Nationalist notion of cultural and political unity among Arab countries. Its origins lie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when increased literacy led to a cultural and literary renaissance among Arabs of the Middle East. This contributed to political agitation and led to the independence of most Arab states from the Ottoman Empire (1918) and from the European powers (by the mid-20th century). An important event was the founding in 1943 of the Ba'th Party, which formed branches in several countries and became the ruling party in Syria and Iraq. Another was the founding of the Arab League in 1945. Pan-Arabism's most charismatic and effective proponent was Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser. After Nasser's death, Syria's Hafiz al-Assad, Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and Libya's Muammar al-Qaddafi tried to assume the mantle of Arab leadership.