- Paperback: 274 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (February 13, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521615542
- ISBN-13: 978-0521615549
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,514,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A History of Modern Libya
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""Much more than a political, chronological or narrative review in 200 pages, this work effectively delivers a sympathetic, nevertheless critical, thorough and authoritative analysis.[...] Highly recommended." - Choice
"Vandewalle, an associate professor of government at Dartmouth, is recognized as one of the most knowledgeable students of Libya, and his A History of Modern Libya does not disappoint." - Middle East Quarterly
"There has clearly been no lack of studies on Libya and its leader over the years. The book under review, however, has the advantage of placing developments after 1969 in perspective relative to the country's early history: it shows how Qadhafi's apparent dramatic and idiosyncratic political ideas can be seen as a logical conclusion of Libya's earlier weakness or failure as a state. Emphasizing economic structures and policies, the book places these into a political, ideological, and structural context that makes it an excellent and up-to-date analytical introduction to the history of this country, which has had an impact so much larger than its size." - International Journal of Middle East Studies
Dirk Vandewalle offers a lucid and comprehensive account of Libya's past, and corrects some of the misunderstandings about its present. This book will be welcomed by scholars and students of North Africa, the Middle East, and by those who are visiting and doing business in the region.
Top customer reviews
I know quite a lot of this history as Libya was my second home for years but I feel a bit neglected when the book tells nothing about the people of this region.
This is very much a "present-oriented" account of Libya's history: everything presented in the book is very clearly intended to help explain the situation in Libya now. This is very natural, but it can be pushed too far. The Ottoman period (1553-1911) rates a few paragraphs; the Italian period (1911-1945), ten pages; negotiations to create the Libyan state, 8 pages; the monarchy (1951-1969), 21 pages; and the Qadhafi regime, 133 pages. Some readers will find this acceptable, although in my opinion, in order for this to work one really needs to be a succinct writer.
It seems to me that information is presented in a confusing and repetitive way. Despite having only read short articles about Libya's history (like the Area Handbook for Libya), I never once read anything at all in this book that surprised me. Worse, I was puzzled as ever about the attitudes Libyans had toward their newly-deposed leader.
One problem is, Vanderwalle presents Qadhafi (probably with good reason) as the central, and almost only, political actor in the Jamahiriyya (1969-2011); as such, he's arbitrary and original--like he could have done anything, and picked this. But Qadhafi was a product of, and continued to be a product of, his time and place. His framing of the great Arab struggle probably was chosen to resonate with younger Libyans. And yet, in early 2011, a revolution toppled his state and he was killed in the fighting. Why did this happen? We are advised that "tangible sign[s] that internal dissatisfaction was [...] at a breaking point" (p.138) were appearing, but seldom what those actually were. What led some Libyans to defend the Jamahiriyya to the death, and others kill their neighbors in order to destroy it? This book offers little insight,
I recommend the book by Anna Baldinetti (although this will be difficult or costly for most readers) or "Divided we stand" (see below for references).
SOURCES & ADDITIONAL READING
Anna Baldinetti, The Origins of the Libyan Nation: Colonial Legacy, Exile and the Emergence of a New Nation-State, Routledge (2014)
Helen Chapin Metz (editor), Libya : A Country Study (Area Handbook Series)(4th ed), Government Printing Office (1987) -- available in many places for free online
"Divided We Stand: Libya’s Enduring Conflicts," International Crisis Group (14 Sep 2012) -- available for free online at ICG's website