Contemporary History Of Morocco And North Africa

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Course Information
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 


Additional student cost: 



The course focuses on the contemporary developments of Morocco and the rest of North Africa. The major themes to be covered are more or less related to North Africa’s steady integration into the world system during the last two centuries.

By looking at the region’s growing involvement in world affairs the aim is to see how this involvement has influenced North African traditional societies and contribute to the progress of state modernization during the 20th centuries. 

Attendance policy: 

Class attendance is compulsory. Each student will be allowed only two unexcused absences throughout the course. For each unexcused absence beyond this there will be a reduction in the final grade. Students who are late to class on a regular basis will also receive a reduction in their final grade and/or disciplinary action.

Students should not exceed 2 absences in each (45 hours) content course.
Students should not exceed 4 absences in the (90 hours) Arabic language course.

Any additional absence would lower the grades as follows:
1 more absence = will lower the final grade by 5 %
2 more absences= will lower the final grade by 10 %
3 more absences = will lower the grade by 15 %
4 more absences = will lower the grade by 20 %

Any additional absences will continue to lower the final grade by 5% increments. 

Learning outcomes: 

By the end of the course, students will be able to comprehend the following issues related to contemporary North African states and societies:

  • Traditional states and societies in North Africa;
  • The impact of colonialism;
  • The emergence of Nationalist movements and struggle for independence;
  • The modern states in North Africa;
  • Struggle for power after the independence;
  • The awakening of Islamic movements;
  • Legal and illegal immigration to Europe;
  • Regional contentious (Western Sahara issue) and the project of Great Maghreb.
  • The Maghreb and The Middle East conflict;
  • The aspiration for democracy and challenges of globalization.
Method of presentation: 

Regular academic lectures; Analysis of documents and assigned readings, and familiarization with local and Arabic terms; Students presentations in class; Display of pictures; maps; documentary videos and related movies; visits to museums and institutes.

Required work and form of assessment: 
  • Attendance and active participation in class - 10%
  • Presentation in class - 10%
  • Mid-term exam - 20%
  • Short term paper, about 5,000 words - 30%
  • Final exam - 30%




General remarks about the historical development of North Africa: Geography; population (Berbers, Arabs, Africans and Jews); beliefs; the coming of Islam; Berber dynasties; relations with Europe; the Ottoman presence.


Traditional states and societies in North Africa: The Moroccan Makhzan as an example of a traditional state in Islamic World; the Ottoman regencies in Algeria and Tunisia; the components of North African societies.


North Africa in the age of imperialism: The French occupation of Algeria (1830) and the early Algerian resistance (Emir Abdelkader and the genesis of national sentiment); reactions to the French penetration in Morocco and Tunisia (politics of reforms); the prelude to protectorate in Tunisia and Morocco.


North Africa under colonial rule: Algeria as an example of total destruction of traditional institutions; Morocco as an example of an amalgamation of tradition and modern institutions; the achievements of colonial rules versus its exploitations and abuses. General assessment of colonialism in North Africa.


The emergence of nationalist movements in North Africa


The struggle for independence: Algeria as an example of a merciless and savage colonial War.


Viewing and discussion of Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1965 film, The Battle of Algiers; midterm exam.


Tunisia after independence: the building of a modern state under enlightened leadership; Bourquiba and social development.


Algeria after independence: unique party & the expectations of socialist model. 


Morocco: multiparty system and authoritarian monarchy: Hassan II or the struggle of a monarch to rescue his regime in the face of overwhelming civilian and military opposition. 


The awakening of Islamic movements: Tunisia (Nahda); Algeria (FIS); Morocco (Adl wa el Ihasane)


Regional contentious (Western Sahara issue) and the project of Great Maghreb


North Africa and the Middle East conflict (Hassan II as a mediator in the Arab-Israeli peace process); North African Jewish community (historical outline and the massive immigration to Israel).


Dilemma of development (poverty, illiteracy, cyclic droughts, infrastructure, illegal immigration to Europe), aspiration for democracy and challenges of globalization. 


Final exam; short term paper is due by the end of semester.


Required readings: 
  • Brakat, Halim ed. Contemporary North Africa, Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies. Washington, D. C, 1985. 
  • Bidwell, Robin. Morocco under Colonial Rule: 1912-1956. London: Frank Cass, 1973.
  • Halstead, John P. Rebirth of a Nation: The Origins and Rise of Moroccan Nationalism, 1912-1944. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1969.
  • Pennell, C.R. Morocco since 1930 a History. New York: New York University Press, 2000.
  • Ruedy, John. Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation. Second edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.
  • Waterbury, John. The Commander of the Faithful. New York: Columbia Univ Press, 1970.

* The final syllabus for each term will contain a more comprehensive and updated bibliography with precise pages and chapters for each class session.