Pages: 432
Subject: History
Imprint: Oneworld


From Colony to Revolution

Ronald Bruce St John

Fully updated: the new edition of this compelling history begins in ancient times, takes us through the Qaddafi era, the Arab Spring and features a new chapter on post-Qaddafi Libya

9781786072405 (2 Nov 2017)
RRP £12.99 / US$19.99

The Book

Since Qaddafi's ousting in 2011, Libya has been beset by instability and conflict. To understand the tumultuous state of the country today, one must look to its past. With great clarity and precision, renowned regional expert Ronald Bruce St John examines Libya's long struggle to establish its political and economic identity amidst the interference of external actors keen to exploit the country's strategic importance.

This authoritative history spans the time of the early Phoenician and Greek settlements, colonization by Mussolini's Italy, Qaddafi's four decades of rule and, in this updated edition, the internal rivalries that have dominated the country in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Essential reading for those seeking a greater understanding of this complex North African state, Libya: From Colony to Revolution is an insightful history, rich in detail and analysis.

Additional Information

Subject History
Pages 432
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Ronald Bruce St John is an independent scholar who has appeared on Al Jazeera, BBC World Service, CNN News and in The New York Times, amongst other publications and outlets. He has also advised a number of Fortune 500 companies and the US government. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


‘An excellent political history of Libya…engaging.'

- Irish Times

‘Of all the books on Libya, Bruce St John's is easily the most comprehensive and approachable.'

- Washington Post

‘A timely and necessary book…fluid in its writing and measured in its judgements.'

- New Internationalist

‘Excellent… accessible, informative and presented with clarity… You won't find a much better overview of Libya than this.'

- Herald

‘An excellent general overview, accessible, informative and presented with clarity… Until the secret archives in Tripoli have been raked over, you won't find a much better overview of Libya than this.'

- Libya Herald

‘An excellent and concise history of this complex country.'

- George Joffé, Centre of International Studies, Cambridge University

‘Ronald Bruce St John is a committed scholar of Libya…his book offers the measured and confident tone of someone deeply familiar with the subject matter.'

- Richard Phelps, Quilliam Foundation, Journal of North African Studies

‘An excellent account of Libya's often contentious history: clear, concise, accurate and balanced. It will be the best general work on the country available for the foreseeable future, very useful to anyone interested in the country.'

- Lisa Anderson, James T. Shotwell Professor Emerita of International Relations, Columbia University

‘For the general reader as well as for those with a good level of knowledge of Libya, there is perhaps no one better situated to...explain the country's current and future dilemmas than Ronald Bruce St John…[an] admirable history.'

- Diederik Vandewalle, International Affairs

‘Rich in historical detail...containing rare insights into Libyan leader Qaddafi's thinking, particularly on foreign affairs. Indispensable for every serious student of Libya or North Africa.'

- Michele Dunne, Director and Senior Fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

‘An outstanding book...the best short history of Libya. St John has made us accustomed to first-rate analyses of Libya; this book is no exception and no students of Libya, from undergraduates to experts, could afford not to have it on their shelves.'

- Yahia H. Zoubir, Professor of International Relations and International Management, and Director of Research in Geopolitics, Euromed Management, Marseille School of Management

Table of Contents

Preface to Third Edition

Preface to Second Edition

Preface to First Edition

Maps and Illustrations

Note on Transliteration

Select Chronology of Libyan History


1  Early History

Historical Setting

Phoenician Settlements in Tripolitania

Greek Influence in Cyrenaica

Roman Influence in Libya

Arab Invasions

Fatimids (910-1171)

Hilalian Invasion

Almoravids, Almohads, and Hafsids in Tripolitania

Medieval Cyrenaica and Fezzan

Lasting Impressions


2  Ottoman Occupation, 1551-1911

First Ottoman Occupation (1551-1711)

Karamanli Dynasty (1711-1835)

Barbary Wars

Second Ottoman Occupation (1835-1911)

Sanusi Order

Foreign Schemes and Initiatives

Young Turk Revolution



3  Italian Colonial Era, 1911-43

Misplaced Optimism

Early Resistance and Collaboration

Nascent Political Movements

Tripoli Republic, 1918-22

Riconquista, 1923-32

Italian Colonial Policy

Jewish Community

Impact of Italian Occupation


4  Struggle for Independence, 1943-51

Liberation and Occupation

Wartime Discussions

Great Power Gridlock

Regional and Domestic Politics Collide

American Strategic Interests

United Nations Decides

Arab Nationalism, Aid, and Base Rights

Conflicting Interests


5  United Kingdom of Libya, 1951-69

Socioeconomic Inheritance

Palace System of Power

Alliance Politics

Western Dependence

Impact of Oil

National Identity

Rise of Arab Nationalism

Monarchy in Perspective

The End


6  One September Revolution, 1969-73

Young Revolutionaries

Great Power Denouement

Primacy of Oil

Socioeconomic Change

Freedom, Nationalism, and Unity

Popular Revolution

Third Universal Theory


7  Revolution on the Move, 1973-86

The Green Book

Direct Popular Authority

Rush to Socialism

Hydrocarbon Policy

Confrontation with the West

Arab Disunity

Third Circle

Declining Influence Abroad

Confined to the Libyan Playhouse


8  Consolidation and Reform, 1986-98

Revolution within the Revolution

Great Green Charter on Human Rights in the Era of the Masses

Weapons of Mass Destruction


European Relations

Status Quo in Africa

Turn to the Maghrib

Rule of International Law

Mounting Opposition


9  Libya Resurgent, 1998-2007

Out of Africa

Looking East and West

European Relations

War on Terror

Economic Reform

Hydrocarbons, the Exception

Social Conditions

Political Developments

Qaddafi's Libya


10  A New Day Dawns, 2008-11

Socioeconomic Reform

Political Reform

Human Rights



United States

Arab Spring

February 17 Revolution

Military Events

Political Developments

End of the Beginning


11  Post-Qaddafi Libya

General National Congress Elections

Islamists Ascendant

Constitutional Drafting Process

Descent into Chaos

Libyan Political Agreement

Time for a Reset


United States

Arab World


Who Lost Libya?


Further Reading