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Anatomy of a Revolution

The French Revolution and the Libyan Revolution

Tasnim Hasnat, Jennifer Rivas, Jennifer Caceres, Michelle Morales
Period 7

Phase 1: Beginning of the Revolution

The two revolutions, the Libyan and the French Revolution, both began under an absolute
monarchy. Before the French Revolution, Louis XVI ruled France along with his wife Marie

Antoinette with support coming from the 1st and 2nd estates, and Libya was ruled by King Idris I
until he was overthrown by Muammar Gaddafi, who became the dictator of Libya for 42 years.
Both leaders faced protesters who were angry at the lack of political power they had and
the atrocious condition they were living in. In France, the king and queen were not aware of the
suffering that their people were facing such as; the bread riots caused by the bread shortage, and
the bourgeoisie campaigning ideals of the Enlightenment. On the other hand, former Libyan
dictator Muammar Gaddafi, was aware of the protests that were going on against him and his
dictatorship. Gaddafi reacted to the protests by using his forces such as the military,
demonstrations were met with military force and the uprising escalated into a civil war, with
NATO-led forces later siding with the rebels.1”
Libya, in theory, is a rich country, in gold and oil.2 Oil was very important to Libya,
mostly to Gaddafi. Without fuel (oil) it reduced his ability to conduct his military campaign. The
lack of oil also exacerbated social tensions among civilians.3 Another economic problem that was
that Gaddafi had lots of money but instead of spending it on Libya‟s needs; he spent it on himself
and/or his family. There are many similarities between the French and Libyan revolutions, but
they both had their differences and economic problems that led to the start of the revolutions.

Phase 2: Absolutist Leader’s Power is Limited

1

“Profile: Muammar Gaddafi” Aljazeera , Aug 22, 2011
Rebecca Marston, “Libya‟s key challenges for economic stability.”, BBC. Aug 26, 2011
3
Henry Smith, “Will oil bring Muammar Gaddafi down?” The Guardian. July 13,2011
2

During the revolution both the French and the Libyan passed through a liberal phase. For
the beginning of the French Revolution both King Louis XVI and the Queen Marie had been
spending their wealth and then the Women's March to Versailles occurred, armed peasants were
marching out to physically force Louis and Marie to go from Paris to Versailles. The reason the
women went to Paris because of the excessive amount of money the king and queen were
spending while the poor was suffering.

During the time of the Libyan Revolution, Muammar Gaddafi, like the rulers of the
French Revolution, was spending his wealth on himself, having billions of dollars hidden in secret
banks, found in Dubai.4 Gaddafi believed that what he was doing was correct, and he saw his
orders and actions as a version of direct democracy5,which was not. If people disobeyed his laws
and his beliefs, he violently reacts to them such as when he publicly hung students, in 1970,
which were protesting and demanding rights in Benghazi6.

But years later, in May 2011,

Gaddafi‟s power is threatened when the International Criminal Court‟s prosecutor, arranged the
arrest of Gaddafi and two others for crimes against human rights. 7 In contrast, Louis and Marie
did not react violently like Gaddafi, instead thought the bread riots and the protests were rumors.
Another difference between the two leaders was that Gaddafi was deliberately keeping Libyan
funds to himself, unlike the French Revolution leaders, who were spending money, unaware of
their people‟s poor conditions.

Phase 3: The ‘Reign Of Terror’ Phase #3

4

Tom Bawden,“Gaddafis' hidden billions: Dubai banks, plush London pads and Italian water” The
Gaurdian. Feb 22,2014.
5
“Profile: Muammar Gaddafi” BBC. June 27, 2011
6
“Profile: Muammar Gaddafi” Aljazeera , Aug 22, 2011
7
“Profile: Muammar Gaddafi” BBC. June 27, 2011

Revolutions often go through the bloody „Reign of Terror‟ phase, which was present in the
French and Libyan revolution. During the Libyan Revolution they went through what was similar
to the „Reign of terror‟ when the revolutionaries executed the people that go against them and still

agree with Muammar al-Gaddafi. During the French Revolution they go through their „Reign of
terror‟ when the Law of suspects is passed.
The French Revolution had the notorious Reign of Terror when the "Law of suspects" was
passed by the Committee of Public Safety. The law was used to arrest people that looked and
acted suspicious about not supporting the revolution. During this time it was a initiated conflict
between rival political factions on both sides. The Law of suspects caused a mass execution of
"enemies of the revolution". In comparison, Libya went through a similar type of Reign of
Terror. Gaddafi was terrible dictator and allowed the old regime to imprison many of the
revolutionaries who went against him8. After Muammar al-Gaddafi is killed on October 20,2011,9
there are some revolutionaries that do not like people who are against the revolution and are still
with al-Gaddafi and believe in the old regime. People like Hamid who is a “Misrata boy hunt
down the supporters of al-Gaddafi.”10 Just like Hamid, many Libyan rebels are killing Gaddafi
loyalists which are being seen to many people as the rebels doing as they wish. This causes the
Libyan people to not be as unified and the government to fail. Since they now have freedom they
are causing many killings as, “Diana Eltahawy, Libya researcher for Amnesty International,
described a record of abuse, torture and the extrajudicial killing of captured pro-Gaddafi fighters
that has followed the rebels from east to west as they have taken over the country.” 11 In the
article, a clear bias is shown, showing that the supporters of the old regime does not support the
new ideas of the revolutionaries. The new ideas of the revolutionaries have to do with the fact
that there government is not functioning properly which goes on to Phase 4.
During the French Revolution, the „Law of suspects‟ being passed that executed non

8

“Profile: Muammar Gaddafi” BBC. June 27, 2011
Unknown source “Muammar Gaddafi Biography”
10
Anthony Bourdain “Parts unknown Libya” May 13, 2013
11
Simon Denyer, “Libyans carry out reprisal attacks” August 26, 2011
9

supporters of the revolution. During the Libyan Revolution, the revolutionaries „hunting‟ the
supporters of the old regime was like the reign of terror. Both Revolutions had a Reign of Terror
that went against non-supporters of the revolution.

Phase 4: Almost a Democratic Country

Both phases had an end to their revolution. The French Revolution ended and Napoleon
crowned himself the emperor. Louis XVI along with Marie Antoinette, were both executed by
their people, after, there was chaos. On the other hand, this also compares how in Libya, Gaddafi
died in the hands of his people, on October 20, 2011. After their dictator was killed, three days

later, their freedom was officially declared.12 Everyone started celebrating, which after, the
government-less country became chaotic, just like the people did after executing Louis XVI and
Marie Antoinette. Despite this, today, Libya has elected a new leader, Nouri Abusahmen, for their
National Assembly, also known as the General National Congress. This is similar to how the
French Revolution ended, after Napoleon crowned himself king, he created a new constitution
bringing order in France. On the other hand, Libya does not have a official government yet but the
leader for the General National Congress is expected to play a role in drafting the new
constitution.13
Both Libya and the French Revolution created a constitution, contributing to their new
limited monarchy. After Napoleon crowned himself emperor, his constitution benefitted the men
rather than the women. In contrast, Libyan constitution, both, women and men were treated with
the same level of respect. For example, women were allowed to vote, like the men; for the first
time after Gaddafi‟s death14. In the constitution, one part stated “Libyans shall be equal before the
law. They shall enjoy equal civil and political rights, shall have the same opportunities...without
discrimination due to religion, doctrine, language, wealth, race, kinship, political opinions, and
social status, tribal or eminent or familial loyalty.15” The revolution in Libya ended on good
terms. There is democracy in the country, and people have a voice they can use to express their
feelings.

12

“Libya Timeline.” BBC. Updated: October 14, 2014
“Libya assembly elects Beber Nouri Abusahmen as head.” BBC. June 25, 2013
14
Luke Harding, “Anniversary of Gaddafi‟s death: Is Libya better or worse off?” The Guardian. October
19, 2012
15
Draft Constitutional Charter For the Transitional Stage The Constitutional Declaration
13

Excellent job everyone! This is a very sophisticated final project. I love your analysis and
that each phase had a direct comparison. Also, I can tell that all of you went through the checklist
for Be Precise II. I noticed very few grammatical mistakes. I would hang on to this project if I
were you- this could be really helpful when you are studying for the regents. I hope you all got a
lot out of this unit!