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History of Morocco to the present day


Morocco Early History Morocco Modern HistoryEarly Moroccan History Morocco Colonial History
The Struggle for Independence

A strong threat to European rule was posed (1921–26) by the the Rif War of Abd el-Krim. In 1934 a group of young Moroccans presented a plan for reform, marking the beginning of the nationalist movement. In 1937 the French crushed a nationalist revolt. Whilst later, Franco's successful revolt against the republican government of Spain began in Spanish Morocco in 1936.


During World War II, French Morocco remained officially loyal to the Vichy government after the fall of France in 1940. On Nov. 8, 1942, Allied forces landed at all the major cities of Morocco and Algeria; on Nov. 11, all resistance ended and in January 1943, Allied wartime leaders met at Casablanca.


During the war an independence party, the Istiqlal, was formed. After the war the nationalist movement gained strength and received the active support of the sultan, Sidi Muhammad, who demanded a unitary state and the departure of the French and Spanish. Vast numbers of Jews emigrated to the newly formed state of Israel in the early 1950s, although a small number remained.


Faced with growing nationalist agitation, in 1952 the French outlawed the Istiqlal and in August1953, deposed and exiled Sidi Muhammad. These measures proved ineffective, and under the pressure of rebellion in Algeria and disorders in Morocco, the French were compelled, in 1955 to restore Sidi Muhammad. In March 1956, France relinquished its rights in Morocco; in April the Spanish surrendered their protectorate; in October Tangier was given to Morocco by international agreement. Spain ceded the Southern Protectorate in 1958.

Modern Morocco

In 1957 the Sultan became King Muhammad V and soon embarked on a foreign policy of “positive neutrality”. After the king's death his son Hassan II ascended the throne. He soon enacted a new constitution that established a two house parliament. Border hostilities with Algeria in 1963 cost both sides many lives and a final agreement on the border was reached only in 1970.


In 1965 a political crisis threatened to undermine the monarchy, in response King Hassan declared a state of emergency and took over both executive and legislative powers. The country returned to a modified form of parliamentary democracy in 1970, with a revised constitution that strengthened the king's authority. Opposition groups, later called the National Front, rejected the constitution and boycotted legislative elections.
Hassan announced a new constitution in February 1972, which lessened the king's powers. In August an assassination attempt took place, when the airplane carrying King Hassan was strafed on its way back from France. The king continued to rule in isolation and maintained relative order through a policy of suppression.


In 1974, Morocco pressed its claim to sovereignty over Spanish Sahara, and in November 1975, Hassan lead the “Green March” of over 300,000 unarmed Moroccans to the disputed region. In 1976, Spain relinquished control of the area, ceding it to Morocco and Mauritania as Western Sahara. However, the Polisario Front, a group of Western Saharan guerrillas with Algerian and Libyan backing, fought for independence for the territory. Morocco took over Mauritania's portion of Western Sahara in 1979 and continued to battle the Polisario throughout the 1980s.


Normalization of relations between Morocco and Algeria in 1988 cut off Algerian support for the rebels, and in 1991 the Polisario and Morocco agreed to a cease-fire. A UN-sponsored referendum to decide the territory's permanent status was ordered for the early 1990s. Disputes regarding who would be permitted to vote delayed the referendum through the 1990s, during which time the region was integrated administratively into Morocco. King Hassan died in 1999 and was succeeded by his son Crown Prince Sidi Mohammed, as Muhammad VI.


Still extremely popular, the new king has revealed himself to be a strong advocate of social change and economic improvement, introducing women’s rights and moving the country closer towards Europe rather than Arabia.


Further Reading
S. Bernard, The Franco-Moroccan Conflict, 1953–1956 (1968)
R. F. Nyrop et al., Area Handbook for Morocco (1972)
R. Le Tourneau, The Modern History of Morocco (1973)
W. Spencer, Historical Dictionary of Morocco (1980)
E. DeAmicis, Morocco (1984)
A. M. Findlay et al., ed., Morocco (1984)
D. Porch, The Conquest of Morocco (1986).
Soucres: With thanks to Columbia University Press