Libya is a North African country bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, Tunisia, Algeria, Niger, Chad, the Sudan, and Egypt. Its major industry is oil.
Libya was a colony of Italy from 1912 until 1951, when it became an independent kingdom under King Idris. From the military coup d'etat which toppled Idris in 1969 until 2011, the leader of the country was Muammar Qaddafi (also transliterated from the Arabic to several other spellings, enumerated at http://www.geocities.com/Athens/8744/spelling.htm), who held no official title for much of that time but controlled the government as a dictator with very anti-Western views. In just the first five years of his rule, British and American military bases in Libya were closed, property of Jewish and Italian residents was confiscated, and foreign petroleum investments were nationalized. On the other hand, the Qaddafi regime was in favor of Arab nationalist causes (including Palestinian terrorism) and later, pan-African unity.
Conditions within Libya were to some degree improved over those of earlier years: per capita income, life expectancy, and literacy all increased greatly and the government supported many infrastructure projects. But the government support of terrorism eventually led to UN sanctions on Libya, which cut off foreign trade and contributed to a stalling internal economy. (The sanctions were lifted in 2003 as part of an arrangement where Libyan chemical and nuclear weapon programs were dismantled.) Expressing dissent was officially illegal, leading to arrest, torture and execution of people who dared criticize the government, and even assassinations of exiled Libyans living abroad. Qaddafi's non-standard interpretation of Islam, such as expropriating mosque property, also generated resentment in some Libyans.
There were unsuccessful several attempts to topple Qaddafi's rule. When neighboring Tunisia and Egypt experienced uprisings against their governments in 2011, Qaddafi spoke against their rebellions. Nonetheless, the spirit of the Arab Spring seemed to spread to Libya, and public protests against the government and political corruption were met with violent crackdowns. In response, some government ministers resigned their posts, in a few cases even requesting foreign help to protect Libyan civilians from their government, and Libyan ambassadors to several other countries said they no longer supported the government which had sent them. The protests turned into actual rebellion, particularly in the eastern part of Libya, and in March the United Nations created a coalition to enforce a no-fly zone and naval blockade, with strikes authorized against any force appearing to threaten civilians. The civil war lasted until October, when Qaddafi was captured and shot near his hometown of Sirte. His death essentially ended the fighting, with "liberation" of Libya declared in the capital three days later.
A National Transitional Council arranged the first post-Qaddafi elections, which were held in June 2012. The General National Congress which was elected is supposed to create a new constitution for the country, but as of this writing, this is still an unstable interim government; factional and regional fighting are still popping up, and it remains to be seen where things will go in the long run.