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Bunk, Brian D., 1968-; Pack, Sasha D.; Scott, Carl-Gustaf (ed.) / Nation and conflict in modern Spain: essays in honor of Stanley G. Payne

Fleming, Shannon E.
The Rif War as a frontier conflict,   pp. 123-136

Page 123

The Rif War as a Frontier Conflict 
The Protectorate and the Expansion of the Frontier (1912-1921) 
.  .1he establishment of a Spanish Protectorate in northern Morocco in the
decade of the twentieth century was the consequence of the implosion of the
Moroccan polity at the hands of the north European powers, especially France,
coupled with Great Britain's effort to create a buffer between French North
and its strategic base at Gibraltar. While some Spanish elites saw this as
an opportunity to 
play a role, albeit a limited one, in the diplomatic "concert of Europe";
others saw it in more 
traditional terms as the fulfillment of the Catholic Queen's testament that
Spain's future 
somehow lay in bringing the traditional adversary, the "Moor,"
into an acquiescent relation- 
ship to the Spanish state, Western culture (at least the Spanish version
of it), and the Roman 
Catholic faith. The fact that some of the traditional enemy's land was to
be occupied and 
administered by Christian Iberians seemed finally to fulfill this injunctive.
Spain's frontier 
would be established, as many nineteenth-century Africanistas argued, at
its natural border, 
the Atlas Mountains. 
From the Moroccan viewpoint, the passing of real makhzan (sultanic) authority
to the 
Christians in 1912 was a catastrophe of the first order. Many Rifian tribes,
for instance, con- 
sidered themselves holy warriors in the defense of one of dar al-islam's
most exposed fron- 
tiers. For centuries they had diligently undertaken this responsibility,
harassing the Spanish 
enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, and pursuing small-scale piracy along the
North Moroccan 
coast. Now the traditional Iberian enemy was not only at their doorstep but
actually invited 
into their homeland to impose unwelcome 'reforms' under the Sultan's legal
On paper, Spain secured approximately 20,000 square kilometers of northern
to protect and civilize in the name of the Moroccan Sultan. This constituted
about 20 per- 
cent of what was then defined as Morocco territory with a population of anywhere
600,000 to 700,000 indigenous Moroccans. The overwhelming majority of these
were rural 

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