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History of Morocco

European Influence

The success of the Portuguese to control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century did not affect the Mediterranean heart of Morocco. After the Napoleonic Wars, Egypt and North African became increasingly ungovernable from Istanbul by the Ottoman Empire and, as Europe industrialised, an increasingly prized potential for colonization. France had showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830.

In April 1904, in return for receiving a free hand in Egypt from France, Britain recognized Morocco as a French sphere of interest. Later that year France and Spain divided Morocco into zones of influence, with Spain receiving the much smaller part of Morocco and the region south of Morocco, which would become Spanish Sahara. Germany soon disputed these arrangements, and a conference of major powers, including the United States, met in Algeciras in Spain in January 1906, to conclude an agreement. The resultant Act of Algeciras guaranteed equality of economic rights for every nation in Morocco.

In July 1911, the Germans sent a gunboat to Agadir in a move designed to encourage Moroccan resistance to French dominance. This incident provoked French mobilization and brought Europe to the brink of war, but in later negotiations Germany agreed to a French protectorate over Morocco in return for French territorial concessions elsewhere in Africa. In March 1912, the sultan of Morocco recognized the protectorate. Later that year the French, under a revision of the 1904 convention with Spain, obtained a larger share of Moroccan territory.

Spanish Morocco was experiencing its own share of problems, with a revolt against Spanish rule which flared up in 1920. Led by Abd-el-Krim, the Moroccan resistance forces had driven the Spanish forces out of Moroccan territory within four years. France and Spain formed an alliance against Abd-el-Krim and the revolutionary forces were defeated in 1926 (although not until 1934 in parts of the Atlas Mountains).


Nationalist political parties, which subsequently arose under the French protectorate, based their arguments for Moroccan independence on such World War II declarations as the Atlantic Charter, which is a joint US-British statement that sets forth, among other things, the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they live. Many Moroccan soldiers assisted the Americans in both World War I and World War II. A manifesto of the Istiqlal (Independence) Party in 1944 was one of the earliest public demands for independence. That party subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement.

In 1953, France exiled the highly respected Sultan Mohammed V and replaced him with the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, thus sparking active opposition to the French protectorate. France allowed Mohammed V to return in 1955 and the negotiations that led to Moroccan independence began the following year.

History: Arab Sharifian Dynasties   History: Independence

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