The European Reconquest of North Africa

The European Reconquest of North AfricaAfrica - medieval map

Archibald Cary Coolidge

The American Historical Review, Vol. 17, No. 4, Jul., pp. 723-734 (1912)


The region we commonly call North Africa,using this desig- nation in its narrowest sense, comprises the territories of Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripoli. In almost every respect it is clearly separated from the rest of the huge continent of which it forms a part. Geographically,it is cut off from the Sudan by the Sahara, a greater obstacle to communication than the broadest ocean. Ethnographically it is the home of a Mediterranean people and not of the typical African race, the negro,who is represented here only by some scattered descendants of slaves, broughtin, like those of our own South, against their wills, and less numerous in proportion to the rest of the population than is the case in the United States. Historically, Africa Minor, as some call it, has been in its economic and political relations,in its culture,and in its civilization,at timesa part of Asia, at timesa part of Europe, but never to more than a slight extent a real portion of its own continent.

Its influence has indeed penetrated to the south, but in return it has received little more than the products of a scarce, though long-continued,caravan trade, mostly in human flesh,taking months to crawl painfully across the scorched wastes of the desert. Even with the valley of the Nile it is connected by sea rather than by land, for east of Tunis the Sahara advances to the very waters of the Mediterranean,forming in spite of its scattered oases a barrier which has been crossed by but few armies and by only one considerable migration in the last three thousand and more years.


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