A History of Morocco

By Tim Lambert

Early Morocco

The written history of Morocco began about 1,000 BCE when a people called the Phoenicians from what is now Lebanon sailed there. The Phoenicians were great traders and they founded trading posts in Morocco. The Phoenicians founded the city of Carthage in what is now Tunisia. Soon Carthage became the dominant power in the region. Meanwhile, by about 400 BC the native Berber tribesmen formed the kingdom of Mauritania.

In 146 BC the Romans conquered Carthage and their influence in North Africa gradually grew. Finally, in 42 AD the Romans annexed the kingdom of Mauretania. Morocco remained under Roman rule until the 5th century AD.

In 681 the Arabs began raiding Morocco and by 705 they were in control. The Arabs introduced Islam to Morocco and in 711 they invaded Spain. They soon conquered most of it. However, Morocco soon broke up into several different kingdoms. In 789 a man named Idriss founded a small kingdom and his son Idriss II made Fes the capital. In the following centuries, Fes became a center of culture.

In the 11th century, Berbers called the Almoravids from what is now Mauritania advanced north and conquered Morocco. Then in the 12th century, a people called Almohads rebelled against the Almoravids and they founded a new dynasty. Under the Almoravids Moroccan culture flourished. However, in the 13th century, the Almohads lost most of the Muslim territory in Spain. Only Grenada remained.

Furthermore, in the year 1248, a people called the Merinids began to overthrow the Almohads although it was not until 1269 that they captured Marrakech and brought the old dynasty to an end. Then the same cycle followed. The Merinids eventually declined and they were overthrown. The next Berber dynasty was called the Wattasids. They began to seize power in 1240 and they ruled all of Morocco by 1469.

The next Moroccan dynasty was of Arab origin. The Saadians captured Marrakech in 1525 and Fes in 1548. The Saadian dynasty reached a peak during the years 1578-1603 in the time of Ahmed el-Mansour, known as the Golden One. However, after his death, the dynasty declined.

Rachid 1664-1672 founded a new dynasty, the Alaouites. Under Moulay Ismail 1672-1727, Morocco was a strong, centralized state. During the 19th century, Morocco remained an independent country.

Modern Morocco

However, in 1912 Morocco was forced to become a French protectorate. Naturally, the Moroccans resented their loss of independence, and the whole country was not subdued until 1934. However in 1942, during World War II the Allies landed in Morocco and Roosevelt was sympathetic to the Moroccans. In 1944 a Manifesto of Independence was published and in 1947 the Sultan declared he was in favor of independence.

In 1953 the French deposed the Sultan but he returned in 1956. Morocco became independent in 1956.

Hassan II became King of Morocco in 1961 and he reigned until 1999. During the 1960s and 1970s, Morocco suffered from political instability. A constitution was drawn up in 1962 followed by another in 1970. However, the king survived 2 coup attempts in 1971 and 1972. Then in 1981, there were riots in Casablanca.

In 1996 Morocco was given a new constitution and in 1999 Mohammed VI became king. Today Morocco is a fast-developing country. The main industries are tourism and textiles.

In July 2011 voters in Morocco approved a new constitution for the country. In 2023 the population of Morocco was 37 million.


Last Revised 2024