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27 November 1912 : When Spain and France signed the treaty of Madrid sharing Morocco

It took France and Spain years to agree on how they wanted to share Morocco. Negotiations were concluded on the 27th of November 1912 by signing the Treaty of Madrid. This agreement was later interrupted by new political actors who wanted to get a slice of the cake.

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On November 27, 1912 in Madrid, the French Ambassador to Spain, signing the Madrid treaty./Ph. DR

Three years before the holding of the Algeciras Conference, a meeting set on April 1906 to find a solution to the first Moroccan crisis between France and Germany, which arose as Germany responded to France’s effort to establish a protectorate over the independent state of  Morocco, the Kingdom’s fate was already decided. France and Spain had agreed to share the country. For this purpose, «negotiations had been carried out between 1901 and 1904 between the two governments in a completely covered fashion».

Details regarding these negotiations were revealed for the first time by the book «A las Puertas del Protectorado» ( At the Protectorate’s gates). The 260-page book written by Francisco Manuel Pastor Garrigues, a professor of contemporary history in Valencia, was published in 2013 and was well received by critics in Spain. It also won the History prize awarded by Ateneo, a cultural association based in Seville.

Morocco instead of Cuba

For the Spanish monarchy, losing control over Cuba in 1898, after a three-year war with the separatists was a historical setback. Once the Spanish were kicked out of the island, the Americans had set up puppet governments. This situation lasted until 1959, when Fidel Castro came to power.

Targeted by the US fleet deployed in the Atlantic, Spain had to react in order to protect the Canary and the Balearic Islands. Meanwhile, France started to expand its presence in Algeria by controlling the Saharan territories previously under the reign of the Moroccan Sultan.

During these circumstances, Spain couldn’t afford occupying Morocco by itself. Forced to share, it opted for France, a rival with which it could agree on the future of the kingdom. Washington and London, on the other hand were not well positioned to take part of the Madrid treaty, precisely because of Cuba and Gibraltar.

The discussions

Even though the author of the book «A las Puertas del Protectorado» claims that the negotiations on the future of Morocco were secretive, other historical accounts suggest the opposite. According to a document issued by French media entitled «Rumeurs de partage» (rumors of sharing), handing over the northern and southern regions of Morocco to Spain and the rest to France was known to everybody.

In addition to the speculations put forward by the media in France, Italy and Germany, having heard of the plan of France and Spain regarding Morocco, also wanted their slice of the cake. Talks on the «Moroccan question» lasted until the 27th of November 1912, the same day the Treaty of Madrid was signed. An agreement reached eight months after the establishment of the French protectorate, March 30, 1912.

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