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حماية فرنسا في المغرب
Protectorat français du Maroc
French protectorate of Morocco
Protectorate of France

1912 – 1956


Map of Morocco in 1912; the French protectorate is shown in light green.
Capital Rabat
Language(s) French, Arabic, Berber languages
Religion Catholic, Muslim
Political structure Protectorate
 - 1912-25 Hubert Lyautey
 - 1955-56 André Louis Dubois
 - 1912-27 Yusef
 - 1927-53 Mohammed V
 - 1953-56 Mohammed Ben Aarafa
Historical era Interwar period
 - Treaty of Fez March 30, 1912
 - Independence March 2, 1956
Currency Moroccan rial
Moroccan franc

French protectorate of Morocco (Arabic: الحماية الفرنسية في المغرب‎) (French: Protectorat français du Maroc) was a French protectorate in Morocco, established by the Treaty of Fez. French Morocco did not include the north of the country, which was a Spanish protectorate. It existed from 1912, when a protectorate was formally established, until Moroccan independence (2 March 1956), and consisted generally of the area of Morocco between Fez and Rabat south to Mogador, (current day Essaouira).



The French artillery at Rabat in 1911

Despite the weakness of its authority, the Alaouite dynasty distinguished itself in the 18th and 19th centuries by maintaining Morocco’s independence while other states in the region succumbed to Turkish, French, or British domination. However, in the latter part of the 19th century Morocco’s weakness and instability invited European intervention to protect threatened investments and to demand economic concessions. The first years of the 20th century witnessed a rush of diplomatic maneuvering through which the European powers and France in particular furthered their interests in North Africa.[1]

French activity in Morocco began during the end of the 19th century. In 1904 the French government was trying to establish a protectorate over Morocco, and had managed to sign two bilateral secret agreements with Britain (April 8) 1904 and Spain (October 7) 1904, which guaranteed the support of the powers in question in this endeavour. France and Spain secretly partitioned the territory of the sultanate, with Spain receiving concessions in the far north and south of the country.


First Moroccan Crisis

The First Moroccan Crisis grew out of the imperial rivalries of the great powers, in this case, between Germany on one side and France, with British support, on the other. Germany took immediate diplomatic action to block the new accord from going into effect, including the dramatic visit of Wilhelm II to Tangier in Morocco on March 31, 1905. Kaiser Wilhelm tried to get Morocco's support if they went to war with France or Britain, and gave a speech expressing support for Moroccan independence, which amounted to a provocative challenge to French influence in Morocco.

In 1906 the Algeciras Conference was held to settle the dispute, and Germany accepted an agreement in which France agreed to yield control of the Moroccan police, but otherwise retained effective control of Moroccan political and financial affairs. Although the Algeciras Conference temporarily solved the First Moroccan Crisis it only worsened international tensions between the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente.

Agadir Crisis

In 1911 a rebellion broke out in Morocco against the Sultan, Abdelhafid. By early April 1911 the Sultan was besieged in his palace in Fez and the French prepared to send troops to help put down the rebellion under the pretext of protecting European lives and property. The French dispatched a flying column at the end of April 1911 and Germany gave approval for the occupation of the city. On 5 June 1911 the Spanish occupied Larache and Ksar-el-Kebir. On 1 July 1911 the German gunboat Panther arrived at the port of Agadir. There was an immediate reaction from the French and the British. France subsequently established a protectorate over Morocco (March 30, 1912), ending what remained of the country's formal independence.

French protectorate

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The protectorate was officialy established with the Treaty of Fez, in 1912. Sultan Abdelhafid abdicated in favor of his brother Yusef after signing the treaty. In establishing their protectorate over much of Morocco, the French had behind them the experience of the conquest of Algeria and of their protectorate over Tunisia; they took the latter as the model for their Moroccan policy. There were, however, important differences. First, the protectorate was established only two years before the outbreak of World War I, which brought with it a new attitude toward colonial rule. Second, Morocco had a thousand-year tradition of independence; though it had been strongly influenced by the civilization of Muslim Spain, it had never been subject to Ottoman rule. These circumstances and the proximity of Morocco to Spain created a special relationship between the two countries.

Morocco was also unique among the North African countries in possessing a coast on the Atlantic, in the rights that various nations derived from the Conference of Algeciras, and in the privileges that their diplomatic missions had acquired in Tangier. Thus, the northern tenth of the country, with both Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, together with the desert province of Tarfaya in the southwest adjoining the Spanish Sahara, were excluded from the French-controlled area and treated as a Spanish protectorate.

Under the protectorate, French civil servants allied themselves with the French colons and with their supporters in France to prevent any moves in the direction of Moroccan autonomy. As pacification proceeded, the French government promoted economic development, particularly the exploitation of Morocco’s mineral wealth, the creation of a modern transportation system, and the development of a modern agriculture sector geared to the French market. Tens of thousands of colons entered Morocco and bought up large amounts of the rich agricultural land. Interest groups that formed among these elements continually pressured France to increase its control over Morocco.

Opposition to French control

Rif Rebellion

Sultan Yusef's reign, from 1912 to 1927, was turbulent and marked with frequent uprisings against Spain and France. The most serious of these was a Berber uprising in the Rif Mountains, led by Abd el-Krim. Who managed to establish a republic in the Rif. Though this rebellion originally began in the Spanish-controlled area in the north of the country, it reached to the French-controlled area until a coalition of France and Spain finally defeated the rebels in 1925. To ensure their own safety, the French moved the court from Fez to Rabat, which has served as the capital of the country ever since.

Nationalist parties

In December 1934, a small group of nationalists, members of the newly formed Moroccan Action Committee (Comité d’Action Marocaine - CAM), proposed a Plan of Reforms that called for a return to indirect rule as envisaged by the Treaty of Fez, admission of Moroccans to government positions, and establishment of representative councils. The moderate tactics used by the CAM to obtain consideration of reform - including petitions, newspaper editorials, and personal appeals to French. 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.

During World War II, the badly divided nationalist movement became more cohesive, and informed Moroccans dared to consider the real possibility of political change in the post-war era. However, the nationalists were disappointed in their belief that the Allied victory in Morocco would pave the way for independence. In January 1944, the Istiqlal Party, which subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement, released a manifesto demanding full independence, national reunification, and a democratic constitution. The sultan had approved the manifesto before its submission to the French resident general, who answered that no basic change in the protectorate status was being considered.

Exile of Sultan Mohammed

Casablanca in 1950s

The general sympathy of the sultan for the nationalists had become evident by the end of the war, although he still hoped to see complete independence achieved gradually. By contrast, the residency, supported by French economic interests and vigorously backed by most of the colons, adamantly refused to consider even reforms short of independence. Official intransigence contributed to increased animosity between the nationalists and the colons and gradually widened the split between the sultan and the resident general.

Mohammed V and his family were transferred to Madagascar in January 1954. His replacement by the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, sparked active opposition to the French protectorate both from nationalists and those who saw the sultan as a religious leader.By 1955, Ben Arafa was pressured to abdicate; consequently, he fled to Tangier where he formally abdicated. The French authorities, Glaoui and the Spanish High Commissioner wanted the caliph of Spanish Morocco to be Acting Sultan for Morocco in its entirety [2]. However, Ahmed Belbachir Haskouri, the caliph's right-hand man, opposed the request, on the grounds that it would be tantamount to saving face for the French during a period of time where Mohammed V's return was increasingly conceivable as the resistance was making headway.

Later on, faced with a united Moroccan demand for the sultan’s return, on a great scale, rising violence in Morocco, and the deteriorating situation in Algeria, Mohammed V was returned from exile on November 16, 1955, and again recognized as Sultan. In February 1956 he successfully negotiated with France for the independence of Morocco, and in 1957 took the title of King. He successfully depended on Ahmed Belbachir Haskouri, the right-hand man of the caliph of Spanish Morocco, to facilitate the independence process for Spanish Morocco during his visit to Madrid to sign the independence. The sultan equally depended on Belbachir after independence to administratively absorb the previously separated protectorate-Spanish Morocco.

Independence from France and Spain

In late 1955, Mohammed V successfully negotiated the gradual restoration of Moroccan independence within a framework of French-Moroccan interdependence. The sultan agreed to institute reforms that would transform Morocco into a constitutional monarchy with a democratic form of government. In February 1956, Morocco acquired limited home rule. Further negotiations for full independence culminated in the Spanish-Moroccan Agreement signed in Paris on March 2, 1956. On April 7 of that year France officially relinquished its protectorate in Morocco. The internationalized city of Tangier was reintegrated with the signing of the Tangier Protocol on October 29, 1956. The abolition of the Spanish protectorate and the recognition of Moroccan independence by Spain were negotiated separately and made final in the Joint Declaration of April 1956.[3] Through this agreements with Spain in 1956 and another in 1958, Moroccan control over certain Spanish-ruled areas was restored, though attempts to claim other Spanish possessions through military action were less successful.

In the months that followed independence, Mohammed V proceeded to build a modern governmental structure under a constitutional monarchy in which the sultan would exercise an active political role. He acted cautiously, having no intention of permitting more radical elements in the nationalist movement to overthrow the established order. He was also intent on preventing the Istiqlal from consolidating its control and establishing a single-party state. In August 1957, Mohammed V assumed the title of king.

Monetary policy

The French minted coinage for use in the Protectorate from 1921 until 1956, which continued to circulate until a new currency was introduced. The French minted coins with denomination of francs, which were divided into 100 centimes. This was replaced in 1974 with the reintroduction of the dirham, Morocco's current currency.

The Algeciras conference gave concessions to the European bankers, ranging from a newly-formed State Bank of Morocco, to issuing banknotes backed by gold, with a 40-year term. The new state bank was to act as Morocco's Central Bank, but with a strict cap on the spending of the Sherifian Empire, with administrators appointed by the national banks that guaranteed the loans: the German Empire, United Kingdom, France and Spain.

Postal history

A French postal agency had sent mail from Tangier as early as 1854, but the formal beginning of the system was in 1891, when French post offices were established throughout the sultanate. The offices issued postage stamps of France surcharged with values in pesetas and centimos, at a 1-1 ratio with the denominations in French currency, using both the Type Sage issues, and after 1902, Mouflon issue inscribed "MAROC" (which were never officially issued without the surcharge). In 1911, the Mouflon designs were overprinted in Arabic; in the same year, the Sherifian post was created to handle local mail, using special stamps.

The first stamps of the protectorate appeared 1 August 1914, and were just the existing stamps with the additional overprint reading "PROTECTORAT FRANCAIS". The first new designs were in an issue of 1917, consisting of 17 stamps in six designs, denominated in centimes and francs, and inscribed "MAROC".

See also

Further reading

  • Gershovich, Moshe (2000). French Military Rule in Morocco: colonialism and its consequences. Routledge. ISBN 0-7146-4949-X.  


  1. ^ Furlong, Charles Wellington (September 1911). "The French Conquest Of Morocco: The Real Meaning Of The International Trouble". The World's Work: A History of Our Time XXII: 14988–14999.  
  2. ^ Benjelloun, Abdelmajid (1988). Approches du colonialism espagnol et du movement nationaliste marocain dans l’ex-Maroc Khalifien. Rabat, Morocco: OKAD Publishing Company
  3. ^ Text used in this cited section originally came from: Morocco profile from the Library of Congress Country Studies project.


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