The Making of Modern Libya

State Formation, Colonization, and Resistance, Second Edition

By Ali Abdullatif Ahmida

Subjects: Middle East Studies, Middle East Politics, African Studies
Series: SUNY series in the Social and Economic History of the Middle East
Paperback : 9781438428925, 276 pages, March 2011
Hardcover : 9781438428918, 276 pages, November 2009

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations
A Note on the Transliteration
Preface to the Second Edition


1. Ecological and Social Origins of Regionalism and Pastoralism: The Myth of the Hilali Conquest

2. Ottoman Social Formation: A Trading and Communal Political Economy, 1830-1911

3. Markets, States, and Class Formation in Tripolitania and Fezzan, 1830-1911

4. The Political Economy of the Sanusiyya: Religion, Trade, and State Formation

5. Reactions to Colonialism: The Politics of Collaboration and Resistance, 1911-1932

Conclusion: Toward the Recovery of Libya’s Civil Society


Appendix A. The Rates of Exchange of Other Currencies
Appendix B. Libya’s Major Trading Partners, 1885-1910
Appendix C. Volume of Libyan Exports and Imports in 1900
Appendix D. Trading Partners 1899-1902; Imports
Appendix E. Major Trading Partners; Libyan Exports
Appendix F. Transit Trade Export from Tripoli (1862-1904)


Second edition of the provocative study analyzing the social, cultural, and historical roots of modern Libya.


The Making of Modern Libya is a thorough examination of the social, cultural, and historical background of modern Libya. Ali Abdullatif Ahmida examines the reaction of the ordinary Libyan people to colonialism and nationalism, from the early nineteenth century through the end of anticolonial resistance, to the rise of the modern Libyan state in 1951. Weaving together insights drawn from Arabic, French, English, and Italian sources, he challenges Eurocentric theories of social change that ignore the internal dynamics of native social history. Among other things, he shows that Sufi Islam, tribal military organization, and oral traditions were crucial in the fight against colonialism. The political and cultural legacy of the resistance has been powerful, strengthening Libyan nationalism and leading to the revival of strong attachments to Islam. The memory of this period has not yet faded, and appreciation of this background is essential to understanding modern Libya. This new edition also investigates Libya's postcolonial nationalist policies, bringing the argument up to the present.

Ali Abdullatif Ahmida is Professor of Political Science at the University of New England. He is the author of Forgotten Voices: Power and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Libya and the editor of Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in the Maghrib: History, Culture, and Politics.