the 1983 Baladiyat districts system.