Spanish protectorate in Morocco

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Spanish protectorate in Morocco
حماية إسبانيا في المغرب
Protectorado español en Marruecos
Protectorate of Spain



Map of the territories under Spanish Protectorate in Morocco (1912–56)[1]
Capital Tétouan
Languages Arabic, Spanish
Religion Islam, Catholicism
Political structure Protectorate
High Commissioners
 -  1913 Felipe Alfau y Mendoza
 -  1951-56 Rafael García Valiño
Historical era Interwar period
 -  Treaty of Fez March 30, 1912
 -  Established February 27, 1913
 -  Independence April 7, 1956
Currency Spanish Peseta

The Spanish protectorate in Morocco (Arabic: حماية إسبانيا في المغربHimayat Ispaniya fi Al-Maghreb; Spanish: Protectorado español en Marruecos) was established by the November 27, 1912 Treaty between France and Spain regarding Morocco,[2] originally as a Spanish sphere of influence in Morocco. It ended in 1956, when both France and Spain recognized Moroccan independence.

Territorial borders[edit]

Spanish possessions in North Africa

Initially, a Spanish zone of influence in Morocco was established in 1912,[2] consisting of the northern part of the country and the Cape Juby Strip. While the sparsely populated Cape Juby was administered as a single entity with Spanish Sahara, the northern territories of the Spanish zone of influence, consisting of the northern part of Morocco, except Ceuta, Melilla and Tangier, were administered as a protectorate with its capital at Tetuán (Tétouan).

Spanish troops provisionally occupied Tangier during World War II, on the pretext that an Italian invasion was imminent.[3]

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.

Spanish enclaves in northern Morocco[edit]

The Protectorate did not formally include Ceuta and Melilla. As for the plazas de soberanía (Spanish name for various enclaves and islands on the northern Moroccan coast), they were gained in 16th–19th centuries, before the international agreements on the Protectorate.


Civil ensign of Spanish Morocco (1937-1956).

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 África (as the Protectorate was informally known in the Spanish military parlance) 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.[4]

Because the local Muslim troops had been among Franco's earliest supporters, the protectorate enjoyed more political freedom than Franco-era Spain proper after Franco's victory,[5] 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 Rio 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, even though Gibraltar isn't under foreign occupation.


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[edit]


  1. ^ Francesc Nadal, Luis Urteaga, José Ignacio Muro, El mapa topográfico del Protectorado de Marruecos en su contexto político e institucional (1923-1940), Doc. Anàl. Geogr. vol. 36 (2000) p.15-46
  2. ^ a b Treaty Between France and Spain Regarding Morocco, in: The American Journal of International Law, vol.7, no.2, Apr. 1913
  3. ^ C.R. Pennel, Morocco Since 1830, A History
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Marin Miguel (1973). El Colonialismo español en Marruecos. Spain: Ruedo Iberico p. 24-26

Further reading[edit]

  • Hardman, Frederick (2005). The Spanish Campaign in Morocco. W. Blackwood and sons. 
  • "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