Lybia Essay, Research Paper

Libya: A Deep and Rich History

In the beginning of the 20th century Libya was a country that was not to populate nor did it have much power. The name Libya was given by the Italians, who had a major influence in Libya from 1911 until the end of World War II. At the turn of the century the Ottoman Empire was in control of Libya, which at the time was spilt up into three parts. One part was around Tripoli called Tripolitania in the west. The second was around Banghazi called Cyrenaica in the east. The third was in the southwest part of the country called Fezzan. Over the next 90 years Libya would see it shares of rulers and bloodshed. Some important factors that have helped Libya become the country it is today were the creation of the Sanusiyah brotherhood and their resistance against the Italians, Italian colonialism from 1911 to WWII, Libya gaining it s independence, and the discovery of oil in the late 1950 s. So much has happened to Libya in the last 90 years, which has developed a unique history that involves a country over coming annexation and leading up to Libya becoming an independent country.

The Ottoman Empire had been in control of Libya since the 16th century. The Karamanli dynasty ruled the area around Libya, Algeria, and Tunisia from 1711 to 1835. Over the 124 years they were in power there were many rulers, but it was not until the Ottoman decided to review how that area was being run and decided to change to control to include officials from Istanbul and limited that areas modernization so that it was the same with the rest of the empire.

One of the most important events in Libyan history was the formation of the Sanusiyah brotherhood in 1837. This brotherhood was an Islamic order that preached a stricter form of Islam. The Sanusiyah would give people help and tell others how things should be done. This gave all the new followers a feeling of unity. The original meeting place of the Sanusiyah was in the ruins of Cyrene in eastern Cyrenaica, but was moved to the oasis of Jaghbub near Egypt. The founder was called the Grand Sanusi. His son took over in 1895 and tried to gain influence southward in the oasis of Al-Kufrah. The Ottomans noticed this and did not intervene, but keep their eye the situation.

In 1902 Italy saw that the British and the French were not that interested in Libya. They gave their blessings for the Italians to pursue their interest in Libya. After that was say and done, there was a small but steady follow if Italian influences coming into the area. A few of them were an Italian post office, medical services, and the Banco di Roma to set up Italian industries like a esparto grass mill, flourmill, and to purchase land for agricultural development.

Around the same time a Young Turk revolution started in 1908. The start of revolution boasted the Italians interest in Libya because they wanted to build a bigger gap between Sanusiyah and the Turks, in the case of war, the two might not combine forces (Wright, 116).

Italy declared war on the Ottoman Empire on September 29, 1911. After declaring war Italy took over five important ports on Libyan coast: Tripoli, Bengliazi, Dana, Tubruq, and Khums. There was one problem the Italians were fighting a combination of Turko-Libyan forces. This made hard for the Italians to move further into the country. With the heavy losses the Italians were ready to try another approach to ending this war.

The new approach included talks with the Turks to come up with way to end this war. A secret treaty was signed on October 15, 1912. The treaty stated that the Turks would pack up and leave Libya in two stages. They first stage was the Ottoman sultan would give a command granting Libya the power to self-government. Three days later the sultan would make a public announcement stating Italian sovereignty over Libya. The sultan would still have spiritual leadership over Libyan Muslims. Some Libyans still considered the sultan as their rightful leader and did not follow the Italian rule (Wright, 131). This was followed two days later with another public treaty that declared the end of the war. Soon after, Ottoman troops and officials began to leave Libya. With the signing of the treaty the Ottoman had no control over Libya and the people of Libya had to fight for themselves.

At this time Sayyid Ahmad al-Sharif was head of the Sanusiyah, who were in Cyrenaica. He moved the headquarters from Kufra to Jaghbub to be closer to the fighting. The Sanusiyah claimed that a message was given to the head of the order saying that when Turkey released Libya, the leadership of the whole country would go to the head of the Sanusiyah.

With the Turks out the way, the quest for domination was a little easier for the Italians. They secured the coast by the taking the city of Nawfaliyya. This was just the beginning; the Italians really did not have power over the population or the inland parts of the country. The biggest problem came from the area around Fazzan. Muhammad al-Ashhadb, a delegate of the head of the Sanunisyah put up a resistance and keeps Italian forces out of Ubari, Murzuq and Sabha. The Fezzan region was the only one to escape Italian rule (Chapin Metz, 17).

Back in the area of Cyrenaica the Sanuisyah was experiencing a shortage of food and ammunition. Dispite these factors the Italians had not yet conquered the inner parts of the country. While the war was going on, the Germans and Ottomans supplied military assistance to the Sanuisyah and the people of Tripolitiania to aid a longer resistance. This help by the Young Turk revolution gave a new life in the resistance. When the Italians realized what was happening they launched an invasion in Libya.

The Italians were sill-having trouble taking over the people. The fighting lasted until after WWI. It was at the time when Italy decided to try and settle with the forces in Tripolitania and the Sanuisyah. These negotiations collapsed and it was no until a man by the name of Giuseppe Volpi who would become a governor of Libya and a fascist government in Italy would spread an Italian policy throughout the colony. This policy led to the coastal areas of Tripolitanai to come under Italian rule in 1923. The Sanusisyah did fall as fast. They lasted until their leader Umar al-mukhtar was captured and executed in 1931 (Chapin Metz, 29).

Finally, when Italy had control of Libya they started to send large amounts of money for development of new roads and towns to get ready for Italian settlers. By the start of WWII there were about 150,000 Italians who had settled in Libya. The Italians did not last long in Libya. These efforts to colonize Libya and the results of the economic development caused many of these things to be destroyed during the North African campaigns in 1941. At the end of WWII all of the Italian settlers had moved out of Libya. In the following years Libya went a into a era of being poor, under populated, and divided into two parts Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. To make matter worse they had different opinions on political views, economic views, and religious traditions.

All the problems that Libya was encountering finally led to talks with the British foreign minister. The talks lasted four years and at the end two things were agreed upon. The first was that the Sanuniyah would never again have to be under Italian rule. The second was that the UN General Assembly voted that Libya should become a united and independent country no later than January 1, 1952. On December 24, 1951, king Idris I declared Libya independent. Two years later Libya joined the Arab League (Wright, 232).

In 1959 the discovery of oil changed Libya. Before the discovery of oil Libya was dependent on international aid and the rents it received from U.S. and British air bases. The oil was found in the Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. Oil will become the countries largest source of income. As the economy grew, so did the growth of government services, construction projects, and the cost of living.

Ten years later in 1969 Libya would see another major change. Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi and a group of army officers deposed the king and made Libya a republic.

The new regime, passionately pan-Arab, broke the monarchy s

close ties to Britain and the United States and also began an

assertive policy that led to higher oil prices and to 51% Libyan participation in oil company activities and in some cases to outright nationalism. (Encarta Encyclopedia)

Oaddafi decided in the early 1970 s that the oil should be kept under close watch and urged his follow Arabs not to sell or trade oil. With oil becoming limited Libya hurt the western countries the most because oil is was so vital.

The relationship only got worse for Libya and the United States. In 1981 two U.S. Navy jets shot down two Libyan fighter planes over the Gulf of Sidra. Libya claimed that the space was their territory. Another incident included two U.S. Navy ships destroying two Libyan ships. These two incidents triggered a rise in terrorist attacks in Europe against Americans. In response to the attacks President Ronald Regan order bombs to be dropped on sites that were claimed to be terrorist centers. One of the sites was Qaddafi s home and his young daughter was killed. The major part of the damage was done to other military sites. When things could not get any worse between Libya and the U.S., it was discovered that Libya might be making chemical weapons. This led to the U.S. impose sanctions against Libya.

Libya has had a rich and extensive history in the last 90 years. It is clear that Libya is a country that has developed from depending on other countries to being a country that is in charge of how it is run. Libya has really grown by producing and exporting oil. The oil was a key factor in getting Libya on its feet. Today many people visit Libya to see how this country has developed over the last 90 years.

Works Citied

Chapin Metz, Helen. Libya A Country Study. U.S.A.: Secretary of the Army,


Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia. Libya. Microsoft Corporation, 1996.

Wright, John. Libya. United States of America: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. 1969.

Wright, John. Libya, Chad, And The Central Sahara. U.S.A.: Barnes & Noble

Books, 1989.

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