Modern History of the Arab Countries. Vladimir Borisovich Lutsky 1969



Throughout the entire 19th century, unlike Algeria and Tunisia, Morocco retained formal independence. In reality, however, she had already become a semi-colony of the European Powers. Morocco was too weak and backward not to be taken over and only the rivalry between them delayed her conversion into a colony proper for so long.

The end of the 18th century saw the rapid development of capitalism in Europe. Morocco, on the contrary, was still wallowing in a state of medieval stagnation and feudal anarchy. She lagged far behind the European Powers and was incapable of withstanding their onslaught. Having lost a number of wars to the European Powers, she was forced into unequal agreements with them. Back in 1767, a treaty had been concluded between France and the Moroccan Sultan according to which consular jurisdiction, unlike the treaty of 1631, became the unilateral privilege of the French subjects in Morocco and did not apply to the Moroccan subjects in France. The capitulations for the French merchants and residents were considerably expanded by the agreement of 1767. They began to enjoy not only judicial but also tax immunity.

The protege, an institution which even the Turkish capitulations had not possessed, was also exempted from taxation. The proteges were natives, subjects of the Moroccan Sultan, who worked in the service of French residents. Each French merchant could hire the Moroccans to serve him and they were automatically affected by the capitulations. They stopped paying taxes (although this was not envisaged in the agreements) and enjoyed virtual judicial immunity. They could be tried only by French consuls, not bythe Moroccan court. This kind of tax and judicial immunity was so attractive to the Moroccans, especially the Moroccan feudalists and merchants, that they often had recourse to French “protection” in order to avoid taxation and unfair

judges and declared themselves the consuls’ and residents’ employees. In this way France built up inside Morocco a wide network of agents drawn from among the local feudalists and merchants, which was not dependent on the Moroccan Sultan and eluded his sovereignty. The capitulations applied to all Moroccans connected with the French merchants, and even to the métayers. Most of the French merchants in Morocco engaged in agriculture, mainly in livestock breeding. They had no land and put the cattle in the care of peasants on the basis of the métayage system. Even these herdsmen did not pay taxes to the Moroccan Sultan and did not come under the jurisdiction of his courts. These capitulations, which were an inferior copy of the Ottoman Empire’s capitulations, later extended to a number of other Powers.

Spain had also concluded an agreement with Morocco in the same year as France (1767) and had already become a capitulation Power by then. Other Powers received capitulations in the 19th century. Some of them concluded direct capitulation agreements, others concluded agreements of most favoured nation treatment and thus received capitulations.

Besides France and Spain, Austria, Sardinia (later Sardinia’s rights were ceded to Italy), the United States of America, Britain, Holland and Belgium all acquired capitulations in Morocco. In 1880, the capitulations became the subject of a special international convention. An international conference which was summoned in Madrid in the summer of 1880 worked out a universal convention on the capitulations and on the protege system in Morocco. On the basis of this convention, apart from the above-mentioned states, the capitulations were extended to the other members of the Madrid Conference, namely, Germany, Sweden, Nor-way, Denmark and Portugal. Moreover, in 1881, the Madrid Convention was joined by Russia, who had also received capitulations.

Besides capitulations, the Europeans pressed for the right to buy land and to own other real estate in Morocco. Spain was the first to achieve this on the basis of a peace treaty in 1799. She was followed by England, on the strength of an agreement concluded in 1856. Other Powers enjoyed this right by virtue of the most-favoured-nation treatment granted to them. Finally in 1880, the Madrid Convention granted this right to all the capitulation Powers of Europe.

Unequal agreements were concluded not only on capitulations, but also on such questions as customs-tariffs. In particular, the Anglo-Moroccan Treaty of 1856 introduced tariffs in Morocco which made it possible for British merchants and, later, for other European merchants, on the basis of the most-favoured-nation treatment, to import their goods into Morocco without hindrance of any kind. In 1890, Germany concluded an even more profitable commercial agreement which considerably reduced (by as much as a half in some cases) the former customs-tariffs. Once again on the basis of the most-favoured-nation treatment the terms of the treaty were extended to other European states.


At the dawn of the new era the Europeans had seized a number of territories in Morocco. Between the 15th and 17th centuries the Portuguese owned the entire western coast of Morocco, Spain held a number of military posts, presidios, on the Northern coast, and the British had Tangier. By the beginning of the 19th century, the Portuguese had been forced out of Morocco, but Spain still retained her presidios. These were Ceuta Melilla, the islands of Alhucemas and Penon-de-Velez. These presidios served as bases for Spain’s economic and political penetration into the Moroccan interior and as springboards for the Spanish campaigns against the neighbouring Moroccan tribes. In 1848 the Spanish took over the Zafran Islands. During the Spanish-Moroccan war of 1859-60, which was described in some detail by Engels in his military despatches published in the New York Daily ‘Tribune, the Spanish seized Tetuan. But the British intervened in the peace talks and prevented the Spanish from reaping the fruits of victory. Tetuan was restored to the Moroccans and Spain received only the region of Ifni.

During the 19th century, France also invaded Moroccan territory on more than one occasion. In 1844, the French violated the Moroccan borders in pursuit of Abd el-Kader. Marshal Bugeaud was supported by the French fleet, which bombarded Tangier and Mogador. Under pressure from Britain, France was unable to use her victories for immediate territorial seizures, but she deliberately refused to draw up a definite boundary line between her Algerian domains and Morocco. According to the Lalla-Marnia treaty (1845), the borderline was fixed only on a small strip of land in the north. Further south, a process of delimiting the nomad tribes rather than the territory took place. Some of the tribes passed under French, others under Moroccan control.

During the 19th century, France took advantage of this vague definition of frontiers to seize a number of Moroccan oases adjacent to Algeria and at the outset of the 20th century, she placed the border zone under her direct rule. On July 20, 1901, France concluded a border treaty with Morocco for the formation of a mixed Franco-Moroccan Commission, which was to set up French and Moroccan posts all along the border and to hold an option among the population of the border regions. The activities of this commission resulted in the conclusion of a new border treaty in Algiers on April 20, 1902, between France and Morocco. According to the new treaty, the Moroccan Government undertook to “consolidate its authority” in the border regions and France pledged her aid, which consisted in sending her troops and police in to the Moroccan border region. France set up her own military posts and customs houses and also gained the right to arrest and try criminals on Moroccan territory. French border commissars, who took over complete control in the Moroccan border regions, were introduced.

The result of the treaty was that in 1902, French troops under General Lyautey entered the Moroccan border region and annexed the Moroccan oasis of Colomb-Bechar to Algeria. This was the beginning of the gradual occupation of Morocco by French troops.

But France could not quietly take over Morocco while the imperialists were competing fiercely for the partition of the world. This could only be done with the Powers’ approval and appropriate diplomatic preparations had to be made. Accordingly, at the beginning of the 20th century, France concluded a series of secret agreements with the European Powers, promising them all sorts of compensations for freedom of action in Morocco.


The first agreement of this kind was concluded in Rome between France and Italy in the form of letters dated December 14 and 16, 1900 (ratified in 1902). Under this agreement, France promised Italy the vilayet of Tripoli, which belonged to Turkey. She declared that she had no claim to the vilayet and would leave it outside her sphere of influence. In other words, she was offering Italy a free hand in Tripoli. Italy, in turn, declared that she did not object to “French actions in Morocco, which ensued from her neighbouring position with regard to this Empire.” Furthermore, it was stipulated that “in event of an alteration of the political and territorial status of Morocco,” i.e., in event of open annexation, “Italy reserves the right, on the basis of reciprocity, to spread her influence in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.”

Thus Morocco was “exchanged” for Tripoli. Morocco did not belong to France nor did Tripoli belong to Italy, nevertheless, they concluded a deal at the expense of nations weaker than themselves.

The next agreement, similar in character, but far more significant, was the famous Anglo-French agreement of 1904, which laid the foundation for the Entente. It was signed in London on April 8, 1904. According to this agreement, Britain and France executed a “mutual absolution of their sins.” France pledged not to “obstruct the action of Great Britain in that country by asking that a limit of time be fixed for the British occupation or in any other manner.” [L. Cromer, op cit., Vol. II, p. 391.] Britain, in turn, recognised “the right of France as a Power bordering on Morocco over a large expanse of territory, to supervise the tranquillity of Morocco and render her aid in all reforms, administrative, economic, financial and military ....” In other words, Britain left Morocco at the mercy of France, entrusting her with economic, financial, military and police control over that country. In a public declaration Britain and France stated that they had no intention of altering Egypt’s or Morocco’s status, but in the secret clauses which were added to the treaty they envisaged the time when “owing to the force of circumstances, they would be compelled to change their policy with regard to Egypt or Morocco.” This was another typical deal of the era of imperialism concluded at the expense of the weaker nations. France “bartered” Morocco for Egypt and received from Britain freedom of action in Morocco.

A vital feature of the Anglo-French treaty was the division of Morocco into spheres of influence. This was laid down in the secret part of the agreement. North Morocco became a sphere of Spanish influence and Tangier passed under international control. Moreover, Britain demanded, and this demand was accepted by France, the complete demilitarisation of the Mediterranean and the northern part of Morocco’s Atlantic coast. France and Spain promised to abstain from the erection of any fortifications in this area.

Having insisted on the partition of Morocco and the incorporation of the northern part of Morocco in the Spanish zone, Britain encouraged France to negotiate with Spain. In October 1904, France concluded an agreement with Spain in Paris which, like the Anglo-French agreement, fell into two parts, public and secret. In the public part of the declaration, which was published in the press, France and Spain announced that they favoured the integrity of the Moroccan Empire under the Sultan’s sovereignty. This was sheer hypocrisy, since in the secret part of the agreement the so-called integral empire was divided into two spheres of influence: French and Spanish. The secret part stipulated that if the political status of Morocco and the Sherifian government proved incapable of existence or if the further maintenance of the status quo proved impossible, due to the weakness of this government and its complete inability to. establish law and order, or for any other reason ascertained by common assent, Spain could freely realise her actions in the given region, which henceforth formed the sphere of her influence.

Spain, in turn, guaranteed France a free hand in her sphere of influence. True, she did so in a somewhat hidden form, not directly. Spain joined the Anglo-French treaty, thereby giving France full freedom of action.

Germany’s position gave the French diplomats serious cause for anxiety. In 1904, they explored the ground, trying to discover Germany’s attitude towards Morocco and, just in case, to reach some sort of agreement. The Germans replied that, strictly speaking, they had no interests in Morocco and the French felt they were safe in this respect. As for Russia, she was France’s ally and indeed did not display any special interest in Morocco.


Regarding the diplomatic preparations as finished, France set about conquering Morocco by the usual, well-tried methods.

First of all, in June 1904, the French banks granted Morocco a crippling loan. The Moroccan Sultan, Abd al-Aziz, had a weakness for bicycles, gramophones, cabarets and other attributes of “civilisation,” on which he spent a considerable part of the state budget. Great sums were also needed for the continuous struggle against the rebellious tribes. In short, the sultan became entangled in floating debts and France offered him a loan of 62,500,000 francs. Sixty per cent of the revenues from the Moroccan customs houses were taken as a security for the loan. A special debt administration was set up to supervise the Makhzan loan (the central government was known as makhzan, an Arabic word that originally meant storehouse).

At the beginning of 1905, a French mission headed by Rene Talandier arrived in Morocco. Talandier had been instructed to hold talks on administrative, police, financial and economic “reforms” in Morocco and a plan of “re-forms” was soon drafted. The proposals were as follows:

1) to organise a Moroccan police force under French supervision (under Spanish supervision in the Spanish sphere of influence);

2) to set up under the French banks’ control a Moroccan state bank which would issue Moroccan currency, safeguard the funds of the Moroccan Treasury, subsidise French con-cessions in Morocco, in particular, the construction of a railway line from Tangier to Fez, and to grant loans;

3) to encourage in every possible way the issue of con-cessions (railway, port, forest, mining and many others) to French trusts.

The realisation of these “reforms” would have meant Morocco’s conversion into the semblance of a French protectorate. Seeing no other way out, Abd al-Aziz was about to accept the Talandier mission’s plan, when somethingquite unforeseen happened. Kaiser Germany intervened in Morocco’s affairs.


On March 31, 1905, Kaiser Wilhelm II’s yacht approached Tangier. Wilhelm II disembarked and set out for Tangier on a white horse, where he made a speech to the crowd of Moroccans that had gathered round him. He said he had come to pay a visit to his friend, the Sultan, whose sovereignty he would defend, and that he intended to uphold the interests of Germany in Morocco. He then returned to his yacht and sailed away. The visit had a tremendous effect. What it amounted to was that Germany would either take over Morocco herself or would place it under her influence. Incidentally, Wilhelm II himself, whose dream was the Baghdad railway and the plans connected with it, had a certain distaste for the whole Moroccan adventure. From his correspondence with the Imperial Chancellor, Billow, it is evident that Wilhelm made the trip to Tangier under pressure from the chancellor and on his insistence. He even reproaches Billow for having made him ride on a white horse, of which he was physically afraid, and complains of the crowd of tramps and rogues which surrounded him in Tangier.

After the Kaiser’s visit, the Moroccan Sultan, inspired by the German diplomats, declined the Talandier mission’s proposals. He declared that he could not accept the programme of reforms on his own, that the question was of international significance and should therefore be referred to an international conference. Germany formally sup-ported the Sultan’s demand. France flatly rejected it. The Tangier conflict arose.

It did not last long. France was forced to capitulate for two reasons. The French army was still not prepared for a war with Germany and, secondly, her ally, Russia, was preoccupied with the war in the Far East and with incipient revolution. The French Foreign Minister, Delcasse, an advocate of an active policy in Morocco and one of the organisers of the Entente, was compelled to resign, and the banker Rouvier, a financier closely connected with the German banks, and even described by some French journalists as a German agent, became Foreign Minister and Prime Minister of France. Rouvier concluded an agreement with Germany and consented to take part in an international conference, having recognised in advance the following four principles:

1) the Moroccan Sultan’s sovereignty and independence;
2) the integrity of his empire;
3) the economic freedom and equality of the Powers in Morocco;
4) police and financial reforms in Morocco on the basis of an international agreement.

These four principles dealt a severe blow to French plans. True, Germany pledged to recognise France’s “lawful interests and rights in Morocco” as long as they did not contradict the above-mentioned principles, but this declaration did not change matters.


The inter-national conference on the Moroccan question met in the small Spanish town of Algeciras (near Gibraltar) on January 15, 1906. Apart from France and Germany, it was attended by Britain, Russia, the U.S.A., Italy, Spain, Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Portugal and Morocco. The conference lasted nearly three months and did not end until April 7, 1906. As the length of the conference indicates, the diplomatic struggle with the balance of forces unfavourable to Germany was intense.

France’s demands were backed by Britain, Russia, the U.S.A., Italy and Spain. France had special agreements on Morocco with Britain, Italy and Spain and an alliance with Russia. Because of their dependence on France or Britain, such states as Belgium and Portugal also joined the bloc. Germany was virtually isolated and even Austria-Hungary, Germany’s ally, saw no reason to support her. If the fact of the summoning of the conference had been a diplomatic success for Germany, the General Act adopted by the Algeciras Conference was a diplomatic defeat for her. Formally, the General Act was based on the four principles on which Germany had insisted. Actually, at the conference France received a mandate for the control of the Moroccan state and economy.

What actually happened at the Algeciras Conference was that the French plan of reform was adopted and Francewas charged with its execution. Despite the fact that the Algeciras Conference officially declared the independence and integrity of the Sherifian Empire, its results were regarded by the French as a signal to begin the seizure and division of Morocco.

The General Act of the Algeciras Conference proclaimed a number of Moroccan ports as open ports. These were manned by police forces under European supervision. In the Spanish zone, the police were under Spanish supervision, and in the French zone, they were under French supervision. The two ports of Tangier and Casablanca, where the police force was set up under mixed Franco-Spanish control, formed an exception.

The Algeciras Conference also provided for the institution of the Morocco State Bank. Any Power that had participated in the conference could claim a hand in the running of the bank. It was decided that for every bank share granted to one of the participating Powers France should receive three such shares. Making use of false participants and also of her three-to-one advantage, France gained absolute predominance in the bank.

The conference at Algeciras worked out regulations on the struggle against the illegal import of arms into Morocco and against smuggling and on the customs system. The application of these regulations on the Algerian border was entrusted to France, in the area bordering on the presidios, i.e., in the Spanish zone, to the Spanish, and in the ports-to the entire diplomatic or consular corps.

The conference established that all the Moroccan railways, ports, means of communication and so on were to belong to the Makhzan, i.e., the Moroccan Government, and were to be impartially adjudicated irrespective of the tenderer’s nationality. The wording of this point seemed to correspond to the principle of “economic liberty and equality.” It was France, however, that acquired the concession for the construction of a port in Casablanca, as well as the decisive role in building a railway from Tangier into the Moroccan interior.


Immediately after the Algeciras Conference, France began the occupation of the main regions of Morocco. At the end of 1906, she dispatched her fleet to Tangier for the ostensible purpose of protecting the Europeans there. Spain, who had been watching every move made by France in Morocco with extreme jealousy, also dispatched a fleet to Tangier. In March 1907, a French doctor, Emile Mauchamp, was murdered at Marrakesh. In the future the secret archives will throw light on this murder. It may even have been instigated by the French. To occupy a considerable part of Morocco it was worth sacrificing the life of one French doctor. In any case, as a reprisal for the murder the French took over the whole of East Morocco including the town of Oujda.

In August 1907, a new provocation was organised. The French Compagnie Morrocaine, which had received concessions for the construction of a port in Casablanca, proceeded to build a narrow-gauge railway through a Moslem cemetery, desecrating the graves. The population was already sensitive to foreign encroachment and in this case Europeans were actually violating a Moslem cemetery. Outraged by this sacrilege, the Moroccans attacked the builders, killing several workers, including six Frenchmen. France promptly used this incident as an excuse for occupying Casablanca and the Chaouia district. Spain in turn occupied a cape in the Melilla area.

The French landing evoked agitation throughout Morocco. The Moroccan tribes were especially furious with Sultan Abd al-Aziz, whom they regarded as a traitor, to be blamed for all the calamities which had overtaken the country. At their gathering in Marrakesh on August 16, 1907, i.e., a few days after the occupation of Casablanca, the tribal chiefs deposed Abd al-Aziz and declared his brother, Mulai Hafid, Sultan.

A civil war broke out in Morocco between Abd al-Aziz’s sup-porters and those of Mulai Hafid. However, it had more the character of a national liberation movement of the Moroccan tribes against the Sultan, who had taken the enemy’s side, than of a contest between two claimants to the throne.

In July 1908, Abd al-Aziz’s troops were routed. Abd al-Aziz fled to the French and the entire country was placed under the new sultan’s control. The French, however, took advantage of the disturbances to occupy a number of other regions both in the western and eastern parts of Morocco.


In September 1908, a new Franco-German conflict arose. The Foreign Legion, which the French maintained for service in the colonies, was recruited from declassed elements from all over the world, including many gamblers and criminals. A unit of Legionaires was stationed at Casablanca and two Germans who served in it had deserted and taken refuge in the home of the German consul. Despite his protests, the French police broke into the house, made a search and arrested the deserters. Germany protested against France’s action. The conflict was referred to the arbitration of the Hague International Tribunal, which made a Solomon-like decision, declaring that both sides were guilty and therefore no one should be punished. France was guilty of having violated the immunity of the consulate, and Germany, of having protected the deserters.

This decision of the Hague Tribunal did not, of course, normalise Franco-German relations, which once again exacerbated. Franco-German talks on the Moroccan question were reopened and on February 9, 1909, an agreement was concluded in Berlin which, having confirmed the four principles of the Algeciras Act, inserted a new formula to the effect that France acknowledged the economic interests of Germany in Morocco, while Germany acknowledged France’s political interests in Morocco. At the same time Germany declared that she herself had no political interests whatever in Morocco. This formula was fundamentally misleading, since it is almost impossible to separate political interests from economic ones. It also contained a strong element of hypocrisy, since it did not reflect the true intentions of Germany, who had quite definite political interests in Morocco.

Finally, both Powers undertook to promote the co-operation of French and German capitalists in Morocco. On the basis of this agreement, which in literature is sometimes described as the Franco-German economic condominium over Morocco, a number of mixed Franco-German companies were founded. They all turned out to be abortive, however, and none of them made any progress.


After Sultan Mulai Hafid’s victory, the Powers had to decide what attitude to adopt towards him. Mulai Hafid himself. wishing to put an end to the occupation of Casablanca and Oujda by French troops, entered into negotiations with the Powers, which accordingly agreed to recognise him as Sultan under the following conditions:

(1) he was to pay an indemnity to France and Spain;
(2) France and Spain would keep their troops in those parts of Morocco which were already occupied;
(3) he would accept responsibility for all the international obligations undertaken by Abd al-Aziz, i.e., the border agreements with France, the obligations on the loans and those under the Algeciras Act. Mulai Hafid accepted these terms and in January 1909, the Powers recognised him as Sultan.

In 1910, the French imposed a new loan of 100,000,000 francs on him on even more ruinous terms than the loan of 1904. The new loan went, in the first place, to liquidate the floating debts which had accumulated once again, in the second place, to organise a police force in the free ports and, thirdly, to pay the indemnity. As a guarantee of the loan the administration of the Makhzan debt received the customs and other important revenues of the Moroccan Government.

Mulai Hafid was compelled to seek additional sources of income. He levied new taxes on the tribes. This evoked general discontent and they began to regard him as a traitor, who was actually continuing Abd al-Aziz’s policy. In 1911, a fresh big tribal uprising flared up serving as a pretext for the French invasion of the Moroccan hinterland.


The first act of the French was to advance on Fez, the capital of Morocco and the seat of Sultan Mulai Hafid. Officially it was stated that Fez was besieged by rebellious tribes and that the French troops had been despatched to the city to save the life of the Sultan and the European residents.

Actually, the foreign consuls’ reports indicate that when the French troops approached the capital it was not in a state of siege, and that neither the Sultan nor the Europeans were exposed to any immediate danger. The excuse had obviously been invented. France’s next step was to occupy Meknes. Not to be left behind, Spain occupied Larache and Ksar-es-Sagir.

Spain had been egged on by German diplomacy, which sought to provoke a Franco-Spanish conflict. Not content with this, the Germans decided to intervene personally in Moroccan affairs and to reply to the occupation of Fez by taking over Mogador and Agadir. With this in view the German gunboat Panther set off for the shores of Africa and on July 1, 1911, arrived at Agadir. This “pouncing of the Panther,” as it was dubbed by the press, marked the beginning of a big international conflict, on which Lenin commented: “Germany on the verge of war with France and Britain. Morocco plundered (‘partitioned’).” [Lenin, Collected Works, Vol. 39, p. 686.]

In an official memorandum which Germany distributed on July 1, 1911, to all the Great Powers she declared that the despatch of the gunboat to Agadir had been due to three different factors:

(1) to German merchants’ persistent requests for the de-fence of their life and property. This statement was all the more surprising, since there was not a single German merchant in Agadir. Soon, however, it turned out that the German firm of Manesmann Bros. had received a mining con-cession in Agadir and had demanded the seizure of this territory. In simple terms, Germany had merely decided to participate in Morocco’s partition and had chosen the south-western part of the country for herself;

(2) to the indignation of German “public opinion” at Germany’s exclusion from a part in the solution of the Moroccan question;

(3) to the actions of France and Spain, who had made the Algeciras Act illusory. At the same time Germany declared she would recall her gunboat from Agadir only after the French and Spanish forces’ withdrawal from Morocco.

However, Germany had no objections to holding more talks if this meant she could seize a piece of Moroccan territory or some other large colonial compensation. The German diplomat, Kühlmann, told the Russian diplomat, Bcnkendorf, that day: “We shall bargain.” And indeed, the Franco-German negotiations which began in Berlin on July 10 were described by experienced diplomats as “unprecedented bargaining.” But Germany was asking too much. At first she demanded a part of Morocco, but France refused. Next she demanded the entire territory of the French Congo. France again refused and the talks reached a deadlock.

During the negotiations both sides rattled their sabres. The German press openly called for a war against France, saying that “history should be written not in ink, but with a chisel of cold steel.” The French press, in turn, called for an end to the talks and proposed “other means of solving the conflicts.”

During the Agadir crisis Britain sided wholly with France. She also rattled her sabre, and brought military and diplomatic pressure to bear on Germany. The annual manoeuvres of the British fleet were cancelled and the ships remained at their bases. Lord Kitchener, who had been appointed the British Resident-General in Egypt, was detained in London since he was to be put in command of the British army in event of military operations.

Britain’s position was one of the main factors in Germany’s retreat. The collapse of the Berlin stock exchange which had been engineered by the French banks was also of considerable importance. To top all this, anti-war proletarian demonstrations broke out in Germany. In the end, the German diplomats were forced to make concessions and on November 4, 1911, Germany concluded a new agreement with France, under which Germany sanctioned the French protectorate over Morocco. France undertook to observe the Powers’ freedom to trade and economic equality in Morocco and also ceded 275,000 square kilometres of territory in the Congo to Germany.

As for Russia, she favoured a peaceful solution of the conflict. The reorganisation of the Russian army was moving very slowly and Russia was still unprepared for a war with Germany and Austria-Hungary. Finally, the tsarist government felt that a war for the sake of French colonial interests would be unpopular in Russia.

The Berlin Agreement of November 4, 1911, was, as it were, the culmination of a whole series of earlier secret and non-secret agreements. Now Germany, too, had granted France freedom of action in Morocco. The Congo had been “exchanged” for Morocco, completing yet another deal at the expense of weaker nations. The way now lay open for the establishment of a French protectorate.


The Franco-German agreement of 1911 untied France’s hands and she immediately set to work to realise her expansionist aims. On March 30, 1912, under strong pressure from France, Sultan Mulai Hafid signed a treaty in Fez on the protectorate on terms dictated by the French envoy, Renault. The French troops which had been about to leave Fez turned back and suppressed the outbursts of popular resistance.

The Treaty of Fez reaffirmed the main provisions and principles of the Bardo treaty of 1881 and the La-Marsa convention of 1883 that had established a French protectorate over Tunisia. The Sultan retained his throne and the outward attributes of power, which, however, lacked any real substance. All power passed into French hands.

The new treaty brought into being a “new regime” in Morocco which preserved “the Sultan’s religious position, his traditional prestige and respect.” The Sultan, in turn, agreed to carry out any administrative, judicial, school, economic, financial or military reforms which France deemed necessary.

France acquired the right to the “military occupation of Moroccan territory” and to undertake “any kind of police measures” in Morocco.

The French Government promised the Sultan its aid in repelling “any danger, which would threaten him person-ally, or his throne or violate the peace in his domains.”

The French resident-general became the sole intermediary between Morocco and the foreign Powers. The resident-general was actually a commissioner in whom was vested the absolute power of the French Republic on the territory of Morocco. All the Sultan’s decrees were submitted to him for endorsement.

The French diplomatic and consular agents abroad represented Morocco and were instructed to “protect Morocco’s subjects and interests in other countries.”

The Treaty of Fez envisaged “a financial reorganisation of the country aimed at ensuring the repayment of foreign loans.” The Sultan was forbidden to contract state or private loans or to grant any concessions without the French Government’s permission.

The treaty on the protectorate applied to the entire territory of Morocco, but France reserved the right to negotiate with Spain on her interests in Morocco and to separate Tangier into a special zone.

Thus the Treaty of Fez deprived Morocco of her independence and her territorial integrity. On November 27, 1912, an agreement based on this treaty was signed in Madrid between France and Spain, fixing the borders between the northern and the southern zone, which had become part of the Spanish protectorate. Thus, having established a protectorate over Morocco, France ceded or sub-leased part of the country, which she had conquered, to Spain in accordance with the interimperialist agreements.

Talks between Britain, France and Spain on the Tangier regime began immediately after the establishment of the protectorate. They revealed so many contradictions that they still had not ended by the outbreak of World War I and were ultimately concluded only in 1923.

France appointed General Lyautey, who had considerable colonial experience, her Resident-General in Morocco. He occupied this post for thirteen years running, till 1925, and is rightly known as the “builder” of French Morocco.

Sultan Mulai Hafid, who attempted to pursue an independent policy, was regarded by France as an unsuitable person for his position and was deposed in August 1912. His place was taken over by his younger brother, Mulai Yusef, a completely spineless person and an obedient tool of France.

In September 1912, French took over Marrakesh, thereby completing the occupation of the flat regions of Morocco. For another twenty years, however, they had to wage a colonial war in the mountains and steppes of Morocco, overcoming the fierce opposition of the freedom-loving Moroccan tribes, who continued to uphold their liberty. Only twenty years after the establishment of the protectorate did the French succeed in completing the process of “pacification” and subduing the country.