History of Morocco: European Domination

History of Morocco: European Domination Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010

Portuguese and Spanish power had been growing in the Mediterranean region since the beginning of the 15th century, and in 1415 the Moroccan port of Ceuta was captured by Portugal. Moroccan forces defeated the Portuguese in 1578, and by 1700 had regained control of many coastal towns which had previously been in Portuguese hands. During the 18th and early 19th centuries, the Barbary Coast became the scene of widespread piracy. Ships which traded in the Mediterranean were plundered and protection money was extorted from several sea-going nations.

Morocco shared possession of the Straits of Gibraltar with Spain, resulting in a focus of attention from the maritime powers in Europe, particularly France and Britain. By the beginning of the 20th century Britain had recognized Morocco as a French sphere of influence and in 1904 Morocco was divided between France and Spain, with the former receiving the larger area. These arrangements were regarded as spurious by Imperial Germany and, despite the Act of Algeciras (an agreement signed by the major powers in 1906, which guaranteed equal economic rights in Morocco), Germany was still dissatisfied.

In 1911, a German gunboat was dispatched to the Moroccan port of Agadir, in an attempt to excite further nationalist unrest against the French. French troops were mobilized and Europe seemed poised on the edge of serious conflict. Negotiations resulted in Germany's agreement to the French protectorate over Morocco, in return for concessions elsewhere, and war was averted. The sultan of Morocco officially recognized the French protectorate in 1912.

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.

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