Spanish protectorate in Morocco

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Spanish protectorate in Morocco
حماية إسبانيا في المغرب
Protectorado español de Marruecos
Protectorate of Spain
Civil ensign of Spanish Morocco (1937–56)
Map of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco (1956)[1]
Capital Tetuán
Languages Berber , Spanish
Religion Islam, Catholicism
Political structure Protectorate
Historical era 20th Century
 •  Treaty with France 27 November 1912
 •  Independence 7 April 1956
Currency Spanish peseta
Preceded by
Succeeded by

The Spanish protectorate in Morocco[lower-alpha 1] was established on 27 November 1912 by a treaty between France and Spain[2] that converted the Spanish sphere of influence into a formal protectorate. The surface area of the protectorate was about 20,948 km², which represents 4.69% of modern-day Morocco. Since France already held a protectorate over the entire country and controlled Morocco's foreign affairs (since 30 March 1912), it also held the power to delegate a zone to Spanish protection.[3] The Spanish protectorate consisted of a northern strip of territory on the Mediterranean and a southern strip bordering the Spanish Sahara. The northern zone was ceded to an independent Morocco on 7 April 1956, shortly after France had ceded her protectorate. Spain finally ceded her southern zone through the [[{{{1}}}]][] on 1 April 1958, only after the short Ifni War.[4]


In a convention dated 27 June 1900, France and Spain agreed to recognize separate zones of influence in Morocco, but did not specify their boundaries. In 1902, France offered Spain all of Morocco north of the Sebu River and south of the Sous River, but Spain declined in the belief that such a division would offend Britain.[5] The British and French, without any Spanish insistence, declared Spain's right to a zone of influence in Morocco in Article 8 of the Entente cordiale of 8 April 1904:[5]

The two Governments, inspired by their feeling of sincere friendship for Spain, take into special consideration the interests which that country derives from her geographical position and from her territorial possessions on the Moorish coast of the Mediterranean. In regard to these interests the French Government will come to an understanding with the Spanish Government. The agreement which may be come to on the subject between France and Spain shall be communicated to His Britannic Majesty's Government.

What exactly "special consideration" meant was dealt with in the secret third and fourth articles, specifying that Spain would be required to recognise Articles 4 and 7 of the treaty but could decline the "special consideration" if she wished:

The two Governments agree that a certain extent of Moorish territory adjacent to Melilla, Ceuta, and other presides should, whenever the Sultan ceases to exercise authority over it, come within the sphere of influence of Spain, and that the administration of the coast from Melilla as far as, but not including, the heights on the right bank of the Sebou shall be entrusted to Spain.

Spanish possessions in North Africa

The British goal in these negotiations with France was to ensure that a weaker power (Spain) held the strategic coast opposite Gibraltar in return for Britain ceding all interest in Morocco.[5] France began negotiating with Spain at once, but the offer of 1902 was no longer on the table. Since France had given up her ambitions in Ottoman Libya in a convention with Italy in 1903, she felt entitled to a greater share of Morocco. On 3 October 1904, France and Spain concluded a treaty that defined their precise zones.[6] Spain received a northern strip of territory and a southern strip. The northern strip does not reach to the border of French Algeria, nor does it include Tangier, soon to be internationalized. The southern strip represented the southernmost part of the Morocco as recognized by the European powers: the territory to its south, Saguia el-Hamra, was recognized by France as an exclusively Spanish zone. The treaty also recognized the Spanish enclave of Ifni and delimited its borders.[7]

In March 1905, the German kaiser, Wilhelm II, visited Tangier, a city of international character in northern Morocco. There he loudly touted Germany's economic interests in Morocco and assured the sultan of financial assistance in the event of a threat to Moroccan independence. At Wilhelm's urging, Sultan Abd el Aziz called for an international conference. The final act of the Algeciras Conference (7 April 1906) created the State Bank of Morocco, guaranteed the attending powers equal commercial rights in Morocco and created a native Moroccan police force led by French and Spanish officers.[8]

The final protectorate consisted of a northern strip and a southern strip centred on Cape Juby. While the sparsely populated Cape Juby was administered as a single entity with Spanish Sahara, the northern territories were administered separately with their capital at Tetuán.


Spanish troops provisionally occupied Tangier during World War II, on the pretext that an Italian invasion was imminent.[9]

The Republic of the Rif led by the guerrilla leader Abd el-Krim was a breakaway state that existed in the Rif region from 1921 to 1926, when it was dissolved by joint expedition of the Spanish Army of Africa and French forces during the Rif War.

Map of the northern territories of the Spanish protectorate in Morocco (1912–56)[1]

The Protectorate system was established in 1912. The legal Islamic qadis system was formally maintained.

The Moroccan Sephardi Jews—many of them living in this part of the Maghreb after being expelled from Spain and Portugal in 1492 and 1497 respectively after the end of the Reconquista process—flourished in commerce, profiting from the similarity of Spanish and Ladino language and benefiting from the tax-exempt area in Tangier and a flourishing trading activity in the area.

The Spanish Civil War started in 1936 with the uprising of the Spanish troops stationed in Africa under the command of Francisco Franco against the Republican Government. These troops became the core of the Nationalist Army, which also recruited a considerable number of Moroccan troops.

The communist parties, the Communist Party of Spain and Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (POUM), advocated anti-colonialist policies whereby the Republican Government would support the independence of Spanish Morocco, intending to create a rebellion in Franco's back and cause disaffection among his Moroccan troops. However, the Republican Government under the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) rejected any such idea - which would have likely resulted in conflict with France, the colonial ruler of the other portion of Morocco.[10]

Because the local Muslim troops had been among Franco's earliest supporters, the protectorate enjoyed more political freedom than Francoist Spain proper after Franco's victory,[11] with competing political parties and a Moroccan nationalist press, criticizing the Spanish government.

In 1956, when French Morocco became independent, Spain discontinued the Protectorate and surrendered the territory to the newly independent kingdom while retaining the plazas de soberanía, Ifni and other colonies outside Morocco, such as Spanish Sahara.

Unwilling to accept this, the Moroccan Army of Liberation waged war against the Spanish forces and in the Ifni War of 1958, spreading from Sidi Ifni to Río de Oro, gained Tarfaya. In 1969, Morocco obtained Ifni. Morocco claims Ceuta and Melilla as integral parts of the country, considering them to be under foreign occupation, comparing their status to that of Gibraltar.


The iron mines in the Rif were one of the sources of income. Its exploitation led to an economic boom in Melilla.


After the Treaty of Algeciras signed in April 1906, where the northern part of Morocco was placed under Spanish administration, the Spanish started to develop this mineral-rich area, and numerous narrow gauge railways were built.

See also


  1. Arabic: حماية إسبانيا في المغرب‎‎ Himayat Ispaniya fi Al-Maghreb; Spanish: Protectorado español de Marruecos


  1. 1.0 1.1 Nadal & Urteaga Muro Morales contains a discussion of Spanish Moroccan topography
  2. "Treaty Between France and Spain Regarding Morocco". The American Journal of International Law. 7 (2 [Supplement: Official Documents]): 81–99. 1913. doi:10.2307/2212275.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Woolman 1968, pp. 14–16.
  4. Gangas Geisse & Santis Arenas 2011, p. 3.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Woolman 1968, p. 7–8.
  6. "Treaty Between France and Spain Concerning Morocco". The American Journal of International Law. 6 (2 [Supplement: Official Documents]): 116–20. 1912. doi:10.2307/2212123.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Merry del Val 1920a, pp. 330–31.
  8. Woolman 1968, p. 10–11.
  9. Pennell 2001.
  10. Tres años de lucha, José Díaz. p. 343. Cited in Landis, Arthur H. Spain! The Unfinished Revolution. 1st ed. New York: International Publishers, 1975. pp. 189-92.
  11. Marin Miguel (1973). El Colonialismo español en Marruecos. Spain: Ruedo Iberico p. 24-26


  • Gangas Geisse, Mónica; Santis Arenas, Hernán (2011). "El conflicto del Sáhara Occidental" (PDF). Nadir: Revista Electrónica de Geografía Austral. 3 (1): 1–15.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Merry del Val, Alfonso (1920a). "The Spanish Zones in Morocco". The Geographical Journal. 55 (5): 329–49. doi:10.2307/1780445.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Merry del Val, Alfonso (1920b). "The Spanish Zones in Morocco (Continued)". The Geographical Journal. 55 (6): 409–19. doi:10.2307/1780966.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Nadal, Francesc; Urteaga, Luis; Muro Morales, José Ignacio (2000). "El mapa topográfico del Protectorado de Marruecos en su contexto político e institucional (1923–1940)" (PDF). Documents d'Anàlisi Geogràfica. 36: 15–46.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Pélissier, René (1965). "Spain's Discreet Decolonization". Foreign Affairs. 43 (3): 519–27. doi:10.2307/20039116.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Pennell, C. R. (2001). Morocco since 1830: A History. London: Hurst.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Woolman, David S. (1968). Rebels in the Rif: Abd el Krim and the Rif Rebellion. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • "Min Khalifa Marrakesh Ila Mu’tamar Maghreb El Arabi." (From the caliph of the king of Morocco to the Conference of the Maghreb). (1947, April). El Ahram.
  • Wolf, Jean (1994). Les Secrets du Maroc Espagnol: L’epopee D’Abdelkhalaq Torres. Morocco: Balland Publishing Company
  • Ben Brahim, Mohammed (1949). Ilayka Ya Ni Ma Sadiq (To you my dear friend). Tetuan, Morocco: Hassania Publishing Company
  • Benumaya, Gil (1940). El Jalifa en Tanger. Madrid: Instituto Jalifiano de Tetuan
  • Villanova, José-Luis (2010). Cartographie et contrôle au Maroc sous le protectorat espagnol (1912-1956). MappeMonde vol.98

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