A Brief History of Algeria

By Tim Lambert

Early Algeria

In 150 BC Berber kingdoms existed in what is now Algeria. However, in 24 BC they were annexed by the Romans. The Romans built roads, cities, and aqueducts. Under the Romans Algeria became Christian. The famous theologian Augustine (354-430) lived in Hippo (present-day Annaba).

As the Roman Empire in the west collapsed a people called the Vandals passed through Algeria on their way to Tunisia but had little effect on the area.

In the late 7th century the Arabs conquered Algeria. They introduced Islam. The Arabs ruled Algeria until the 16th century. In 1516 the Ottoman Turks took over the region.

However, by 1671, Algeria was semi-independent. It was ruled by a man called the dey. Algeria also served as a base for the Barbary pirates. However, in 1830 the French invaded Algeria. They gradually conquered the region and in 1848 Algeria was declared to be French territory.

Modern Algeria

However Algerian nationalism grew in the mid 20th century. The Algerian War of Independence began in 1954. It went on until 1962. President Charles De Gaulle eventually accepted that Algerian independence was inevitable. A ceasefire was signed on 18 March 1962. In a referendum, the people voted overwhelmingly for independence. On 5 July 1962, Algeria became independent.

Ahmed ben Bella became the first president. However, he was overthrown in 1965. He was replaced by Colonel Houari Boumedienne, who died in 1978. He, in turn, was replaced by Colonel Chadli Bendjedid.

Algeria was a one-party state but riots in 1988 led to some reforms. In 1989 Algerians were given the right to form other parties. In local elections in 1990, the fundamentalist Front Islamique du Salut (Islamic Salvation Front or FIS) won a majority of the votes cast. They also won the first round of national legislative elections in 1991.

However, the army intervened and the second round of elections was canceled. Bendjedid was replaced by a 5 man Council of State. There was then a long civil war in Algeria. The armed wing of the FIS, the Islamic Salvation Army disbanded in 200. Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected president in 1999. He was re-elected in 2004, 2009, and 2014.

Today Algeria suffers from high unemployment and the economy is heavily dependent on oil. Nevertheless, the economy is growing steadily. In 2022 the population of Algeria was 44 million.

Last revised 2024