A new and entirely open-access collected volume on the African colonial role in the First World War, and one co-edited and co-published by African scholars:
Shiferaw Bekele, Uoldelul Chelati Dirar, Volterra, A., & Zaccaria, M. (Eds.), The First World War from Tripoli to Addis Ababa (1911-1924). Addis Abbaba: Centre français des études éthiopiennes, 2018.
For a long time now it has been common understanding that Africa played only a marginal role in the First World War. Its reduced theatre of operations appeared irrelevant to the strategic balance of the major powers. This volume is a contribution to the growing body of historical literature that explores the global and social history of the First World War. It questions the supposedly marginal role of Africa during the Great War with a special focus on Northeast Africa. In fact, between 1911 and 1924 a series of influential political and social upheavals took place in the vast expanse between Tripoli and Addis Ababa. The First World War was to profoundly change the local balance of power.
This volume consists of fifteen chapters divided into three sections. The essays examine the social, political and operational course of the war and assess its consequences in a region straddling Africa and the Middle East. The relationship between local events and global processes is explored, together with the regional protagonists and their agency. Contrary to the myth still prevailing, the First World War did have both immediate and long-term effects on the region. This book highlights some of the significant aspects associated with it.
The entire book is fascinating and opens up new areas of research tying into dynamics of which Libya was ultimately a part. The specific essays concerning Libya are:
Available freely online is a special journal issue from 2013, based on a workshop which took place in 2011, on the theme “Tripoli, port to the sea, port to the desert” in Paris. The special issue contains 7 articles, all in French, about different aspects of pre-modern to early-modern Tripoli. All articles can be read online as well as downloaded.
Tripoli, port de mer, port de désert: Table ronde du 25-26 novembre 2011 Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne coordonnée par Rémi Dewière et Güneş Işıksel, special issue of Hypothèses (1/16), 2013:
Rémi Dewière, Güneş Işıksel, Introduction, pp. 343–352
Dominique Valérian, Tripoli dans les réseaux d’échanges intercontinentaux à la fin du Moyen Âge, pp. 353–363
Nicola Melis, Tripoli vu par les Ottomans, pp. 365–373
Güneş Işıksel, Le statut de la Tripolitaine dans l’espace politique ottoman au xvie siècle, pp. 375–382
Rémi Dewière, «Regards croisés entre deux ports de désert»: L’enjeu des sources pour l’étude des relations entre Tripoli et le sultanat de Borno, pp. 383–393
Nora Lafi, Violence factieuse, enjeux internationaux et régulation ottomane de la conflictualité urbaine à Tripoli d’Occident entre xviiie et xixe siècles, pp. 395–403
Salvatore Bono, Tripoli 1510-1911: Historiographie et sources occidentales, pp. 405–412
A new volume containing linguistic studies of Arabic dialects in Libya and Tunisia has just been published:
The publisher’s description reads: “This tripartite volume with 18 contributions in English and French is dedicated to Tunisian and Libyan Arabic dialects which form part of the so-called Maghrebi or Western group of dialects. There are ten contributions that investigate aspects of Tunisian dialects, five contributions on Libyan dialects, and three comparative articles that go beyond the geographical and linguistic borders of Tunisia and Libya. The focus of “Tunisian and Libyan Arabic Dialects” is on linguistic aspects but a wider range of topics is also addressed, in particular questions regarding digital corpora and digital humanities. These foci and other subjects investigated, such as the syntactic studies and the presentation of recently gathered linguistic data, bear reference to the subtitle “Common Trends – Recent Developments – Diachronic Aspects”.”
Several essays in the book deal with aspects of Libyan Arabic dialects, in particular the following:
- Adam Benkato, “Vowels in Benghazi Arabic: Maghrebi or Bedouin?”, pp. 291-300.
- Najah Benmoftah & Christophe Pereira, “Preliminary Remarks on the Arabic spoken in Al-Khums (Libya)”, pp. 301-326.
- Dominique Caubet, “A Tentative Description of Aspect and Modality in the Fezzan: W. and Ph. Marçais’ Texts Revisited”, pp. 327-350.
- Luca D’Anna, “On the Development of Conditional Particles in the Arabic Dialects of the Fezzān”, pp. 351-370.
- Maciej Klimiuk, “The Particle rā- in Libyan Arabic Dialects (with emphasis on the Arabic dialect of Msallāta)”, pp. 371-386.
In Voices of the Arab Spring, edited by Asaad al-Saleh (Columbia, 2015), there are sections devoted to personal stories from the revolutions in different Arab countries. The section on Libya contains several essays:
- My Mission in the Libyan Revolution by Mohammed Zarrug
- Fighting Qaddafi: More Determination Than Weapons by Khairi Altarhuni
- The Dark Night on the Tripoli Front by Abdulmonem Allieby
- Fighting for Freedom by Ehab Ibrahim al-Khinjari
- From School to the Battlefield by Yusef Mohamed Benruwin
- Living Through the Libyan Uprising by Gay Emmaya Tongali
- Benghazi, My Love by Adel el-Taguri
- My Work in Revolutionary Libya by Annabelle Veso Faller
- The Days of My Life by Ezedin Bosedra Abdelkafi
- Blood for My Country by Aisha A. Nasef
This is not a post about Libya now. This is a post about a book from 1975, not so long after the coup of ’69, when ‘new’ was accurate in some senses but not necessarily positive. Entitled La Libye nouvelle, subtitled rupture et continuité (rupture and continuity | المزق و الاستمرار), it could easily have been just published last year and be talking about you-know-which-recent-events. A rather dramatic turn of history, cue experts publishing books. (Sometimes the lack of new perspectives is painfully obvious: there was a book titled … La nouvelle Libye published in 2004). In between, far, far fewer people are interested in Libya. Their loss. But I’m getting off track: the point here is that a number of scholarly works published in France have been made available free online at the OpenEdition.org website. Hence La Libye nouvelle can be read online for free (if you read French).
La Libye nouvelle: rupture et continuité. Institut de recherches et d’études sur le monde arabe et musulman, Éditions du CNRS. Paris. 1975.
Although some essays are outdated or rather simplistic, a few are still interesting reads. I recommend “La Libye des origines à 1912” by Robert Mantran; “Introduction à la connaissance de la littérature libyenne contemporaine” by Noureddine Sraieb is still one of the very few essays in a Western language addressing Libyan literature; “Chronologie libyenne” by Béatrice de Saenger is a handy timeline of events (obviously till 1975).
“Women’s Bodies in Post-Revolution Libya: Control and Resistance” by Sahar Mediha Elnaas and Nicola Pratt. In Rethinking Gender in Revolutions and Resistance: Lessons from the Arab World. London: Zed Books, 2015.
“Ever since the uprisings that swept the Arab world, the role of Arab women in political transformations received unprecedented media attention. The copious commentary, however, has yet to result in any serious study of the gender dynamics of political upheaval.
Rethinking Gender in Revolutions and Resistance is the first book to analyse the interplay between moments of sociopolitical transformation, emerging subjectivities and the different modes of women’s agency in forging new gender norms in the Arab world. Written by scholars and activists from the countries affected, including Paletine, Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, this is an important addition to Middle Eastern gender studies.”
Read a review and discussion of the book at Jadaliyya.
A number of years ago, the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (المعهد الايطالي لافريقيا و الشرق) and the Libyan Studies Centre in Tripoli collaborated to publish a series entitled Fonti e Studi per la Storia della Libia (مصادر و دراسات لتاريخ ليبيا). Three volumes appeared in print:
- Modern and Contemporary Libya: Sources and Historiographies. (Fonti e Studi per la Storia della Libia 1). Edited by Anna Baldinetti. Rome: IsIAO 2003.
- La Libia nei manuali scolastici italiani (1911-2001). (Fonti e Studi per la Storia della Libia 2). Edited by Nicola Labanca. Rome: IsIAO 2003.
- Tripoli bel suol d’amore. Testomonianze sulla guerra italo-libica. (Fonti e Studi per la Storia della Libia 3). Salvatore Bono. Rome: IsIAO 2005.
Unfortunately the collaboration seems to have not continued, at least in published form. But all three books are very worthwhile collections for those looking for thoughtful and unique perspectives on the colonial period in Libya.