History of Mauritania: European Rule

History of Mauritania: European Rule Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010

Traders from Europe arrived in Mauritania in the 15th century when the Portuguese set up a trading post on the island of Arguin. The Dutch followed and traded in gum arabic from the Sahel. The French and English were the next colonizers in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The French were given a mandate to exploit and control coastal Mauritania in 1814. They were masters at exploiting divisions within the Moors, playing on the loyalties of the two great religious leaders Sheikh Sidiya Bab of Traarza, who supported the French, and Sheikh Ma Al-Ainine, who led the opposition, getting arms from Morocco, Spain and Germany. Ma Al-Ainine tried to take advantage of the weakness of Morocco at that time, but the French crushed his Moorish resistance in 1908.

Ma Al-Ainine died in 1910 and sporadic resistance to French rule continued until 1934.

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