Books on North Africa 1: Two Books on the French Intervention in Morocco

In the course of my relentless pursuit of all things relating to the Foreign Legion I have spent many hours digging around on Google Books and the Internet Archive websites.  I’ve found several wonderfully written travelogues on Morocco (in full copyright free digital format versions of course).  North Africa was quite an attraction for tourists and other travelers at the time–those wealthy enough made Algiers and Tunis their playground.  The scientific types (linguists, ethnologists, geologists, biologists and various others) struck out in all directions looking for the elusive Tuareg or some new species of this or that plant or animal.  The reckless sorts–the poets, war reporters, writers (to include Edith Wharton, and Isabelle Eberhardt), missionaries, and soldiers of fortune made their literary mark as well while looking for adventures in one of the last unknown regions of the earth at the turn of the century (and it was just a short sail from Europe).  Just before WWI you found books written by adventurers traveling by car.  After the war, there were some books written by aviators flying to various obscure places in the Sahara.  I would like to recommend several of my favorites over the course of this blog.  I don’t want to overwhelm anyone so I won’t list them all at one time.  Maybe, for now, two of my favorites about the events involving the 1907 French intervention in Morocco (which occurred after a series of violent attacks conducted on European civilians by native Moroccans).  We all know how those end!

The Passing of Morocco. By Patrick Moore.  This is a very good account, written by a “Harvard man”, of the 1907 French intervention in Morocco.  It mentions the Foreign Legion several times and has several good pictures of them and the events and participants. The author also gives very good insight into the Sultan of Morocco’s predicament at this time.

In Morocco with General D’Amade. By Sir Reginald Rankin.  This book was mentioned several times in Martin Windrow’s book “Our Friends Beneath the Sands”.  Rankin was a former British officer writing as a war correspondent following the French landing at Casablanca and subsequent maneuvers inland.   There are a couple of great pictures of the Foreign Legion in this book as well.  Highly recommended for those who like military details–Rankin describes the French backpack down to the centimeter, as well as the pay, the rank, organization, and gives honestly blunt assessments on the fighting abilities of the Spahi, Goumier, Legion, Turco’s and other forces. This is really a quick read–it may appear to be 383 pages but there are very wide margins inside that make this readable in a couple of days.  Have a good map of Morocco available when you do–it helps follow the descriptions he gives for some of the maneuvers.  (Note:  those interested in the Boer War can find a book written by Sir Rankin entitled “A Subaltern’s Letters to his Wife”.)

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About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
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