A landmark contribution to the study of North African urban history, the history of Tripoli, and the history of Ottoman Libya is “A North African City between ancien regime and Ottoman reforms: the birth of municipal institutions in Tripoli 1795-1911” [مدينة في المغرب بين العهد القديم و التنظيمات العثمانية: تكوين المؤسسات البلدية في طرابلس الغرب] by Nora Lafi (academia page), a scholar now based at the Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin:
Lafi, Nora. 2002. Une ville du Maghreb entre ancien régime et réformes ottomanes: genèse des institutions municipales à Tripoli de Barbarie (1795-1911). Paris: L’Harmattan, Tunis: Institut de recherche sur le Maghreb contemporain (IRMC), 305p.
From a review on H-Net: “Lafi’s … is the first work of western scholarship to be thoroughly grounded in documents held in Tripoli’s Municipal Archives. (Studies on Tripoli usually make use of Italian, French, and British archives and published sources in many languages, including Arabic.) These are supplemented by sources in the Ottoman archives and diplomatic papers in both France and Italy… At the heart of the book is its demonstration that the city was managed by an assembly (the jama’a(t) al-bilad), headed by the mayor-like “chief of the city” (shaykh al-bilad), a notable elected by the other members of the jama’a. This contradicts the impression conveyed by many historical works, that Arab cities did not generate stable civic institutions of this sort, and have instead followed amorphous, enigmatic, and/or disordered civic trajectories under their reign from above by Ottoman delegates or puppets. In Lafi’s analysis, instead, we find urban and civic self-management at the middle levels. As early as the eighteenth century, long before the Ottoman reforms (tanzimat) of the following century, or subsequent European incursions, Tripoli’s municipal organization operated on a well-functioning, autonomous system of its own making.”