French Morocco


In preparation for the peace conference that was expected to follow World War I, in the spring of 1917 the British Foreign Office established a special section responsible for preparing background information for use by British delegates to the conference. French Morocco is Number 101 in a series of more than 160 studies produced by the section, most of which were published after the conclusion of the 1919 Paris Peace Conference. The study can be read in conjunction with Number 122 in the series, Spanish Morocco. The book covers physical and political geography, political history, social and political conditions, and economic conditions. The historical section gives a brief overview of Moroccan history from the Arab conquest of the seventh century, to the Berber dynasties of the 11th‒16th centuries, to the Sherifian dynasties of the 16th‒19th centuries, and concludes with the modern era beginning in 1830 with the French invasion of Algeria and spanning the period up to 1912 when French and Spanish protectorates were established in Morocco. The “Moroccan Question,” involving rivalry among the European powers for influence in the strategically important territory, is covered in detail. The study estimates the total population of Morocco at between 4 million and 6 million people, of which from 3.5 million to 5 million were living in French Morocco; 1 million in the Spanish Protectorate; and another 1 million in parts of Morocco not occupied by either European power. The main ethnic groups are listed as Berbers, Arabs, Jews, and several others. The study notes: “The determining factors of Moroccan history have always been its geography and ethnography. Its wide tracts of extremely fertile and easily cultivable soil have from the earliest times attracted invaders from the east, and still more from the deserts of the south. Its long coast-line, lying as the country does along two trade-routes—a Mediterranean and an Atlantic—threatened the security of European traders and voyagers for long years….” More recently, “reports of Morocco’s mineral resources excited the attention of competing Powers and stimulated international rivalry.”

Last updated: February 4, 2016