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History of Morocco

Morocco boasts the origin of the world's earliest known figurine. Dating to somewhere between 500,000 and 300,000 BC (Middle Acheulean period) the prehistoric piece bears evidence of having been painted. See Figurine ([1]). According to some sources, the eastern bordering state of Algeria boasts the highest state of development of Middle Paleolithic flake-tool techniques. In addition to Neandertal hand axes dating to circa 43,000 BC tools dating to an era starting about 30,000 BC in northeastern Algeria are marked by a high standard of workmanship, great variety, and specialization. See History of Algeria.

The Capsian culture brought Morocco into the Neolithic about 8000 BC, in a time when the Maghreb was less arid than it is today. The Berber language probably arrived at roughly the same time as agriculture (see Berber), and was adopted by the existing population as well as the immigrants that brought it. Modern DNA analysis (see link) has confirmed that various populations have contributed to the present-day gene pool of Morocco, including, in addition to the main ethnic groups - Berbers and Arabs - Phoenicians, Sephardic Jews, and Sub-Saharan Africans. The arrival of Phoenicians heralded many centuries of rule by foreign powers for the north of Morocco, as this strategic region formed part of the Roman empire before falling to the Vandals, Visigoths, and then Byzantine Greeks. During this time, however, the high mountains of most of modern Morocco remained unsubdued, and stayed in the hands of their Berber inhabitants.

Arab forces began occupying Morocco in the seventh century, bringing their civilization and Islam, to which most of the Berbers converted, forming states such as the Kingdom of Nekor. The country soon broke away from the control of the distant caliphs under Idris ibn Salih who founded the Idrisid Dynasty . Morocco became a centre of learning and a major power.

Morrocco would reach its height under a series of Berber dynasties that would replace the Arab Idrisids. First the Almoravids, then the Almohads would see Morocco rule most of Northwest Africa, as well as large sections of Spain. The smaller states of the region, such as the Berghouata and Banu Isam, were conquered.

The empire collapsed, however, with a long running series of civil wars. The Alaouite Dynasty eventually gained control. Morocco was facing aggression from the crusading kingdoms of Iberia and the Ottoman Empire that was sweeping westward. The Alaouites succeeded in stabilizing their position, and while the kingdom was smaller than previous ones in the region it remained quite wealthy.

European Influence

The successful Portuguese efforts to control the Atlantic coast in the 15th century did not affect the Mediterranean heart of Morocco. After the Napoleonic Wars, Egypt and the North African maghreb became increasingly ungovernable from Constantinople, the resort of pirates under local beys, and as Europe industrialized, an increasingly prized potential for colonization. The maghreb had far greater proven wealth than the unknown rest of Africa and a location of strategic importance affecting the exit from the Mediterranean. For the first time, Morocco became a state of some import to the European Powers. France showed a strong interest in Morocco as early as 1830. Recognition by the United Kingdom in 1904 of France's "sphere of influence" in Morocco provoked a German reaction; the "crisis" of 1905-6 was resolved at the Algeciras Conference (1906), which formalized France's "special position" and entrusted policing of Morocco jointly to France and Spain. A second "Moroccan crisis" provoked by Berlin, increased European Great Power tensions, but the Treaty of Fez (signed on March 30, 1912) made Morocco a protectorate of France. By the same treaty, Spain assumed the role of protecting power over the northern and southern (Saharan) zones on November 27 that year.

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 (a joint U.S.-British statement that set forth, among other things, the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they live). A manifesto of the Istiqlal (Independence) Party in 1944 was one of the earliest public demands for independence. That party subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement.

France's exile of the highly respected Sultan Mohammed V in 1953 and his replacement by the unpopular Mohammed Ben Aarafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate, sparked active opposition to the French protectorate. France allowed Mohammed V to return in 1955, and the negotiations that led to Moroccan independence began the following year.


The Kingdom of Morocco recovered its political independence from France on March 2, 1956 and on April 7 of that year France officially relinquished its protectorate in Morocco. Through agreements with Spain in 1956 and 1958, Moroccan control over certain Spanish-ruled areas was restored, though attempts to reclaim Spanish colonial possessions through military action were less successful. The internationalized city of Tangier was reintegrated with the signing of the Tangier Protocol on October 29, 1956. Hassan II became King of Morocco on March 3, 1961. The Spanish enclave of Ifni in the south became part of Morocco in 1969. Spain, however, retains control over the small enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in the north.

Morocco virtually annexed Western Sahara during the late 1970s, but final resolution on the status of the territory remains unresolved. See History of Western Sahara#1975 till present.

Gradual political reforms in the 1990s resulted in the establishment of a bicameral legislature in 1997.

See also: Morocco, History of Ceuta, List of conflicts in the Maghreb, Moroccan Wall

External links

Last updated: 06-02-2005 03:02:11
Last updated: 08-17-2005 12:57:11