Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program


First Advisor

David Gordon


This thesis explores changes in and challenges to Moroccan political authority in the region of the Sous during the late nineteenth century. It attempts to show how the phenomenon of British informal empire created a crisis over Moroccan sovereignty that caused the sultan to both materially and discursively change the way he wielded power in southern Morocco. It further connects these changes and the narrative contestation that accompanied them to the construction of the Bilad al-Siba/Bilad al-Makhzan dichotomy found in Western academic literature on Morocco starting in the colonial period. It begins with an examination of letters between Sultan Hassan I and local leaders in the Sous that show a shift toward a more bureaucratic form of governance in response to repeated openings of black-market ports by British trading companies. It then investigates the textual debate over the framing of Hassan I’s military expeditions to southern Morocco in the 1880s and 90s by drawing on a collection of European travel accounts, American consular reports, and a royal Moroccan history. Finally, it ties the illegal trade in the Sous to the broader theory of informal empire through a close examination of the Tourmaline Incident of 1897, using documents from the British Foreign Office as well as published accounts by crew members aboard the Tourmaline, itself.