Libya Recent History

In no country perhaps more than in Libya are there signs of such different civilizations. Suffice it to say that, starting from 1000 BC, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Arabs, Spaniards, Turks and Italians have followed each other on Libyan soil.

All this is explained if you think about the geographical situation of Libya. It overlooks the middle of the Mediterranean sea. It is therefore natural that his possession was fiercely contested among those powers that wanted to dominate this sea.

The little information about ancient Libya is mainly due to Herodotus, a Greek historian of the fifth century BC. According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Libya, he informs us that Libya was inhabited in antiquity by fairly civilized tribes: the Berbers. However, to get precise historical information about ancient Libya, one must not go back beyond 1000 BC. Around that time the Libyan territory was occupied by the Phoenicians. As they had done in other countries where they had gone with their fast ships, they founded some colonies there. Among these excelled Leptis Magna (in Tripolitania).

In the second century BC, after the Romans definitively defeated the Phoenicians in African territory, Libya became a Roman province. Once the power of Rome had lapsed, Libya was invaded by the Vandals. As they had done in Europe in the 5th century after Christ, they devastated everything.

Libya Recent History

Libya enjoyed a certain prosperity in the following century, when it was part of the Byzantine Empire. But it was short-lived. In 643 a new invasion occurred. Coming from Egypt, where they had settled the year before, the Arabs moved to conquer Libya. The tenacious resistance of the Berbers was of no use: in a few months the whole Libyan territory fell into their hands. But the Berbers did not give up. As soon as they felt ready, they unleashed a sudden powerful attack on the invaders. The war, which lasted 20 years, from 685 to 705, however, saw the Arabs winners. Seeing impossible any hope of revenge, the Berbers resigned themselves to Arab domination. Indeed, over time, many of them converted to the religion of the invaders: Islamism.

It can be said that from the eighth to the fourteenth century Libya did not have a single moment of peace: on its territory the struggles unleashed between the various Arab leaders, who tried to found independent states in Africa. In addition we must add the raids that made the Berbers of Morocco, to try to take possession of Tripolitania.

In 1510 Tripoli was occupied by the Spaniards. But 20 years later, having failed to penetrate the interior of Tripolitania, they ceded the city to the Knights of San Giovanni, a chivalric religious order founded at the time of the Crusades. They too, however, had to move out early. In 1551 a powerful Turkish army occupied the city and a large part of Tripolitania. In a few decades almost all Libyan territory fell into the possession of the invaders.

The Arab domination was thus succeeded by the Turkish one. But 2 centuries later the Turks lost Tripoli. This was occupied by Ahmed Qaramanli, a Turk who had gone over to the Berbers. Shortly afterwards he also seized the cities of Derna and Benghazi. Behind the example of Ahmed, other Turkish pashas placed themselves at the head of Berber tribes and managed to take possession of various Libyan cities.

Faced with such serious rebellions, the Turkish government then decided to act. In May 1835 a Turkish army landed in Tripoli, took possession of the city and continued its advance towards Fezzan and Cyrenaica. In a short time the Turks managed to re-establish their dominion over almost all Libyan territory.

At the beginning of the new century, the Turkish empire began to show signs of serious decline. It was then that Italy, to get hold of a possession in Africa, decided to occupy Libya. After a longer than expected war, Italy was able to gain possession of a large part of the territory in 1912. However, since numerous Berber tribes attempted to rebel, Italy still found itself engaged for several years in military operations. Only in 1930 the conquest of Libya could be considered concluded. The government of the Italians in the new colony was very wise; in a few years Libya achieved remarkable economic prosperity.

In 1934 the General Governorate of Libya was formed formed by Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and divided into 4 provinces: Tripoli, Misurata, Benghazi and Derna, plus the military territory of the Libyan Sahara based in Hun. With a law of January 1939 the provinces were aggregated to Italy as an integral part of the Italian metropolitan territory, as France had done with Algeria. Muslims too were part of the metropolitan territory and were no longer “colonial subjects”, but “Libyan Italian citizens” while maintaining a Muslim personal and succession status, with particular rights, such as that of carrying weapons, accessing military and union career, always Libyan. It was thus intended to respect the religious conscience and ethnic individuality of Muslims. And they never aroused discontent for the Italian regime which, indeed, brought improvements in all sectors of the economy, including welfare works aimed at giving general well-being. Libya was ruled:
– by Marshal Italo Balbo until June 1940;
– by Marshal Rodolfo Graziani until March 1941;
– by general Italo Gariboldi;
– by Marshal Ettore Bastico from July 1941 to the end of 1942.

Important works were carried out in Libya such as the “coastal road” which welded East Africa to West Africa through Libya. In the middle of the road the Triumphal Arch was erected, to remember the ancient “Arae Philenorum”, that is, the “Are of the Fileni”.
To clarify, we report the facts according to what historians wrote in their time: Sallustio, Pomponio Mela and Valerio Massimo.

Around 350 BC between Carthage and Cyrene a controversy arose around the limits of the respective territories in Sirte. It was agreed to set the limit at the meeting point of two pairs of runners who left Carthage and Cyrene simultaneously. For the fate of Carthage the Fileni brothers ran, who met Greek opponents far beyond the real average distance. Blamed the Fileni for leaving before the defendant, the Carthaginians were offered to recognize the place as a border if the two winners had been willing to die buried alive there as a solution to the dispute. They accepted and the grateful homeland erected the famous “Are dei Fileni” on the site.

During the period of the Italian colonization about 1900 families, for a total of 15,500 rural, moved to Libya to carry out their agricultural and livestock work.

Then the events of the Second World War came and Libya was occupied for the Allies by British troops in the Cyrenaean and Tripoline parts, and in those of the Fezzan by the French. Once the task of reordering the Libyan state was asked of the United Nations, it was established that:
– on 1 June 1949, Great Britain had to recognize the Grand Senusso, Islamic Emir Idriss el
Senussi, as head of the Cyrenaic government;
– that Great Britain had to authorize the Great Senusso to proclaim the independence of
– that Great Britain had to recognize the new Constitution signed by Idriss El Senussi;
In addition, the United Nations established that:
– Libya was to be considered an independent and sovereign state and formed by Cyrenaica,
– Tripolitania and Fezzan;
– Effective independence was to be proclaimed by December 31, 1951;
– The Constitution of Libya was to be approved, including the form of government,
by the Libyan National Assembly, representing all the inhabitants of the three regions;
– a United Nations Commissioner had to be able to count on the assistance and advice
of a Council and assist, with the people of Libya, the formulation of the
– the aforementioned Council had to be formed by a representative of.
– Egypt, France, Italy, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the United States of America;
– Each of the three regions;
– Libyan minorities.

In November 1950 the United Nations General Assembly approved Libya’s declaration of independence and on 29 March 1951 a provisional federal government was formed. The same assembly then transferred all the already Italian public goods to the new state. The agreed form of government was a hereditary federal monarchy and the first ruler was Idriss El Senussi.

In the first political elections held on February 2, 1952, the independence party prevailed. The kingdom of Libya from March 1953 became a member of the Arab League, along with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. The new kingdom, however, immediately needed military and financial aid to which both the United States and Great Britain provided with which Libya signed treaties, in exchange for air and naval bases. If the contribution of Italy on the cultural level had been great and evident in the past, Libya later resumed a real process of reorientation calling on all staff from Egypt and other Arab states to manage middle and elementary education. this also happened for the University of Benghazi founded in 1956.

In April 1963 Libya became a unified, no longer federal, kingdom and the Council of Ministers assumed executive power. So the three regions no longer had their Administrative Councils, the provinces became 10, the election of the 24 members of the Senate was entrusted to the king and women acquired political rights. In those years, the discovery and exploitation of vast oil fields led to a substantial increase in national income, even if the economic resources remained the traditional ones of agriculture, pastoralism and fishing, supported by a very active craftsmanship.

One event, that of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, aroused much emotion in the country. The Arab League accused Libya of helping Westerners to accelerate military actions all starting from American and British air and naval bases. This led to an alignment by Libya with the progressive Arab states; the dismantling of the bases, already begun in 1966, was accelerated: funds and aid were allocated for the countries affected by the war.

On September 1, 1969, in the absence of the king, a group of soldiers seized power and proclaimed the republic. A provisional Constitution was promulgated that gave power to a Revolutionary Command Council, all made up of civilians. In December, the defense and interior ministers, both soldiers, were accused of a plot for which they were removed and in January 1970 the colonel Mu’Ammar El-Qadhdafi took the reins of a new government, that is, the one we all call Gaddafi, who he then turned out to be the real head of the coup organizers. He completed the exodus of all American and British forces, as well as the expropriation of all Jewish and Italian assets still existing in Libya, with relative nationalization.

In April 1971 a federative agreement was signed with Syria and Sudan and in June of the same year a single legal party was reached, the Arab Socialist Union.

In October 1973 there were some disagreements with Egypt that had not informed ally Gaddafi of the sudden war waged against Israel and precisely because disappointed by this attitude, he put aside what had been a collaboration project with the Maghreb and turned Tunisia to agree on a union, which then did not take place. In addition, Gaddafi, who in the meantime had entrusted his role as prime minister to Abd As-Salam Giallud, accentuated the nationalistic sentiment of his politics and enunciated a “Third International Theory”, as an alternative to “Capitalist Materialism and Atheist Communism”. He promoted the accentuation of Islamic fundamentalism with the gradual return to the norms of Islamic law in the food and criminal law fields.

And on April 5, 1974 he announced that, while remaining head of the state and the armed forces, he was replaced by other members in political, administrative and representative tasks, to devote himself entirely to “ideological organization”.

On March 2, 1977, the new state order was defined by the name of the Arab, Libyan, popular, socialist “State of the Masses”. This resulted in a radical transformation of the country: the embassies became “political offices” and Gaddafi himself resigned as head of state to be “Head of the Revolution”.

Between 1976 and 1979 he published his “Green Book” in three volumes in which the principles of the new regime were enunciated which he himself wished to apply. There was a stiffening in the fight against the opposition and in 1980 a violent campaign against the anti-revolutionaries started, both at home and abroad. All this failed to completely eradicate the opponents and in fact on 27 May 1984 an attempt to conquer the fortified residence of Gaddafi, near Tripoli, failed.

But the continuity of internal dissensions and international isolation then convinced Gaddafi to take a more moderate attitude. In 1988 there were the first results of this new policy both for a recognized respect for human rights and with a new opening towards private economic interests.

In foreign policy, however, Gaddafi maintained his rigid attitude of rejection towards Israel with the unchanged intransigence on the Palestinian question. He never accepted separate peace between Israel and Egypt and even broke diplomatic relations with Israel. Then with Algeria, the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine, Syria and South Yemen, it created the so-called “Refuse Front”.

But this policy, so strongly anti-Israeli and anti-western, also created states of tension with other Arab states such as Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco, Iraq and Sudan.

Even relations with the West, especially with the United States, deteriorated a lot as he was accused of being the promoter of all international terrorist attacks. And this growing tensions on April 15, 1986 caused a bombing in Tripoli and Benghazi by the American air force. In 1989 U.S. military planes struck two Libyan fighters in flight over international waters over the Mediterranean.

Also in 1989 Libya participated in the creation of the Arab Maghreb Union, together with Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Tunisia. But already in August 1990 there were the first disagreements within this Union because, on the occasion of the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, Libya strongly sided with the Iraqi side.

There was still serious tension between Libya, the United States and Great Britain which, in November 1991, accused two Libyan citizens of being responsible for the explosion, which took place in December 1988, of a US airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The request for extradition of the two Libyans, presented by the United States and Great Britain, was refused by Gaddafi but was supported by the United Nations which in 1992 ordered economic sanctions against Libya.

For the two terrorists, Libya, referring to some international rules, asked for the intervention of the International Court of Justice in The Hague, to be authorized to judge them on its territory or, secondarily, to have them tried before the Court itself. This request was greatly opposed by the United States and Great Britain, but the same thing was not accepted by the Court which, however, prepared to accept Libya’s suggestion and asked that the two accusing states present, by December 30, 1998, all documents proving the guilt of the two terrorists.

Then the sanctions, prepared in 1992, the following year took on wider proportions when the Security Council imposed a refusal to sell to Libya equipment suitable for oil extraction. The same Council also approved the freezing of Libyan properties abroad but did not accept the proposed embargo on Libyan oil exports, supported by the United States. At that point, the US government applied unilateral personal sanctions.

In the following years, 1997 and 1998, the Organization of African Unity, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League, supported the Libyan request to have the two terrorists judged by a third country, the Netherlands, and in August of 1998 this proposal was accepted by both the United States and Great Britain. But Libya, at the same time, also asked for the two terrorists to serve their sentences later in the same country that judged them, and this request was not accepted.


Meanwhile, another dispute was running out, the one that Libya had been arguing with Chad for some time, regarding sovereignty over the Uzu area. In January 1994 the International Court of Justice ruled that the disputed territory belonged to Chad and so Libya in May 1994 withdrew its troops and in the following June the two countries signed an agreement of friendship and cooperation.

All the international diatribes supported by Libya, meanwhile, had contributed greatly to strengthening internal dissensions against the regime. Many Islamic riots had occurred but had been repressed with particular harshness. The main issues arose between Islam and the traditional religious elite which, precisely from Islam, felt threatened.

Then the Libyan government granted the extradition of the two Lockerbie terrorists in April 1999, and a Scottish court, in the presence of many international observers, prepared to judge them in the Netherlands.

In the meantime, the sanctions, already in force since 1992, were suspended, and diplomatic missions between Libya and Great Britain were re-established in July 1999.