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History of Morocco - Early History and Colonial Struggles


Morocco History Moroccan HistoryMorocco Colonial Struggle History
Early History to the Nineteenth Century

The Berbers have inhabited Morocco since the end of the second millennium B.C. In Roman times the area we know as  modern Morocco was roughly contained within the province of Mauretania Tingitania. In the third century A.D. four bishoprics were created in the province. Jewish colonies were also established during Roman rule. The Vandals were the earliest (5th century) of barbarian peoples to overtake the area as the Roman Empire declined.
The Arabs first swept into Morocco c.685 A.D., bringing with them Islam. Christianity was all but wiped out, with only the Jewish colonies retaining their religion. Many Moroccans served in the Arab forces that invaded Spain in the early 8th century. Later, the Berber-Arab conflict fragmented the region.


Morocco became an independent state in 788 A.D under the royal line founded by Idris I. After 900 the country again broke into small tribal states. Warfare between the Fatimids of Tunisia and the Umayyads of Spain for control of the region intensified the already-existing political anarchy, which ended only when the Almoravids overran (c.1062) Morocco and established a kingdom stretching from Spain to Senegal. The Almohads, who succeeded (c.1174) the Almoravids, at first ruled both Morocco and Spain, but the Merinid dynasty (1259–1550), after some triumphs, was limited to Morocco. Rarely, however, was the country completely unified, and conflict between Arabs and Berbers was incessant.


Spain and Portugal, after expelling the Moors from the Iberian Peninsula, attacked the Moroccan coast. Beginning with the capture of Ceuta in 1415, Portugal took all the chief ports except Melilla and Larache, both of which fell to Spain. The Christian threat stimulated the growth of resistance under religious leaders, one of whom established (1554) the Saadian, or first Sherifian, dynasty. At the battle of Ksar el Kebir (1578) the Saadian king decisively defeated Portugal. The present ruling dynasty, the Alawite, or second Sherifian, dynasty, came to power in 1660 and recaptured many European-held strongholds. Morocco, like the other Barbary States, was, from the 17th to the 19th century, a base for pirates preying upon the Mediterranean trade.


Colonial Struggles

In the 19th century the strategic importance and economic potential of Morocco excited the interest of the European powers. France, after beginning a war with Algeria, defeated (1844) Sultan Abd ar-Rahman, who had aided the Algerians. Spain invaded in 1860. In 1880 the major European nations and the United States decided at the Madrid Conference to preserve the territorial integrity of Morocco and to maintain equal trade opportunities for all.

Political and commercial rivalries soon disrupted this cordial arrangement and brought on several international crises. France sought to gain Spanish and British support against the opposition of Germany. Thus, in 1904, France concluded a secret treaty with Spain to partition Morocco and secretly agreed with Great Britain (the Entente Cordiale) not to oppose British aims in Egypt in exchange for a free hand in Morocco.


In 1905, after France had asked the sultan of Morocco for a protectorate, Germany moved quickly: Emperor William II visited Tangier and declared support for Morocco's integrity. At German insistence the Algeciras Conference (Jan.–Mar., 1906) was called to consider the Moroccan question. The principles of the Madrid Conference were readopted and German investments were assured protection, but French and Spanish interests were given marked recognition by the decision to allow France to patrol the border with Algeria and to allow France and Spain to police Morocco.


Under the claim of peacemaking, the French steadily annexed territory. In 1908 friction arose at Casablanca, under French occupation, when the German consul gave refuge to deserters from the French Foreign Legion. This dispute was settled by the Hague Tribunal. Shortly afterward in a coup Abd al-Aziz IV was unseated and his brother, Abd al-Hafid, installed on the throne. He had difficulty maintaining order and received help from France and Spain, especially in a revolt that broke out in 1911. However, the appearance of the German warship Panther at Agadir on July 1, 1911, was interpreted by the French as a threat of war and led to a speedy resolution.


On Nov. 4, 1911, Germany agreed to a French protectorate in Morocco in exchange for the cession of French territory in equatorial Africa. Finally, at Fès (Mar. 30, 1912), the sultan agreed to a French protectorate, and on November 27  1912 a Franco-Spanish agreement divided Morocco into four administrative zones—French Morocco, nine-tenths of the country, a protectorate with Rabat as capital; a Spanish protectorate, which included Spanish Morocco, with its capital at Tétouan; a Southern Protectorate of Morocco, administered as part of the Spanish Sahara; and the international zone of Tangier.

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