Thirty-two Years with Islam (1832-1864)


Trente-deux ans a travers l'Islam (1832-1864) (Thirty-two years with Islam [1832-1864]) is a memoir by French soldier and diplomat Léon Roches (1809−1901), covering his career in North Africa and other parts of the Middle East, including a brief sojourn in Mecca. It is based on his diary and on correspondence that he reviewed following his retirement from government service. Beginning with his first arrival in French Algeria in 1832, the author recounts his diplomatic and military assignments in Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Arabia. His mastery of Arabic was such that he was appointed interpreter to army headquarters. In this capacity, and later as advisor to generals, he participated in most of the dramatic events surrounding the revolt by ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Jaza’iri (1808−83) against the expanding French occupation. Also included is an account of the vexed negotiations between Morocco and France. In 1841 Roches traveled to Medina and Mecca with acquaintances he made in Cairo, paying his share of expenses for transport and food. Despite his laisser-passer from religious authorities, he was arrested as a non-Muslim trespassing on holy ground reserved for the faithful. He was ultimately released and deported on orders of the sharif of Mecca. The memoir is an important document in the history of French colonialism in North Africa and sheds much light on Algerian leaders, especially ‘Abd al-Qadir. There are photographs and engravings throughout. The two volumes were published in Paris by the famous printer-publisher Firmin-Didot.

Last updated: February 18, 2015