A Brief Insight into the History of Morocco
The area of present-day Morocco has been inhabited since Paleolithic times. Evidence of the camp fires and tool-making of the wandering bands of Homo erectus, who first crossed the Sahara to North Africa have been discovered in the coastal areas around Rabat and Casablanca. These finds dating back to roughly 1.5 million years and the most recent to 100,000 years ago proved that Homo erectus, were the first hominids to use fire to cook and made hand axes out of stones. It is generally thought that Homo erectus originated in Africa and spread from there migrating throughout Eurasia as far as Georgia, India, China and Indonesia. The numerous finds in Eastern Africa have confirmed the hypothesis of an African genesis, providing fossil evidence that the earliest hominins originated there.
The Neolithic Revolution, which means a wide-scale transition of many human cultures from a lifestyle of hunter-gathers into settled communities of agriculturalists and nomads, had reached the inhabitants of Morocco by about 5000 years BC. North Africa was more fertile and green, resembling a savannah more than today’s arid landscape. This brief wet period allowed the Berber tribes to expand into the Sahara, an event which recorded in rock-carvings and cave paintings discovered in many locations throughout Morocco and North Africa. All stone circles found prove the local tribes lived in Morocco had strong contacts with Megalithic cultures of the Atlantic coast and Europe. At about this time we can begin to speak about the indigenous population of North Africa who spoke a language of the Hamitic family related to ancient Egyptian as Berber.
Morocco has been the home of the Berbers since the second millennium BC and their written history began about 1100 BC when the Phoenicians from the coast of Syria and what is now Lebanon sailed to Morocco and had established a network of harbours and founded trading posts along the North African shores. The Phoenicians were great traders and many trading colonies and harbours were established along the North African coasts which allowed them access to Spanish silver and Saharan gold. By 814 BC, the Phoenicians founded the city of Carthage in what is now Tunisia and soon Carthage became the dominant power in the region. Meanwhile by about 400 BC the native Berber tribesmen formed the kingdom of Mauritania.
After the defeat of Carthage in the Second century BC, the Romans conquered Carthage and their influence in North Africa gradually grew. They exercised a loose protectorate over the extensive Kingdom of Mauretania and finally in 42 AD the Romans annexed the kingdom of Mauretania naming it Mauretania Tingitana and Morocco remained under Roman rule until 429. In the 5th century AD, as the Roman Empire declined, the region was invaded from first by the Vandals coming from Spain in 429 and then by the Visigoths. Vandal rule in North Africa lasted a century until their defeat in 535 by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine governors of Ceuta and Tangier remained dominant figures in local politics until the Arab invasion in 670 AD. Throughout this time, the Berber inhabitants in the high Mountains of the interior of Morocco remained unsubdued.
In 670 AD a force of 10,000 Arabs led by the Arab general Uqba Ibn Nafi and enlarged by thousands of others made his famous raid. Departing from Damascus, they marched into North Africa and took the city of Kairouan roughly eighty miles south of modern Tunis. This riad which was partly a missionary voyage of discovery and the real Arab conquest of Morocco didn’t begin until 704 when Mussa-Ibn-Nusayr was sent to complete the conquest of North Africa. Between 705 and 710 Musa advanced rapidly but he did not impose Islam by force, he respected Berber traditions and used diplomacy in subjugating them. His aim was to secure Morocco in order to be able to proceed with the conquest of Spain. This proved highly successful as many Berbers converted to Islam and even entered his army as soldiers and officers, possibly including Tariq bin Ziyad who would lead the later Islamic expedition in Iberia.
In 711 AD, an advance of with approximately 7,000 Berber and Arab warriors under the command of Tariq Bin Ziyad crossed the straits and landed at Gibraltar – from Jebel Tariq, meaning Tariq’s mountain in Arabic. Tariq and his army were welcomed by the Christian and Jewish population of Spain as deliverers from the harsh rule of the German Visigoth. Muslim army quickly occupied Spain and advanced north into Western Europe until Charles Martel stood firm at Poitier in 732. However Morocco soon broke up into a number of different kingdoms, absorbed the message of Islam and returned to its customary independence. The Berbers took control of large areas of Moorish Spain until they were expelled in the 13th century when Muslim rule declined and ended in 1492 when Granada was conquered.
Moroccan Dynasties - The Idrissides
According to medieval legend, Idriss I or Idriss Ibn Abdallah had fled a civil war in Arabia and came to Morocco after the Abbasids’ massacre of his tribe in Iraq. He convinced the Awraba Berber tribes to break their allegiance to the distant Abbasid caliphs in Baghdad and they accepted him as a holy man and arbitrator. In 789 arrived in Walili, the site of the Roman Volubilis where he founded the town of Moulay Idriss. He was the first Arab ruler and founder of the Idrissid dynasty ruling from 789 to 791, Morocco found unity under Moulay Idriss. Moulay Idriss I conquered large parts of northern Morocco and his son Idriss II made Fez the capital city of the Idrissid dynasty. In 789, he captured Tlemcen – modern day Algeria – which became part of the kingdom. This succession of events prompted vengeance from the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid, who sent emissaries to kill him. Moulay Idriss was poisoned and died in 791. He was buried in Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, a small town located in northern Morocco.
His son Idriss II was brought up by the Awraba tribe and left Walili for Fes. Idriss II established a unitary state based around a small army and the new settlements of Fez had founded. Within few decades Fez had grown into influential city, filled with skilled craftsmen and noble Arab warriors who fled from a civil war in Spain and from revolution in Tunisia. Fez became the cultural, centre of Muslim learning, political and economic centre of Morocco from where Arabic language, religious knowledge and technical innovations spread into the rest of the country. The dynasty would decline following the death of Idriss II and under his son and successor Muhammad. The political authority of Idriss II was lost when his kingdom was divided amongst nine of his sons in 828. The Idrissides were ousted by the powerful neighbouring dynasties such as the Omayyads in Spain, the Fatimid Caliphates and their Miknasa allies who controlled many of the chief towns of Morocco throughout the 10th and 11th centuries.
The Almoravid Berber Dynasty 1040 - 1147
In the middle of the 11 century there was no Morocco, just a confused of half-converted Berber tribes, Arab trading cities, foreign garrisons and petty principalities. A group of Berbers called the Almoravids from what is now Mauritania advanced north and created Morocco and formed an empire that stretched over the Western Maghreb and al-Andalous. The Almoravids were not a foreign power just a simple confederation of Berber tribes from the Western Sahara who had been united by Abdallah Ibn Yassin, a theologian Berber from the Souss valley. The Almoravids were a group of nomadic Berber tribes of the Sahara, traversing the territory between the Draa, the Niger and the Senegal rivers. In 1062, the young Almoravid Youssef Ibn Tachfine established Marrakech as the northern base and principal capital of the Almoravids dynasty. Numerous mosques and madrasas – Koranic schools – were built, developing the community into a trading centre for the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa. The Almoravids were crucial in preventing the fall of Andalusia to the Iberian Christian kingdoms, when they decisively defeated a coalition of the Castilian and Aragonese armies at the Battle of Sagrajas in 1086. This enabled them to control an empire that stretched from Spain to West Africa and from the Atlantic coast to eastern Algeria.
Under the reign of Youssef Ibn Tachfine, Marrakech grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural and religious centre, which had long been the capital of Haouz. The Almoravids had built houses, minted coins, and brought gold and silver to the city in caravans from the Sahara desert. After the conquest of Spain, skilled Andalusian craftsmen from Cordoba and Seville were brought over to build and decorate numerous palaces, mosques, fountains and baths for public use. The Andalusian influence merged with designs from the Sahara and West Africa, creating a unique style of architecture which was fully adapted to the Marrakech environment. Ali Ben Youssef succeeded his father upon his death in 1106 and reined for 37 year and he was responsible for the great buildings projects of the Almoravid dynasty. Ali Ben Youssef sons lost control of Marrakech and a rival Berber dynasty called the Almohads rebelled against the Almoravids and killed their last sultan in April 1147. The Almohads founded a new dynasty and replaced the Almoravids as a ruling dynasty both in Morocco and Al-Andalus in Spain.
The Almohad Dynasty 1147 - 1248
Medieval Morocco reached its Zenith of confidence and achievement under the Almohad Empire, whose rule extended over Spain, Morocco, Algeria and western Libya. The Almohads had much in common with the Almoravids. They both were a confederation of Berber tribes but the Almohads came from the High Atlas Mountains and not from the Western Sahara. The Almohad movement was started by a charismatic Berber holy man called Ibn Tumart, among the Masmuda tribes of southern Morocco. Ibn Tumart was a religious reformer, who tried to purify Islam and get people to think of Allah as a spirit and not think of him as too much like a man. Thanks to the support of certain of the more powerful Masmuda Berber tribes, Ibn Tumart and a group of his followers first established a Berber state in Tinmel in the Atlas Mountains in roughly 1120. Ibn Tumart and his followers would become known as the al-Muwahhidun or Almohads, meaning those who affirm the unity of God. They had developed a hierarchy based on Berber community traditions and began their long battle against their Almoravid rulers and in early 1130, the Almohads finally descended from the mountains for their first sizeable attack in the lowlands and took Marrakech overthrowing the ruling Almoravids in governing Morocco by 1147. When he died, Ibn Tumart passed on the leadership of the movement to Abd al-Mumin, a true strategist and warlord who was to be the architect of the Almohad victory over the Almoravids.
The Almohads made Seville their capital in al-Andalus, while retaining Marrakesh as their centre of power in North Africa. The strength of their political will and their administrative organisation allowed the Almohads to carry out many urbanisation projects. Almohad universities continued the knowledge of Greek and Roman ancient writers, while contemporary cultural figures included Averroes and the Jewish philosopher Maimonides. Many palaces, schools, mosques and universities were built in North Africa and Spain including Atalaya or Castle of Villena in Andalusia, the Great Mosque and the minaret called La Giralda which they built in Seville are paradigms of Almohad style. In North Africa, the main sites of Almohad architecture and art include the walls of Fez, Rabat, Marrakesh and the mosques of Taza, the Koutoubia and the Qasba in Marrakesh, Tinmel and Hassan Tower in Rabat… Decorative art and furnishings also developed considerably under the Almohads.
The Almohad dominance of Iberia continued until 1213, when they were defeated at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa. The Christian kingdoms of Northern Spain became well organised to be overrun by the Muslims and the Almohads made no permanent advance against them. Castile, Aragon and Portugal took advantage of the Almohad weakness to conquer southern Spain. First they won a big battle and took Toledo in 1213 followed by Cordoba in 1236, Valencia in 1238, and Seville in 1248. By 1250 the only important Spanish city still under Islamic control of the Almohads was Granada. The people of Granada soon threw out the Almohads and replaced them with the Nasrids.
In North Africa, the Almohad Empire had split into three new kingdoms: the Hafsids ruled the east – modern Libya and Tunisia. The Abd al-Wadids ruled the middle, modern Algeria and the Merinids ruled the west. The Beni-Marin chieftain then promptly seized control of Fez and founded the Merinid dynasty. Upon the death of the last Almohad sultan who was murdered in the High Atlas, the Merinids controlled Morocco and could feel secure on the throne.
The Merinid Dynasty 1248 - 1420
In the middle of the 13 century a group of nomadic Zenata Berber descent called the Merinids that migrated to the West following the arrival of Arab tribes in the area in the 11th and 12th centuries. Between 1244 and 1248 the Merinids began to overthrow the Almohad dynasty and they took Taza, Rabat and Fes from the weakened Almohads. The Merinid leadership installed in Fes declared war on the Almohads, fighting with the aid of Christian mercenaries. Abu Yusuf Yaqub captured Marrakech in 1269 and brought the old dynasty to an end. The Merinid power and creativity was at its glorious peak during the reign of Abu Hassan 1331 – 1351 and his son Abu Inan 1351 – 1358. A series of ambitious campaigns seemed on the point of recovering the old territory of the Almohad Empire.
Under the reign of Abu Yusuf, the Merinids went to Al-Andalus to support the ongoing struggle against the Kingdom of Castile. The Merinid dynasty then tried to extend its control to include the commercial traffic of the Strait of Gibraltar. The Nasrids ceded Algeciras to the Merinids and they started the conquest of several Spanish towns. By the year 1294 they had occupied Rota, Tarifa and Gibraltar. In 1276 they founded Fes Jdid, which they made their administrative and military centre. Fes had reached its golden age during the Merinid period which marked the beginning of an official, historical narrative for the city. In 1348 Abu al-Hassan was deposed by his son Abu Inan Faris, who tried to reconquer Algeria and Tunisia. Despite several successes, he was strangled by his own vizier in 1358, after which the Merinid dynasty began to decline.
After the death of Inan Faris in 1358, the real power lay with the viziers while the Merinid sultans were paraded and forced to succeed each other in quick succession. By the beginning of the 15th century, the Merinids state fell into the hands of corrupt cabal of viziers, generals and foreign powers. Morocco was divided, hit by a financial crisis and political anarchy set in. Against the economic decline the Portuguese and Spanish gradually seized control of most of the Moroccan ports, starting with the sack of Ceuta in 1419. By the mid-16th century the Portuguese cavalry controlled the Atlantic coast and began to penetrate deep into the interior of Morocco, this conquest marks the beginning of overseas European expansion. Merinid rulers after 1420 came under the control of the Wattasids, who exercised regency as Abd al-Haqq II became Sultan one year after his birth. The Wattasids, the next Berber dynasty after the Merinids began to seize power in 1240. They Wattasids ruled all of Morocco by 1469 upon the death of Abd al-Haqq II who was a Merinid Sultan of Morocco from 1420 to 1465. The Merinid dynasty eventually declined and was overthrown.
The Wattasid Dynasty 1420 - 1554
The Wattasid was a ruling dynasty of Morocco. Like the Merinids, they were of Zenata Berber descent. The two families Merinids and Wattasid were related, and the Merinids recruited many viziers from the Wattasids. Morocco was in decline when the Wattasid viziers assumed the powers of the Sultans, seizing reign when the last Merinid Abu Muhammad Abd al-Haqq II, who had massacred many of the Wattasids in 1459 was murdered during a popular revolt in Fez in 1465. The Wattasid first Sultan Abu Abd Allah al-Sheikh Muhammad controlled only the northern part of Morocco, the south being divided into several principalities. While the Merinid tried to repel the Portuguese and Spanish invasions and help the kingdom of Granada, the Wattasids had accumulated absolute political power.
The Merinids became aware of the extent of the conspiracy and decided to slaughter the Wattasids, leaving only Abu Abdellah al-Sheikh alive. He went on to found the Kingdom of Fez and to establish his dynasty. The Wattasid rulers failed to protect Morocco from foreign incursions and the Portuguese increased their presence on Morocco’s coast. Between 1511 and 1541, the Saadiens coming seized many cities included Rabat, Agadir and Safi and began to overthrown the Wattasids and their last king was captured in 1548 by the Saadians. In the south of Morocco, a new dynasty arose and the Saadians took Marrakesh in 1524 and made it their capital. In 1554 all the Wattasid towns and cities were surrendered, and Abou Hassan Ali, the last Wattasid sultan briefly retook Fez with the help of the Ottomans under Salah Rais. The Saadians quickly settled the matter by vanquishing and killing him at the Battle of Tadla in September 1554, then the last Wattasids rulers fled Morocco and the Saadians began to establish their Arabic dynasty that ruled Morocco from 1554 until 1668.
The Saadian Dynasty 1549 - 1668
Originated from the Draa valley in Southern Morocco, the Saadians’ reign over Morocco began with the reign of Sultan Mohammed Ash-Sheikh in 1554, when he vanquished the last Wattasids at the Battle of Tadla. The Saadians claimed descent from Prophet Mohammad through the line of Ali Ibn Abi Talib and Fatima Zahra, Mohammad’s daughter. The Saadians led the fight against the Portuguese and by 1542, their military successes in expelling them from Agadir make the people of Morocco tended to regard the Saadians as heroes, making it easier for them to retake the Portuguese strongholds on the coast including Tangiers, Ceuta and Mazagan.
The Saadians used Taroudant as their first capital and main base to attack the Portuguese in Agadir before they moved onwards to conquer Marrakesh and made their main capital. The city walls were constructed and the great mosque and its minaret were built in 1528. The town became the capital of the Saadians who used it as a base to attack the Portuguese in Agadir. Taroudant known its golden age particularly under the reign of Mohammed ash-Sheikh and became a prosperous town through the rich plains of the Sous, marketing goods such as sugar cane, cotton, rice and indigo. The Saadian tombs were rediscovered in 1917 and can be seen in Marrakech.
The true turning-point in Saadian power and one of their most important achievements was defeating the Portuguese at the Battle of Ksar El Kebir also known as Battle of Three Kings. Mohammed al-Sheikh, the hero of the holy war against the Portuguese, entered into an alliance with the King of Spain. In Morocco, calls to Jihad against the Christian invaders and the danger expansionist Ottoman Empire, by heads of religious orders or Zaouias appeared as the last defenders of Islam, prompting volunteers and raising funds to defend Morocco.
The throne passed to Ahmed el Mansour, the fifth son of Mohammed ash-Sheikh who was the first Saadian sultan of Morocco. Ahmad al-Mansur was an important figure in both Europe and Africa, from 1578 to his death in 1603. He was the most famous of all Saadians’ rulers and his powerful army and strategic location made him an important power player in the late Renaissance period. Ahmad al-Mansur developed friendly relations with England in view of an Anglo-Moroccan alliance. In 1600 he sent his Secretary Abd el-Ouahed Ben Messaoud as ambassador of the to the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England to negotiate an alliance against Spain. He increased his prestige and wealth by seizing control of the golden fields of West Africa. Ahmed el Mansour began construction on the great architectural symbols. The grand palace in Marrakesh called El Badi was built to be the magnificent heart of his court, the serene elegance Koranic school of the Ben Youssef Medrassa and the glittering opulence of the Saadians tombs still survive to give an insight into the near-fabulous period of the Saadians history.
Under the reign of Ahmed el Mansour, the Moroccan forces conquered the Songhai Empire that was one of the largest African empires in history, controlling the Western Sudan from the headwaters of the Senegal River to what is now Niger. In October 1590, Ahmed el Mansour dispatched an army of 4000 men across the Sahara desert under the command of converted Spaniard Judar Pasha to conquer the Songhai Empire. The Moroccan forces defeated the Songhai Askia Ishaq II, guaranteeing the Empire’s downfall and sacking the Songhai cities of Timbuktu and Jenne, as well as the capital Gao. Immediately after the death of the glorious Sultan Ahmed al-Mansour in 1603, Morocco experienced a period of serious troubles and a vicious succession of civil war between the Saadians princes: Abou Fares Abdallah, Zidan al-Nasir and Mohammed Ash-Sheikh el Mamun shattered the prosperity of the Saadians state and brought the decline of the Saadian dynasty.
The Alaouite Dynasty 1668 until Nowadays
The Alaouite dynasty is the current Moroccan royal family, their name Alaouite comes from the Ali of Ibn Abi Talib, whose descendant Sharif Ibn Ali became prince of the oasis of Tafilalt around 1631. Moulay Ali Cherif began to increase his power in the Tafilalt region during the anarchy following the death of the Saadian ruler Ahmad al-Mansur in 1603. According to tradition, the Alaouites entered Morocco at the end of the 13th century when Al Hassan Addakhil, who lived then in the town of Yanbu in the Hejaz, was brought to Morocco by the inhabitants of Tafilalet to be their Imam. They were hoping that, as he was a descendant of Muhammad, his presence would help to improve their date palm crops thanks to his Baraka “blessing”, an Arabic term meaning a sense of charisma.
His son Moulay Al-Rashid was able to unite and pacify the country, and his family still holds it to this day. In 1668, the last Saadian Sultan was overthrown during the conquest of Marrakesh by Moulay al-Rashid and succeeded in seizing the throne in 1669, he is considered to have been the founder of the Alaouite dynasty of Morocco. With a small army Moulay Rashid ruled first the east of Morocco and he was able to expand his power and seize Taza, Fez and the northern coastal areas of Morocco in a few years. He occupied the Souss and the little Atlas, which solidified Alaouite control over the entirety of Morocco. Moulay Rachid died in Marrakech in 1672 after a fall from his horse and was succeeded by his half-brother Moulay Ismail Ibn Sharif.
The organisation of the sultanate developed under Moulay Ismail between 1672 and 1727. After death of his brother, the city of Marrakesh refused to swear allegiance to Ismail, who at the time served as vice-roy in Fez. In June 1677, Moulay sacked the city of Marrakech and once in control he set about fortifying the city. Moulay Ismaïl inherited a country weakened by internal tribal wars and royal successions. He fiercely fought against the opposition of local tribes and began to create a unified state. During 54 years reign of Moulay Ismail, the Portuguese were expelled, the English were driven out of Tangier, captured Larache from the Spanish and the Ottoman Turks pushed back on the eastern frontier. After all these battles Moroccan independence was recognised. An army of 150000 slaves from sub-Saharan Africa served in his elite Black Guard which helped Moulay Ismail to conquer the whole Morocco from European kingdoms except two fortresses of Ceuta and Melilla.
Moulay Ismail have founded towns, built bridges, ports and forts and secured the safety of roads. He also encouraged trade and reformed religious life restoring approved shrines and mosques. He was known as a fearsome ruler and used at least 25000 slaves to build up Meknès to be the new administrative capital of Morocco. During his reign Morocco’s capital was moved from Fez to Meknes where he carried out an extensive building program that resulted in the construction of numerous gates, mosques, gardens and madrasas. Because the Alaouites had difficult relations with many of the Morocco’s Berber and Bedouin-Arab tribes, the unity of Morocco did not survive his death. A period of vicious civil war followed Moulay Ismail’s death and none of his sons could hope to equal the power of their father. The authority of the government was restricted to the fertile coast, towns and river valleys. The dry plain and mountains became the land of dissidence known as Bilad Assiba.
Under the reign of Mohammad III between 1757 and 1790, he could be pacified the kingdom again and the administration was reorganised. A renewed attempt at centralisation was abandoned and the tribes were allowed to preserve their autonomy. His son Moulay Slimane was the Sultan of Morocco from 1792 to 1822, he fought a civil war for control of the kingdom and he emerged victorious in 1795 and the country remained largely passive for the subsequent decades of his rule. Following the death of his uncle Slimane, Moulay Abd-Rahmane was proclaimed sultan of Morocco in Fez in November 1822. When Morocco provided some support for the Algerian tribes during the French invasion of neighbouring Algeria in 1930. France launched the Franco-Moroccan war that did not go well for the sultan. The French navy bombarded Essaouira and Tangier, while the Moroccan army under Abd-Rahmane’s son Moulay Muhammad, was decisively defeated by the French at the Battle of Isli in August 1844 and Moulay Abderrahmane was forced to consent to the humiliating Treaty of Tangier in October 1844, withdrawing support for El Emir al-Qadir, reducing the frontier garrisons and submitting the Moroccan-Algerian border to modification. The Treaty of Lalla Maghnia was signed in March 1845, whereby the Moroccan border was demarcated further west, closer to the Moulouya River. The treaties signed aggravated the internal situation in Morocco, which grew more unstable as Abd-Rahmane was accused of yielding too quickly to French demands. Abd-Rahmane died in Meknes in August 1859 and was succeeded by his son, sultan Mohammed IV of Morocco. Immediately upon his ascension to throne in August 1859, Muhammad IV was faced with his problematic inherence.
The unhappy start of the reign was followed by the remorseless growth in European influence. Pertinent manifestations of a growing competition among Britain, Spain and France for influence in Morocco, as each looked to that country as a fertile ground for realising its overseas ambitions. A brief buy murderous three-month war between Spain and Morocco in north Morocco began in late 1859, during which Moroccan troops showed their incapacity to confront a best-organised European foe. Morocco was transformed into subaltern state feeing European expansion by offering raw materials, cheap labour and unprotected markets. Morocco was ineluctably drawn into an economic and political maelstrom that absorbed its energies for years to come. During the reign of Mohammad IV, Morocco began essentially careening into feudalism, a process that accelerated during the reign of his successor, Moulay Hassan I.
In 1873, Moulay Hassan was proclaimed sultan of Morocco on the death of his uncle. His first action was to crush an urban revolt in the capital Fes, the new sultan was among the most successful sultans of the Alaouite dynasty at this time and was committed to continue the modernisation and reform policy of Morocco. Moulay Hassan I appointed many Caïds and tribal chiefs such as Mouha ou Hammou Zayani, Sheikh Ma al-Aynayn in Western Sahara who played an important role against colonial France in the struggle for independence of Morocco. Moulay Hassan I was died on campaign in 1894 in Marrakech and buried in Rabat.
French Protectorate and Struggle for Independence
Between 1894 and 1912 Moulay Abdul Aziz and his brother Moulay Hafid succeeded their father Hassan I. Moulay Abdul Aziz was the Sultan of Morocco from 1894 until he was deposed when he was defeated in battle in 1908. Moulay Hafid succeeded his brother in 1098 and became the recognised leader of Morocco. He faced with simultaneous French and Spanish invasions and internal rebellions. The most important Moroccan cities were occupied by French and Spanish and Moulay Hafid signed the famous Treaty of Fez in 1912 which gave de facto control of the country to France. Moulay Hafid abdicated after signing the Treaty of Fez which made Morocco a French protectorate. Morocco was administered by a French Resident-General. Youssef Ben Hassan was proclaimed sultan of Morocco and inherited the throne from his brother the sultan Moulay Abd el Hafid. The reign of Youssef Ben Hassan was turbulent and marked with frequent uprisings against Spain and France. The most serious of these was a Berber uprising in the Rif Mountains, Jebel Saghrou and the uprising of the Sahraoui tribes in Southern Morocco. To ensure his own safety, Youssef Ben Hassan moved the court from Fez to Rabat, which has served as the capital of the country ever since. After 15 years, Ben Youssef’s reign came to an abrupt end when he died suddenly of Uremia in November 1927 and he was succeeded by his son Mohammed Ben Youssef. He was chosen by France for his apparent docility.
Under the protectorate from 1912 to 1956, infrastructure was invested in heavily in order to link the Atlantic coastal cities to the hinterland, thus unifying Morocco into a single economic region. Apart from military conquest and administration, French government promoted economic development, particularly Morocco’s agricultural and mineral wealth geared to the French market. French banks financed an impressive infrastructure of public works, ports, dams, roads and railways, and the creation of a modern transportation system. By 1951 there were roughly 325,000 Europeans in the country, including rich controlling minority and sub-class of about 80,000 poor whites. Schools, Hospitals and hotels were built for the use of settlers and a tiny minority of traditional Moroccan ruling class of Caïds, tribal chiefs, merchant and Sheikh who cooperated with the French. By the independence in 1956 less than 15 per cent of the Moroccan population had received any sort of education.
Morocco was involved in the events of both the First and Second World War as Protectorate of France. There were more 300,000 Moroccans under arms, they formed a distinguish portion of the French forces. It was the Moroccan 4th Division that in 1944 stormed Monte Cassino and broke the Gustav Line and the Moroccan 2nd Division captured Monte Pantano in 1943 and also gained respect for crossing the Rhine under heavy fire in March 1945. Morocco was placed under the Free French administration of de Gaulle and in January 1943 Roosevelt and Churchill met for the Casablanca conference. In a meeting with Mohammed the fifth the American president gave private encouragement that the post-war era would bring back sovereignty to Morocco.
In December 1934, a group of nationalist political parties called Moroccan Action Committee, proposed a plan of Reforms that called for a return to indirect rule as envisaged by the Treaty of Fez, admission of Moroccans to government positions and establishment of representative councils. At the same time, the French regime also faced the opposition of the Berber tribes – when the Berbers were required to come under the jurisdiction of French courts in 1930 and this increased support for the independence movement. In 1944, the Istiqlal Party or Independence, which subsequently provided most of the leadership for the nationalist movement, released a manifesto demanding a full independence, national reunification and a democratic constitution. The Sultan Mohammad V had approved the manifesto before its submission to the French resident general. Mohammed V was identified clearly with the popular demand for independence.
In December 1952, a riot broke out in Casablanca over the murder of a Tunisian labour leader and this event marked a watershed in relations between Moroccan political parties and French authorities. The sultan Mohammed V and was deposed by the French authorities and exiled with his family to Madagascar in January 1954. He was replaced by the unpopular Ben Arafa, whose reign was perceived as illegitimate and sparked active opposition to the French protectorate both from nationalists and those who saw the sultan as a religious leader. By the summer of 1955 a large campaign of civil disobedience on a great scale for the sultan’s return, rising violence in Morocco and the French were threatened by an incipient armed rebellion. On November 16, 1955, Mohammed V returned from exile to a tumultuous reception from the Moroccan after twenty seven months of exile. Morocco successfully negotiated its independence and finally in March 1956 the French formally declared and recognised the independence of Morocco ending 44 years of French occupation. In 1957 Mohammed V took the title of King.