Article: Italian colonisation and the walled city of Tripoli

An article on the Italian period and its impact on the old city of Tripoli, available online:

Mia Fuller (2000), “Preservation and self-absorption: Italian colonisation and the walled city of Tripoli, Libya,” The Journal of North African Studies 5/4, pp. 121-154.

“Scholars periodically return to the study of how French administrators and architects handled the urban settings of North Africa – the ones they found and the ones they founded – beginning with the occupation of Algiers in 1830. Italian occupation of Libya began much later, in 1911, but in the 32 years of their effective rule, Italians had sufficient time to be both destructive and constructive in significant ways. Nonetheless, only a handful of scholarly efforts have been devoted to Italian architectural and urban policies in Tripoli;
and very few of those have been concerned with the walled city at all…”

Libia 1911-1912: Immaginari coloniali e italianità

Gabriele Proglio, Libia 1911-1912: Immaginari coloniali e italianità, Mondadori (2016).

From the publisher: “L’Italia va alla guerra per conquistare il suo ‘posto al sole’ senza realmente sapere cosa troverà sull’altra sponda del Mediterraneo. Il volume analizza la propaganda coloniale e, in particolare, la stretta relazione tra la costruzione narrativa della colonia libica e le trasformazioni dell’italianità. All’iniziale studio degli immaginari sulla Libia precedenti il 1911, segue una disamina di quelle voci che si mobilitarono a favore della guerra, partendo dai nazionalisti di Enrico Corradini con i riferimenti all’Impero romano, al Risorgimento, al mito della ‘terra promessa’. L’archivio coloniale è indagato anche attraverso lo studio delle omelie funebri per i soldati caduti durante la guerra, con immagini che vanno dal buon soldato al figlio della patria. Un altro campo d’analisi è quello dell’infanzia: i discorsi dei docenti sul conflitto, del «Corriere dei Piccoli» e della letteratura per ragazzi lavorano per «costruire» i corpi dei piccoli italiani. Non manca, infine, lo studio della letteratura interventista: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Giovanni Pascoli, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Matilde Serao, Ezio Maria Gray, Umberto Saba, Ada Negri, Giuseppe Bevione.”

La transformation administrative des espaces septentrionaux Libyens

With apologies for the long silence on this blog, we get back on track with this article:

Tomaso Palmieri, “La transformation administrative des espaces septentrionaux Libyens au lendemain de la répression de l’Italie fasciste (1934-1940)” [The administrative transformation of the northern Libyan spaces on the eve of the fascist Italian repression], In Le rôle des villes littorales du Maghreb dans l’histoire, RM2E – Revue de la Méditerranée édition électronique 3/1 (2016), pp. 101–114.

Happily, the article (in French) is freely available online at the following link:

Italian colonial rule and Muslim elites in Libya

Here, an article analyzing Muslim elites in Libya during the colonial period:

Baldinetti, Anna, “Italian colonial rule and Muslim elites in Libya: a relationship of antagonism and collaboration”, in ‘Ulama’ in the Middle East, edited by M. Hatina (Brill, 2009).

Abstract: “In Libya, under Italian rule, ‘ulama’ (علماء), Sufi shaykhs and other religious dignitaries played an important role, as Islam not only legitimated the resistance but also became a fundamental element in colonial policies. However, the relationships between the colonial authorities and the religious elites, beyond what the colonial laws prescribed, have as yet not been examined, except for the Sanusiyya order. This paper aims to fill this research gap, focusing mainly on the region of Tripolitania.”

The conclusion reads: “Islam constituted an important element in Italian colonial policy in Libya, and the colonial authorities always paid particular attention to indigenous Muslim elites. However, the “politics of chiefs,” which was based mainly on an exaggerated patronage polìcy, did not help to overcome sectarian, tribal and regional divisions.

The Italian colonial authorities did not develop a well-defined educational policy aimed at modernizing the traditional elites or forming a new “evolués” elite useful for meeting administrative and economic needs. As noted, the —the institution charged with reforming the local elite—was established only in the mid-1930s, in the closing phase of colonial rule. Even then, its impact on the emergence of new elites was negligible, due to the small number of students admitted each year. Moreover, the Institute of Islamic Studies in Tripoli (المدرسة الاسلامية العليا) was not very popular among native circles because its educational program was perceived as too “Westernized.” Hence the Italian administration did not significantly alter or influence the structure of the Muslim elites in Libya, nor did it contribute to the emergence of new ones.”

As always, those who are interested in reading the piece can drop me a line.

Libya between Ottomanism and Nationalism | ليبيا بين العثمانية و الوطنية

simon-libya-ottomanism-nationalismRachel Simon, Libya between Ottomanism and Nationalism: The Ottoman involvement in Libya during the War with Italy (1911–1919). Klaus Schwarz: Berlin (Islamkundliche Untersuchungen, vol. 105), 1987.

Libya between Ottomanism and Nationalism is a historical study dedicated to a period which saw the Ottoman empire’s control of North Africa wane while Italy attempted to establish a colony in Tripoli and Cyrenaica. It surveys the political makeup of the late Ottoman provinces that became Libya, the Ottoman involvement in Italy’s conquest of those territories, and chronicles the resistance against colonization in Libya, looking at both Tripoli and Cyrenaica as well as Libyan resistance movements and the Ottoman support thereof.

Since this title has been out of print for many years, the publisher (Klaus Schwarz Verlag in Berlin) has kindly given permission to put a PDF of the entire book on this blog. You can find it here.

A review of the book by Lisa Anderson can be found at this link.

The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980

Lisa Anderson, The State and Social Transformation in Tunisia and Libya, 1830-1980. Princeton University Press (1986).

Publisher’s blurb: The book traces growing state intervention in the rural areas of Tunisia and Libya in the middle 1800s and the diverging development of the two countries during the period of European rule. State formation accelerated in Tunisia under the French with the result that, with independence, interest-based policy brokerage became the principal form of political organization. For Libya, where the Italians dismantled the pre-colonial administration, independence brought with it the revival of kinship as the basis for politics.

This is one of the few books (along with this one) about Libyan history to be based on extensive research with primary sources in Libyan, Ottoman, and European archives.