French Protectorate brochure for the Morocco Pavilion at the 1939-40 New York World's Fair, TALIM museum and research library, Tangier
In this year of the centenary of the 1912 Treaty of Fez, retrospectives on Protectorate Morocco abound.
The first thing you must know about Morocco, 100 years ago, is that two Protectorate zones were created: one French, which covered a good four fiths of the country, the other Spanish, much less well known, covering a largely mountainous northern slice from the Atlantic port of Larache, skirting Tangier and its international enclave, then following the Strait of Gibraltar along the Mediterranean to the Algerian border.
Smaller territory, but way bigger problems: the Spanish Protectorate was born in war, and it took French intervention in the 1920s Rif War to extricate the Spanish from a complete rout at the hands of Rif tribes bent on independence.
Some of the journalistic efforts at "commemoration" cherry pick the writings of Maréchal Louis Hubert Lyautey, the grand old man of French colonialism in Morocco. Until he was replaced by that other Maréchal – Pétain – in 1925, to conduct what today would be called a more "robust" Rif war effort (aerial bombardment of civilian settlements), Lyautey practiced a more veiled form of tutelage.
Lyautey's pen dripped with what today comes across as the ultimate hypocrisy, writing apparently without irony in 1913 – a year after France and Spain divided the country between them – that Moroccans, "jealous, to the extreme, of their independence, rebelling at the notion of servility…" constitute "a political, religious, and economic elite that France would do ill to ignore."
Moroccans were probably not duped by the frustrated French monarchist's ostentatious "fealty" to the sultan ("Lyautey le Marocain," as he was known, went as far as holding the reins of the sultan's horse in official ceremonies). People knew who was the real boss.
It would be useful to have a similar in-depth look at life in the Spanish Protectorate, but much less is available online, other than intriguing looks at episodes like Moroccans in Spain's Civil War. Perhaps it is time to plumb the fading memories of this period in the way Actuel does with the French Protectorate. Sounds like a job for us, in our conference center role…
In the meantime, we will focus on Tangier as the exception to Protectorate Morocco. Pre-protectorate, and during the 1912-1956 period, Tangier was different, and during the years of the International Zone, had a specific form of international consortium government unique in history. Now that's a story we can get our teeth into.
To be continued, in this space, on the walls of our museum, and in our research library. Scholars and writers welcome!