The Battle of El Herri in Morocco

Narratives of Colonial Conquest during World War I

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Caroline Campbell University of North Dakota, USA

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What does the French massacre of Amazigh people at El Herri in November 1914 reveal about broader patterns of colonial conquest? How do such patterns demonstrate the beliefs of French officers about the best way to conduct war at the beginning of World War I? Using extensive archival research, published primary sources, and Amazigh oral tradition, this article provides a narrative of the Battle of El Herri that analyzes the physical, sexual, and gendered violence that French troops exacted against Amazigh tribes. It argues that leading French military figures spun the “battle” to create a narrative that was racially inflected and self-serving. Led by Resident-General Lyautey, these leaders claimed that their philosophy of conquest was the only one that could result in successful war in Morocco, and by extension, Europe itself.

Contributor Notes

Caroline Campbell is an Associate Professor of History at the University of North Dakota. She is the author of Political Belief in France, 1927–1945: Gender, Empire, and Fascism in the Croix de Feu and Parti Social Français (LSU, 2015). Her current book project explores the relationship between colonialism and fascism in France. Email:

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