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The French conquest of Algeria took place between 1830 and 1847. Using an 1827 diplomatic slight by Hussein Dey, the ruler of the Ottoman Regency of Algiers, against its consul as a pretext, France invaded and quickly seized Algiers in 1830, and rapidly took control of other coastal communities. Amid internal political strife in France, decisions were repeatedly taken to retain control over the territory, and additional military forces were brought in over the following years to quell resistance in the interior of the country.
Algerian resistance forces were divided between forces under Ahmed Bey at Constantine, primarily in the east, and nationalist forces in Kabylie and the west. Treaties with the nationalists under `Abd al-Q?dir enabled the French to first focus on the elimination of the remaining Ottoman threat, achieved with the 1837 capture of Constantine. Al-Q?dir continued to give stiff resistance in the west. Finally driven into Morocco in 1842 by large-scale and heavy-handed French military action, he continued to wage a guerilla war until the Moroccan government, under French diplomatic pressure following its defeat in the First Franco-Moroccan War, drove him out of Morocco. He surrendered to French forces in 1847.
The conquest of Algeria was initiated in the last days of the Bourbon Restoration by Charles X as an attempt to increase his popularity amongst the French people, particularly in Paris, where many veterans of the Napoleonic Wars lived. He believed he would bolster patriotic sentiment and turn eyes away from his domestic policies by "skirmishing against the dey".
The territory now known as Algeria was only partially under the Ottoman Empire's control in 1830. The dey ruled the entire Regency of Algiers, but only exercised direct control in and around Algiers, with Beyliks established in a few outlying areas, including Oran and Constantine. The remainder of the territory (including much of the interior), while nominally Ottoman, was effectively under the control of local Arab and Berber tribal leaders. The dey acted largely independently of the Ottoman Emperor, although he was supported by (or controlled by, depending on historical perspective) Turkish Janissary troops stationed in Algiers. The territory was bordered to the west by the Sultanate of Morocco and to the east by the Ottoman Regency of Tunis. The western border, nominally the Tafna River, was particularly porous since there were shared tribal connections that crossed it.
The Fan Affair
In 1795-1796, the French Republic had contracted to purchase wheat for the French army from two Jewish merchants in Algiers, and Charles X was apparently uninterested in paying off the Republic's debt. These merchants, who had debts to Hussein Dey, the Ottoman ruler of Algiers, claimed inability to pay those debts until France paid its debts to them. The dey had unsuccessfully negotiated with Pierre Deval, the French consul, to rectify this situation, and he suspected Deval of collaborating with the merchants against him, especially when the French government made no provisions for repaying the merchants in 1820. Deval's nephew Alexandre, the consul in Bône, further angered the dey by fortifying French storehouses in Bône and La Calle against the terms of prior agreements.
After a contentious meeting in which Deval refused to provide satisfactory answers on 29 April 1827, the dey struck Deval with his fan. Charles X used this slight against his diplomatic representative to first demand an apology from the dey, and then to initiate a blockade against the port of Algiers. The blockade lasted for three years, and was primarily to the detriment of French merchants who were unable to do business with Algiers, while Barbary pirates were still able to evade the blockade. When France in 1829 sent an ambassador to the dey with a proposal for negotiations, he responded with cannonfire directed toward one of the blockading ships. The French then determined that more forceful action was required.
Following the failure of the ambassador's visit, Charles appointed as Prime Minister Jules, Prince de Polignac, a hardline conservative, an act that outraged the liberal French opposition, which was then in a majority in the Chamber of Deputies. Polignac opened negotiations with Muhammad Ali of Egypt to essentially divide up North Africa. Ali, who was strongly under British influence (in spite of nominally being a vassal of the Ottomans), eventually rejected this idea. As popular opinion continued to rise against Polignac and the King, they came to the idea that a foreign policy victory such as the taking of Algiers would turn opinion in their favour again.
Invasion of Algiers
Admiral Duperré took command in Toulon of an armada of 600 ships and then headed for Algiers. Following a plan for the invasion of Algeria originally developed under Napoleon in 1808, General de Bourmont then landed 34,000 soldiers 27 kilometres (17 mi) west of Algiers, at Sidi Ferruch, on 14 June 1830. To face the French, the dey sent 7,000 janissaries, 19,000 troops from the beys of Constantine and Oran, and about 17,000 Kabyles. The French established a strong beachhead and pushed toward Algiers, thanks in part to superior artillery and better organization. On 19 June the French defeated the dey's army at the battle of Staouéli, and entered Algiers on 5 July after a three-week campaign. The dey accepted capitulation in exchange for his freedom and the offer to retain possession of his personal wealth. Five days later, he went into exile in Naples with his family. The Turkish Janissaries also quit the territory, leaving for Turkey. The dey's departure ended 313 years of Ottoman rule of the territory.
While the French command had nominally agreed to preserve the liberties, properties, and religious freedoms of the inhabitants, French troops immediately began plundering the city, arresting and killing people for arbitrary reasons, seizing property, and desecrating religious sites. By mid-August, the last remnants of Turkish authority were summarily deported without opportunity to liquidate significant assets. One estimate indicates that more than fifty million francs of assets were diverted into private hands during the plunder. This activity had a profound effect on future relations between the French occupiers and the natives. A French commission in 1833 wrote that "we have sent to their deaths on simple suspicion and without trial people whose guilt was always doubtful ... we massacred people carrying safe conducts ... we have outdone in barbarity the barbarians". One important side effect of the expulsion of the Turks was that it created a power vacuum in significant parts of the territory, from which resistance to French occupation immediately began to arise.
Hardly had the news of the capture of Algiers reached Paris than Charles X was deposed during the Three Glorious Days of July 1830, and his cousin Louis-Philippe, the "citizen king", was named to preside over a constitutional monarchy. The new government, composed of liberal opponents of the Algiers expedition, was reluctant to pursue the conquest begun by the old regime. However, the victory was enormously popular, and the new government of Louis-Philippe only withdrew a portion of the invasion force. General Bourmont, who had sent troops to occupy Bône and Oran, withdrew them from those places with the idea of returning to France to restore Charles to the throne. When it was clear that his troops were not supportive of this effort, he resigned and went into exile in Spain. Louis-Philippe replaced him with Bertrand Clauzel in September 1830.
The bey of Titteri, who had participated in the battle at Staouéli, attempted to coordinate resistance against the French with the beys of Oran and Constantine, but they were unable to agree on leadership. Clauzel in November led a French column of 8,000 to Médéa, Titteri's capital, losing 200 men in skirmishes. After leaving 500 men at Blida he occupied Médéa without resistance, as the bey had retreated. After installing a supportive bey and a garrison, he returned toward Algiers. On arrival at Blida, he learned that the garrison there had been attacked by the Kabyles, and in resisting them, had killed some women and children, causing the town's population to rise against them. Clauzel decided to withdraw that garrison as the force returned to Algiers.
Clauzel introduced a formal civil administration in Algiers, and began recruiting zouaves, or native auxiliaries to the French forces, with the goal of establishing a proper colonial presence. He and others formed a company to acquire agricultural land and to subsidize its settlement by European farmers, triggering a land rush. Clauzel recognized the farming potential of the Mitidja Plain and envisioned the production there of cotton on a large scale. During his second term as governor general (1835–36), he used his office to make private investments in land and encouraged army officers and bureaucrats in his administration to do the same. This development created a vested interest among government officials in greater French involvement in Algeria. Commercial interests with influence in the government also began to recognize the prospects for profitable land speculation in expanding the French zone of occupation. Over a ten-year period they created large agricultural tracts, built factories and businesses, and bought cheap local labor.
Clauzel also attempted to extend French influence into Oran and Constantine by negotiating with the bey of Tunis to supply "local" rulers that would operate under French administration. The bey refused, seeing the obvious conflicts inherent in the idea. The French foreign ministry objected to negotiations Clauzel conducted with Morocco over the establishment of a Moroccan bey in Oran, and in early 1831 replaced him with Baron Berthezène.
Berthezène was a weak administrator opposed to colonisation. His worst military failure came when he was called to support the bey at Médéa, whose support for the French and corruption had turned the population there against him. Berthezène led troops to Médéa in June 1831 to extract the bey and the French garrison. On their way back to Algiers they were continually harassed by Kabyle resistance, and driven into a panicked retreat that Berthezène failed to control. French casualties during this retreat were significant (nearly 300), and the victory fanned the flames of resistance, leading to attacks on colonial settlements. The growing colonial financial interests began insisting on a stronger hand, which Louis-Philippe provided in Duke Rovigo at the end of 1831.
Rogivo regained control of Bône and Bougie (present-day Béjaïa), cities that Clauzel had taken and then lost due to resistance by the Kabyle people. He continued policies of colonisation of the land and expropriation of properties. His suppression of resistance in Algiers was brutal, with the military presence extended into its neighborhoods. He was recalled in 1833 due to the overtly violent nature of the repression, and replaced by Baron Voirol. Voirol successfully established French occupation in Oran, and another French general, Louis Alexis Desmichels, was given an independent command that gained control over Arzew and Mostaganem.
On 22 June 1834, France formally annexed the occupied areas of Algeria, which had an estimated Muslim population of about two million, as a military colony. The colony was run by a military governor who had both civilian and military authority, including the power of executive decree. His authority was nominally over an area of "limited occupation" near the coast, but the realities of French colonial expansion beyond those areas ensured continued resistance from the local population. The policy of limited occupation was formally abandoned in 1840 for one of complete control.
Voirol was replaced in 1834 by Jean-Baptiste Drouet, Comte d'Erlon, who became the first governor of the colony, and who was given the task of dealing with the rising threat of `Abd al-Q?dir and continuing French failures to subdue Ahmed Bey, Constantine's ruler.
The rise of `Abd al-Q?dir
The superior of a religious brotherhood, Muhyi ad Din, who had spent time in Ottoman jails for opposing the bey's rule, launched attacks against the French and their makhzen allies at Oran in 1832. In the same year, tribal elders in the territories near Mascara chose Muhyi ad Din's son, twenty-five-year-old `Abd al-Q?dir, to take his place leading the jihad. Abd al-Q?dir, who was recognized as Amir al-Muminin (commander of the faithful), quickly gained the support of tribes in the western territories. In 1834 he concluded a treaty with General Desmichels, who was then military commander of the province of Oran. In the treaty, which was reluctantly accepted by the French administration, France recognized Abd al-Q?dir as the sovereign of territories in Oran province not under French control, and authorized Abd al-Q?dir to send consuls to French-held cities. The treaty did not require Abd al-Q?dir to recognize French rule, something glossed over in its French text. Abd al-Q?dir used the peace provided by this treaty to widen his influence with tribes throughout western and central Algeria.
While d'Erlon was apparently unaware of the danger posed by Abd al-Q?dir's activities, General Camille Alphonse Trézel, then in command at Oran, did see it, and attempted to separate some of the tribes from Abd al-Q?dir. When he succeeded in convincing two tribes near Oran to acknowledge French supremacy, Abd al-Q?dir dispatched troops to move those tribes to the interior, away from French influence. Trézel countered by marching a column of troops out from Oran to protect the territory of those tribes on 16 June 1835. After exchanging threats, Abd al-Q?dir withdrew his consul from Oran and ejected the French consul from Mascara, a de facto declaration of war. The two forces clashed in a bloody but inconclusive engagement near the Sig River. However, when the French, who were short on provisions, began withdrawing toward Arzew, al-Q?dir led 20,000 men against the beleaguered column, and in the Battle of Macta routed the force, killing 500 men. The debacle led to the recall of Comte d'Erlon.
General Clausel was appointed a second time to replace d'Erlon. He led an attack against Mascara in December of that year, which Abd al-Q?dir, with advance warning, had evacuated. In January 1836 he occupied Tlemcen, and established a garrison there before return to Algiers to plan an attack against Constantine. Abd al-Q?dir continued to harry the French at Tlemcen, so additional troops under Thomas Robert Bugeaud, a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars experienced in irregular warfare were sent from Oran to secure control up to the Tafna River and to resupply the garrison. Abd al-Q?dir retreated before Bugeaud, but decided to make a stand on the banks of the Sikkak River. On July 6, 1836, Bugeaud decisively defeated al-Q?dir in the Battle of Sikkak, losing less than fifty men to more than 1,000 casualties suffered by Abd al-Q?dir. The battle was one of the few formal battles al-Q?dir engaged in; after the loss he restricted his actions as much as possible to guerilla-style attacks.
Ahmed Bey had continuously resisted any attempts by the French or others to subjugate Constantine, and continued to play a role in resistance against French rule, in part because he hoped to eventually become the next dey. Clausel and Ahmed had tangled diplomatically over Ahmed's refusal to recognize French authority over Bône, which he considered to still be Ottoman territory, and Clausel decided to move against him. In November 1836 Clausel led 8,700 men into the Constantine beylik, but was repulsed in the Battle of Constantine; the failure led to Clausel's recall. He was replaced by the Comte de Damrémont, who led an expedition that successfully captured Constantine the following year, although he was killed during the siege and replaced by Sylvain Charles, comte Valée.
Al-Q?dir's resistance renewed
In May 1837, General Thomas Robert Bugeaud, then in command of Oran, negotiated the Treaty of Tafna with al-Q?dir, in which he effectively recognized al-Q?dir's control over much of the interior of what is now Algeria. Al-Q?dir used the treaty to consolidate his power over tribes throughout the interior, establishing new cities far from French control. He worked to motivate the population under French control to resist by peaceful and military means. Seeking to again face the French, he laid claim under the treaty to territory that included the main route between Algiers and Constantine. When French troops contested this claim in late 1839 by marching through a mountain defile known as the Iron Gates, al-Q?dir claimed a breach of the treaty, and renewed calls for jihad. Throughout 1840 he waged guerilla war against the French in the provinces of Algiers and Oran, which Valée's failures to adequately deal with led to his replacement in December 1840 by General Bugeaud.
Bugeaud instituted a strategy of scorched earth, combined with fast-moving cavalry columns not unlike those used by al-Q?dir to progressively take territory from al-Q?dir. The troops' tactics were heavy-handed, and the population suffered significantly. Al-Q?dir was eventually forced to establish a mobile headquarters that was known as a smala or zmelah. In 1843 French forces successfully raided this camp while he was away from it, capturing more than 5,000 fighters and al-Q?dir's warchest.
Al-Q?dir was forced to retreat into Morocco, from which he had been receiving some support, especially from tribes in the border areas. When French diplomatic efforts to convince Morocco to expel al-Q?dir failed, the French resorted to military means with the First Franco-Moroccan War in 1844 to compel the sultan to change his policy.
Eventually hemmed between French and Moroccan troops on the border in December 1847, al-Q?dir chose to surrender to the French, under terms that he be allowed to enter exile in the Middle East. The French violated these terms, holding him in France until 1852, when he was allowed to go to Damascus.
The Vandalic War was a war fought in North Africa, in the areas of modern Tunisia and eastern Algeria, in 533-534, between the forces of the Eastern Roman Empire and the Vandal Kingdom of Carthage. It was the first of Justinian the Great's wars of Reconquest of the West, and met with rapid success, as the Vandal Kingdom was destroyed, and Roman authority re-established in the whole of North Africa.
In the course of the Western Empire's troubles in the early 5th century, the tribe of the Vandals, allied with the Alans, had established themselves in the Iberian peninsula. In 429, the Vandal King Geiseric, invited by the vicarius of Africa, Bonifacius, crossed the straits of Gibraltar with his people into Roman North Africa. With the local Roman forces severely weakened because of Bonifacius' revolt and subsequent death in 432, the Vandals were free to take over the province. In 439, Carthage fell, and during the next 20 years Geiseric established his rule not only over the Roman provinces of the Diocese of Africa, but also over Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic Islands, which he conquered with the aid of a powerful navy. During the next decades, the skilled Vandal fleets raided the entire Mediterranean, sacking Rome and defeating an East Roman invasion force in 468 under Basiliscus. This defeat and the Vandals' pirate activity were a sore wound for Constantinople, further exacerbated by their domestic policies. The Vandals were fanatic Arians and followed a policy of separation from and persecution of their Catholic subjects. Nonetheless, the inability of the Romans to launch a campaign against the Vandal Kingdom resulted in a period of peaceful relations, despite occasional tensions, according to the terms of the "perpetual peace" of 476.
The situation changed however, when Justinian I, who aspired to recover the lost western provinces, ascended to the Imperial throne. Initially, Justinian was occupied with the Iberian War with the Persians, while in Carthage, the more tolerant and pro-Roman king Hilderic, the son of Huneric, who reigned since 523, had established close relations with the Roman Empire. This policy however aroused opposition among the Vandals, which resulted in his overthrow in 530 by his cousin, Gelimer. Justinian seized the opportunity, demanding Hilderic's restoration, with Gelimer predictably refusing to do so. Justinian now had his pretext, and with peace restored in the East in 532, he started assembling an invasion force.
Preparations of the two rivals
Justinian selected one of his most trusted and talented generals, Belisarius, to lead the expedition, with the eunuch Solomon as his chief of staff. Belisarius took with him as his principal secretary Procopius of Caesarea, who recorded the war in two books. Procopius tells us that the memory of the 468 disaster was still strong, and that many of Justinian's ministers, including the Praetorian prefect, John the Cappadocian, were opposed to the enterprise and tried to dissuade him. Only churchmen were enthusiastically in favour of the expedition against the Vandals, whom they regarded as heretics. In light of these doubts, and the Vandals' fearsome reputation as warriors, the size of the assembled expeditionary force is surprisingly small. It comprised no more than 15,000 men, of which 10,000 infantry, about half Roman and half Foederati, and 5,000 cavalry, consisting of ca. 1,500 of Belisarius' own bucellarii, 3,000 Roman and foederati cavalry, and 600 Huns and 400 Heruli horse archers. These were to be transported by a fleet of 500 transports and escorted by 92 dromons.
On the Vandal side, Gelimer faced two revolts, one in Tripolitania and one in Sardinia. Although the former was aided by Roman troops, and could provide a useful base for them on African soil, Gelimer did not react to it at all, possibly because of its remoteness. Instead, he sent the better part of his fleet, 120 ships, and 5,000 men, under his brother Tzazon, to suppress the revolt of the governor of Sardinia, a certain Godas.
Prior to the Roman fleet setting sail, Justinian had secured the cooperation of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy, which allowed the Roman fleet to use the harbours of Sicily. The fleet set sail from Constantinople in June, and proceeded slowly. When it arrived at Sicily, Procopius, to the Romans' great relief, found out that the main part of the Vandal fleet had sailed to Sardinia.
The Battle of Ad Decimum
Thus the Roman fleet approached the African coast unopposed in early September, and made landfall at Caput Vada (modern Ras Kaboudia) on 9 September. From there Belisarius marched his army northwards, towards Carthage, following the coast, accompanied by the fleet. During the march, he maintained strict discipline among his men, so as not to disaffect the local population. As the Romans advanced, Gelimer prepared to meet them. He murdered Hilderic, and summoned his forces to the south of Carthage, at the site known as Ad Decimum ("At the tenth (milestone)"). There he planned to ambush and encircle the Romans, using a force under his brother Ammatas to block their advance and engage them, while 2,000 men under his nephew Gibamund would attack their left flank, and Gelimer himself with the main army would attack from the rear, and completely annihilate the Roman army. In the event, the three forces failed to synchronize exactly. On September 13, Ammatas arrived early, and was killed as he attempted a reconnaissance with a small force by the Roman vanguard. Gibamund's force was intercepted by a 600-strong Hunnic cavalry unit, and was utterly destroyed. Unaware of all this, Gelimer marched up with the main army, and scattered the Roman forces at Decimum. Victory might have been his, but he came upon his dead brother's body, and apparently forgot all about the battle. This gave Belisarius the time to rally his troops and defeat the disorganized Vandals.
Fall of Carthage and Gelimer's counterattack
Gelimer, realising his defeat, fled with the remnants of his army westwards, towards Numidia, since Carthage was both left without garrison and its walls were in a bad state. After recuperating for a day, on 15 September 533, the Roman army entered Carthage, amidst scenes of exultation by its inhabitants. On Belisarius' insistence, the victorious army remained disciplined and did not plunder the captured city. Belisarius established himself in the Vandal royal palace, and started repairing the city's walls, anticipating a counterstrike by Gelimer. Indeed the Vandal king, having fled to the town of Bulla Regia, immediately recalled his brother from Sardinia. Thus reinforced, he marched against Carthage, and started to besiege it by cutting it off from supplies. He also sent agents into the city, who even managed start negotiations with some of Belisarius' Hunnic mercenaries.
The Battle of Tricamarum and surrender of Gelimer
Fearing that the Vandals might break into the city by treachery, Belisarius resolved to force the issue. The two armies met near the Vandal camp at Tricamarum in mid-December. The Roman infantry did not arrive until late in the day, so that the battle was decided entirely by the cavalry. The Romans repeatedly charged the Vandals, and managed to kill Tzazon. As had happened at Decimum, Gelimer lost heart at this, and the Vandals were routed. Gelimer fled again to Numidia, but in March 534 he surrendered to Belisarius. Already before Gelimer's surrender, Roman forces occupied Sardinia, Corsica, the Balearics, Mauretania and the fort of Septum opposite Gibraltar.
Belisarius left Africa in the summer, accompanied the captive Gelimer and the Vandal treasure, which included many objects looted from Rome 80 years earlier, including the imperial regalia and the menorah of the Second Temple. Justinian, in a conscious echo of the glorious Roman past he sought to emulate, granted Belisarius the right to hold a triumph for his victory, the first to be granted to a private citizen since Lucius Cornelius Balbus in 19 BC and the last one, as well. During this, Gelimer, upon looking on the Emperor in his full splendour, is said to have uttered his famous remark from the Ecclesiastes, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity."  The Vandal War had ended in an unexpectedly swift and decisive Roman victory, and Justinian felt himself justified in his belief to be chosen to restore the Empire to its former glory, as is evident from the preamble of the law concerning the administrative organization of the new provinces:
“Our predecessors did not deserve this favor of God, as they were not only not permitted to liberate Africa, but even saw Rome itself captured by
the Vandals, and all the Imperial insignia taken from thence to Africa. Now, however, God, in his mercy, has not only delivered Africa and all her
provinces into Our hands, but the Imperial insignia as well, which, having been removed at the capture of Rome, He has restored to us.”
—Codex Iustinianus, Book I, XXVII
The re-establishment of Roman rule in Africa
In April 534, the old Roman provincial system along with the full apparatus of Roman administration was restored, under a praetorian prefect. During the following years, under Solomon, who combined the offices of both magister militum and praetorian prefect of Africa, Roman rule in Africa was strengthened, but the fighting continued against the Moorish tribes (Mauri) of the interior. Solomon achieved significant successes against them, but his work was interrupted by a widespread military mutiny in 536. The mutiny was eventually subdued by Germanus, a cousin of Justinian, and Solomon returned in 539. He fell, however, in the Battle of Cillium in 544 against the united Moorish tribes, and Roman Africa was again in jeopardy. It would not be until 548 that the resistance of the Moorish and Berber tribes would be finally broken by the talented general John Troglita. The province entered an era of relative stability and prosperity, and was organized as a separate exarchate in 584. Eventually, under Heraclius, Africa would come to the rescue of the Empire itself, deposing the tyrant Phocas and beating back the Sassanids and the Avars.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article "French conquest of Algeria" and "Vandalic War", which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.