Prelude to Colonialism

Moroccan Muslims and Jews through Western Lenses, 1860–1912

in European Judaism
Michael M. LaskierWestern Galilee College

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This study is a portrayal of Moroccan Muslims and Jews by European travellers, journalists, experts and diplomats from the latter half of the nineteenth century until the transformation of Morocco in 1912 into a colonial entity under French and Spanish protectorates. In this pre-colonial setting, we catch a glimpse of a traditional society and its gradual, albeit partial, evolution towards modernity among the Jews as well as an understanding of Europe's economic, political and cultural penetration into the Sharifian Empire, which for hundreds of years preserved its independence when many Islamic societies capitulated to foreign domination. What were the major challenges confronted by Morocco in the pre-colonial era? Did Muslims and Jews conform to or reject modernisation brought by European culture? What were the socioeconomic conditions and the juridical status of the Jews vis-à-vis the Muslim majority? These are some of the main concerns of our investigation.

Contributor Notes

Michael M. Laskier is Professor Emeritus of History at Bar-Ilan University where he served as director of the Institute for the Study of Resistance Movements named after Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and as dean of the University's Kinneret College. He is past president of the Israel Society for the Study of Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies. He is the author of seventeen books, including North African Jewry in the 20th Century: The Jews of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria (New York University Press, 1994) for which he received the US National Jewish Book Award. He recently joined the new Middle Eastern History Department at Western Galilee College.

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