Intervention and Colonization in Africa

By Norman Dwight Harris | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
THE REOCCUPATION OF NORTHERN AFRICA

ALGERIA, ORAN, AND CONSTANTINE

THE opening of the nineteenth century found all the commercial nations of the world paying tribute to the Bashaw of Tripoli, the Bey of Tunis, and the Dey of Algiers in order to secure the safety of their subjects and their trading vessels on the Mediterranean Sea. These Arab potentates, as well as the rulers of Morocco, Oran, and Constantine, had all secured a practical independence from Turkish domination, but governed territories of uncertain extent and limited natural resources. Morocco and Tunis possessed reigning families of importance, enjoying absolute power, but the heads of the others were feudal lords owing their power chiefly to the election and the support of tribal chieftains. The jurisdiction of all these rulers was very largely confined to the seaports and their immediate hinterland. The regions of the interior, composed of mountain ranges, high arid plateaus, deserts, and oases, were inhabited by wild and warlike tribes of Kabyles, Berbers, and Touaregs whose chieftains paid tribute to and recognized the authority of the seaboard monarchs only when compelled to do so by a strong hand or a military demonstration. Only two of the capital cities -- Fez in Morocco and Constantine -- were in the interior. The others lay on the coast. And the boundaries between these little states were ill-defined; their administration in every case inefficient and corrupt; their income uncertain, often dependent to a large degree upon the booty from the ex-

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