Anglo-Moroccan relations in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with particular reference to the role of Gibraltar
This dissertation presents new evidence about Anglo-Moroccan relations in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, with particular reference to the development of the links between the Gharb region of Morocco and Gibraltar and the establishment of the Moroccan consulate there. This evidence is used to re-evaluate prevailing arguments about Moroccan isolationism, especially during the reign of Mawlay Sulaymān (r. 1792-1822), linking this to the nature of the Moroccan sultanate’s foreign and trade policy over the longer term.
It is argued that the Sīdī Muḥammad b. ‘Abd Allāh’s (r. 1757-90) well-known ‘opening up’ of the country should be seen not just as a response to European expansion, but also as a continuation of the sultanate’s historical development as a state based partly on the control of trade. It is further argued that Mawlay Sulaymān and his successor Mawlay ‘Abd al-Raḥmān (r. 1822-59) essentially followed Sīdī Muḥammad’s policy.
With reference to this context, the dissertation analyses the development of the Moroccan consulate in Gibraltar, including re-dating its initial establishment. The example of the consulate is also applied to reconsidering dominant assumptions about the role of religious discourse in limiting Morocco’s contact with the outside world by assessing the wider social and economic context in which it operated, specifically the growth of trade between Gibraltar and the Gharb and the related development of a group of both Jewish and Muslim Moroccan merchants who partly conducted it. The dissertation finally assesses the political importance of these trade links and commercial interests, and how they influenced the operation of power and authority in the Gharb.
The overall case is presented in the context of a critique of civilisational or culturalist approaches to the study of reactions to European expansion and modernity that prioritise cultural difference between Western and, in this case, Muslim societies. It is argued that the Straits of Gibraltar – a ubiquitous symbol of the supposed dividing line between different civilisations – actually illustrate the importance of the interaction between different societies for accurately understanding their development and the agency of actors on both sides.