History of Libya: Independence for the Kingdom

History of Libya: Independence for the Kingdom Last updated on Wednesday 21st April 2010

By 1947 Italy had relinquished all claims to Libya and two years later a UN General Assembly resolution was approved, which granted Libyan independence. This became effective in 1951 and the country became known as the United Kingdom of Libya.

The Sanusi leader, Sayid Idris of Cyrenaica (1890-1963) became the nation's first king, ruling under the title of King Idris I. A national assembly was formed, consisting of delegates from the regions of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan in equal numbers. A Libyan constitution was drawn up by the assembly in October 1951, and in February of the following year the first elections were held. In 1953 Libya joined the Arab League and became part of the United Nations two years later. Women's franchise was granted in 1963, as an amendment to the constitution.

During the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, Libya did not actively participate, but gave strong support to the Arab League in opposition to Israel, giving financial aid to both Jordan and Egypt.

The oil boom of the 1960s created great prosperity for the newly-established kingdom, and a 167km pipeline was opened by the king in 1961, linking interior oil-fields with the Mediterranean. The resulting financial independence transformed Libya from a country with one of the lowest standards of living in the world to one which began to embark on substantial reforms. Employment opportunities grew and new plans were set in motion for improved housing, health care and education.

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