The Origins of the Libyan Nation: Colonial Legacy, Exile and the Emergence of a New Nation-State

The Origins of the Libyan Nation: Colonial Legacy, Exile and the Emergence of a New Nation-State

The Origins of the Libyan Nation: Colonial Legacy, Exile and the Emergence of a New Nation-State

The Origins of the Libyan Nation: Colonial Legacy, Exile and the Emergence of a New Nation-State

Synopsis

Libya is a typical example of a colonial or external creation. This book addresses the emergence and construction of nation and nationalism, particularly among Libyan exiles in the Mediterranean region. It charts the rise of nationalism from the colonial era and shows how it developed through an external Libyan diaspora and the influence of Arab nationalism.

From 1911, following the Italian occupation, the first nucleus of Libyan nationalism formed through the activities of Libyan exiles. Through experiences undergone during periods of exile, new structures of loyalty and solidarity were formed. The new and emerging social groups were largely responsible for creating the associations that ultimately led to the formation of political parties at the eve of independence.

Exploring the influence of colonial rule and external factors on the creation of the state and national identity, this critical study not only provides a clear outline of how Libya was shaped through its borders and boundaries but also underlines the strong influence that Eastern Arab nationalism had on Libyan nationalism. An important contribution to history of Libya and nationalism, this work will be of interest to all scholars of African and Middle Eastern history.

Excerpt

This book addresses the emergence and construction of a Libyan nation and nationalism, particularly among Libyan exiles in the Mediterranean region during the period of the Italian colonial occupation (1911–43). While the region had been historically referred to using various derivatives of ‘Libia’, this name had been largely forgotten. It was the Italian geographer, Francesco Minutilli, who revived the name Libia in his Bibliografia della Libia published in 1903, to indicate the regions formed by the Ottoman provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. The repercussions of the Italian colonial legacy, also had an impact on Libya’s construction of her nation state. In November 1911, a decree placed Tripolitania and Cyrenaica under Italian sovereignty, which from this point, became commonly and internationally referred to as Libya. The term Libya was also used to indicate the coastal and internal territories that linked the two regions, including Sirtica, Marmarica and Fezzan. By 1934, the Italian Government had officially adopted the name Libya to refer to those territories, which were now unified in a single colony, and which had hitherto been administered as separate regions. Fezzan was governed as part of Tripolitania until 1943, when during the Second World War it came under French occupation. In 1951, when the United Kingdom of Libya was formally established, the three regions of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan were united.

For the purpose of convenience, Libya is used to refer to Tripolitana and Cyrenaica before 1934 throughout the book, unless otherwise specified. As seen Libya emerged as a colonial construct and before beginning our discussion on the key notions and themes of the book, it is necessary to diverge somewhat and provide an outline of how Libya was shaped through its borders and boundaries, including at the same time a brief analysis of populations of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan, respectively.

The emergence of modern Libya: from borders to
boundaries

On the eve of Italian occupation less than a million people lived in the Ottoman provinces of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, which also included Fezzan. The last Ottoman census, which was published in July 1911, reported that there were 576,546 inhabitants in Tripolitania, while Cyrenaica had a population of 198,345 . . .

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