Colonel Muammar Gaddafi (or Mu'Ammar Qathafi or even Ghaddafi - there is no single correct transliteration for Arabic words) came to power in a virtually bloodless coup in 1969, deposing King Idris who had ruled Libya since independence in 1951.
The first years of King Idris' rule were dedicated to trying to rebuild the country whose economy had been shattered by many years of wars. In 1959 oil was discovered and soon money started coming into the country but few were benefiting. Gaddafi saw how foreign companies; foreign powers and a small minority of Libyan population were exploiting the oil riches.
Gaddafi also saw the American, French and British presence in Libya as part of their military attempt at keeping control of the area and in particularly to support Israel as a state created to keep the Middle East under their influence. He set about improving Libya's hold over the oil wealth. After ousting foreign troops from Libya he decreed that all foreign companies must have a minimum 50% Libyan holding. His reforms were also directed at improving the lot of the average Libyan who was very poor. He introduced education, medicine, electricity and water to all parts of Libya.
At one stage he went alone into the desert for a month in order to meditate about his vision for a new Libya. The result was "The Green Book" which was his view of a socialist Libya ruled by the people themselves.
Many new towns were built near old ones and people were encouraged to move to the new, more comfortable houses. One of his greatest, though more controversial, projects was the "Great Man Made River" which brought plentiful good water to many areas of Libya. Less popular amongst some groups were his laws giving women greater equality in the Libyan society. Old customs die hard - especially in the desert communities.
His charismatic and colourful leadership was less successful with foreign affairs. He initially attempted to unite Arab countries to work more closely together especially with regard to policies towards world trade and attitudes to Israel. Having failed he turned to Africa and put his efforts into creating greater African unity. At one stage he abolished visas for all neighbouring African countries. He also espoused the Palestinian cause and supported terrorist groups thereby bringing Libya into conflict with the western democracies. Many bombings including that of a Panam flight over Scotland were attributed to Libya. The country was subjected to trade embargoes and international flights were virtually stopped.
In recent years Gaddafi admitted to taking too radical a stance and he had made efforts to improve his image on the world stage. In the last few years sanctions have been lifted and trade and tourism have again started to flourish.
So a new era in Libyan history is began with Gaddafi trying to suggest that he is a reformed character but in reality at home a ruthless police state maintained law and order and stamped out any opposition to his dictatorship.
2011 - The End of Gaddafi
After a wave of popular uprisings in North Africa the Libyans revolted against his rule. With no where to run and his supporters melting away he was trapped fighting for survival. Like with many previous dictators in his position he fought to the end and brought ruin to his country until he was finally killed on the 20th October 2011.