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Anticolonialism in Middle East

Tunisia, Egypt, And Morocco

In the case of Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco, the decision of Britain and France to take over the reins of government (in 1881, 1882, and 1912) was at least partly precipitated by local opposition to the draconian financial measures that the European powers had forced local governments to impose in order to repay the debts they had contracted on the various European money markets. The ruler of Tunisia, Ahmad Bey (1837–1855), made strenuous efforts both to modernize Tunisia and to assert its independence from Istanbul, and he had been substantially aided by France in the latter objective. By the time of his death, Tunisia had a modern army and a modern navy; the Bey's brother-in-law, who survived him by nearly twenty years, was a modernizing finance minister and prime minister, and an Italian family provided the state's foreign ministers until 1878. In 1861, much to the discomfiture of Muhammad al-Sadiq Bey (1859–1882), Tunisia adopted a constitution and a modern (that is, generally secular) legal system under which the Bey's prerogatives were quite limited.

These reforms were better received in the outside world and among the sizeable local European community than within Tunisia, where a rural rising against the new legal system and the new taxes was put down with considerable brutality in 1864. As happened in Egypt at much the same time, the contracting of substantial foreign debts (generally used to build the infrastructures that made the reforms possible or to pay the European consultants—officers, engineers, and so forth—in charge of putting them into effect) and the general mismanagement and corruption associated with the loans meant that the country found itself increasingly at the mercy of its foreign creditors. Tunisia declared bankruptcy in 1869 and Egypt in 1876. The sterling efforts of the reformer Khayr al-Din (c. 1825–1889) to balance the budget were no match for French colonial ambitions, which eventually forced the Bey to accept a protectorate under the terms of the Treaty of Bardo in May 1881. By 1892, four-fifths of cultivated lands were in French hands.

The situation in Egypt was similar; the additional taxes imposed as a result of British and French administration of the public debt, initiated in 1876 essentially to ensure that the bond-holders got their money back, eventually gave rise to a nationalist movement. Many of its members had the additional grievance that the government of Egypt was conducted by foreigners, that is, a Turco-Circassian aristocracy consisting of the descendants of the viceroy Muhammad 'Ali (1780–1848) and their courtiers, in which native Egyptians constantly encountered a glass ceiling. Another interesting component of the rebellion led by Ahmad 'Urabi (1839–1911) between 1879 and 1882 was the emphasis on restoring Egypt fully to the Ottoman Empire. Although relatively large numbers of foreigners resided in Egypt, they were generally neither settlers nor colons in the French North African sense: most were not bureaucrats or farmers and had not lived there for generations; they resided mostly in the cities and engaged in commerce or in service occupations. In addition, most of them were not citizens of the occupying power.

In spite of a succession of strong rulers for much of the nineteenth century, Morocco was also unable to avoid colonial penetration, first economic (imports of tea, sugar, candles, and cotton cloth; exports of wool, cereals, and ostrich feathers) and then military. The first major confrontation between locals and Europeans occurred in 1859 to 1860, when Spain besieged Tetouan. A month later, Spain demanded an indemnity as the price of withdrawal, and although the terms were punitive half the indemnity was paid within two years. This involved great hardship, particularly the imposition of non-traditional agricultural taxation, which caused considerable unrest. A massive devaluation of the currency took place, as did a near-universal switch to foreign coinage. Like Tunisia and Egypt, Morocco gradually moved from a state of general economic self-sufficiency to dependence on the world market. Morocco gradually became dependent on foreign loans and declared bankrupcty in 1903. Largely to preempt German colonial efforts, France and Britain signed the Entente Cordiale in 1904, under which Britain recognized France's preeminence in Morocco and France formally accepted the British occupation of Egypt. Franco-Spanish occupation of Morocco was formalized in 1912.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ambiguity - Ambiguity to Anticolonialism in Middle East - Ottoman Empire And The Mandate SystemAnticolonialism in Middle East - Ottoman Empire And The Mandate System, Islam And Anticolonialism, The Economic Impact Of Colonialism, Resistance To Colonialism