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History, European Intrusion

port of Ceuta, Spanish Sahara, French protectorate, Barbary pirates, Tetouan

In 1415 Portugal had captured the port of Ceuta. This intrusion initiated a period of gradual extension of Portuguese and Spanish power over the Moroccan coastal region. The Moroccans inflicted a severe defeat on the Portuguese in 1578, and by the end of the 17th century they had regained control of most of their coastal cities. In the 18th and early 19th centuries pirates from Morocco and other so-called Barbary states of North Africa preyed on the shipping that plied the Mediterranean Sea. Because of the depredations of the Barbary pirates and because Morocco shared control of the Strait of Gibraltar with Spain, the country figured with increasing weight in the diplomacy of the European maritime powers, particularly Spain, Britain, and France. Spain invaded Morocco in 1859-1860 and acquired Tetouan.

In April 1904, in return for receiving a free hand in Egypt from France, Britain recognized Morocco as a French sphere of interest. Later that year France and Spain divided Morocco into zones of influence, with Spain receiving the much smaller part of Morocco and the region south of Morocco, which would become Spanish Sahara. Imperial Germany soon disputed these arrangements, and a conference of major powers, including the United States, met in Algeciras, Spain, in January 1906, to conclude an agreement. The resultant Act of Algeciras guaranteed equality of economic rights for every nation in Morocco.

In July 1911, the Germans sent a gunboat to the Moroccan port city of Agadir, in a move designed to encourage native resistance to French dominance. This incident provoked French mobilization and brought Europe to the brink of war, but in later negotiations Germany agreed to a French protectorate over Morocco in return for French territorial concessions elsewhere in Africa.

In March 1912 the sultan recognized the protectorate. Later that year the French, under a revision of the 1904 convention with Spain, obtained a larger share of Moroccan territory.

Article key phrases:

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