John Wright's concise history of Libya begins in the prehistoric Sahara and concludes with the bloody overthrow of the Gadafi regime and the emergence of a 'new' Libya in 2011. After surveying the story of the central Sahara's early hunter-gatherers and its Garamantian civilization, Wright briskly recounts the land's succession of foreign invaders, followed by the semi-independent Karamanli regime in 1711 and the return of the Turks in 1835. He discusses the workings of the historic trans-Saharan slave trade to Tripoli, Benghazi and other ports for local sale or export to the Eastern Mediterranean, and highlights Tripoli's nineteenth-century role as a base for European penetration of the Sahara and the lands beyond it. Wright's modern history assesses the controversial Italian era (1911-43), describing in detail the long, harsh conquest while giving due credit to the material achievements of the colonial regime. This fair and comprehensive overview provides a clearer understanding of Libya's subsequent history, covered in four final chapters.
These start with the World War Two campaigns that ended Italian rule; the fairly easy ride to an early UN-supervised independence under the Sanussi monarchy in 1951; the discovery and exploitation of oil in the 1950s and 1960; and Moammar Gadafi's 1969 coup bringing to power a bizarre revolutionary regime that was to last for forty-two years. Wright's final chapter summarises the main events of 2011 - the successful popular uprising; the NATO air intervention; the end of Gadafi and his regime; and the emergence of a 'new' and perhaps rather different Libya.
For many years John Wright was chief political commentator and analyst of the BBC Arabic Service, specialising in Libya, the Sahara and the international oil industry. Besides many articles, papers and talks, he has completed a PhD thesis and written or edited six books on Libya, Saharan travel and exploration and the Saharan slave trade.
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