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Libya, History

The Phoenicians founded colonies on the coast of Tripolitania, which were conquered by Carthage in the 6th century bc. Greeks subsequently established settlements in Cyrenaica. The Greek historian Herodotus, writing in the 5th century bc, described the Garamantes people of the Fezzan, who were sedentary farmers and used horse-drawn chariots in warfare. His account has been verified in the 20th century by ancient cave art, discovered in the Jabal Akakus (jabal means “mountains”) of the western Fezzan and the Jabal al ‘Uwaynat near the Egyptian border. Libya later became a Roman possession. The region was conquered by the Vandals in ad 455, by the Byzantine Empire the following century, and by the Arabs under Amr ibn al-As in 643.

Ruled successively by the Umayyads, Fatimids, and a Berber dynasty, the country was partly conquered by the Normans in 1146 but soon abandoned to Almohad control. During the following centuries Libya, or parts thereof, frequently changed hands until it was finally conquered, in the 16th century, by the Ottoman Empire.

In the 19th century the puritanical Sanusi religious brotherhood arose in the interior of Cyrenaica. When Italian forces invaded Libya in 1911, the Sanusi led the Cyrenaican resistance against them. The Ottomans renounced their rights over Libya in 1912. Local leaders in Tripolitania resisted the Italians until the early 1920s, and the Sanusi resistance did not give out until 1931.

During World War II (1939-1945), Libya was the scene of intense desert fighting between Italo-German and Allied forces. Following the expulsion of Axis troops in 1943, France and Britain shared control of the country. Britain, Italy, France, the United States, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) all offered to administer a trusteeship in the territory, but on November 21, 1949, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution calling for the granting of independence to Libya by January 1, 1952.

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