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Murder in Marrakesh

Émile Mauchamp and the French Colonial Adventure

Jonathan G. Katz

Publication Year: 2006

"In Morocco, nobody dies without a reason." -- Susan Gilson Miller, Harvard University

In the years leading up to World War I, the Great Powers of Europe jostled one another for control over Morocco, the last sovereign nation in North Africa. France beat out its rivals and added Morocco to its vast colonial holdings through the use of diplomatic intrigue and undisguised force. But greed and ambition alone do not explain the complex story of imperialism in its entirety. Amid fears that Morocco was descending into anarchy, Third Republic France justified its bloody conquest through an appeal to a higher ideal. France's self-proclaimed "civilizing mission" eased some consciences but led to inevitable conflict and tragedy. Murder in Marrakesh relates the story of the early days of the French conquest of Morocco from a new perspective, that of Émile Mauchamp, a young French doctor, his compatriots, and some justifiably angry Moroccans. In 1905, the French foreign ministry sent Mauchamp to Marrakesh to open a charitable clinic. He died there less than two years later at the hands of a mob. Reviled by the Moroccans as a spy, Mauchamp became a martyr for the French. His death, a tragedy for some, created opportunity for others, and set into motion a chain of events that changed Morocco forever. As it reconstructs Mauchamp's life, this book touches on many themes -- medicine, magic, vengeance, violence, mourning, and memory. It also considers the wedge French colonialism drove between Morocco's Muslims and Jews. This singular episode and compelling human story provides a timely reflection on French-Moroccan relations, colonial pride, and the clash of civilizations.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. xi-xii

In a casual conversation, Susan Gilson Miller once remarked to me that “in Morocco, no one dies without a reason.” Her offhand observation became the title of chapter 7, but it could well be the subtitle of this book. At the outset of my research, I never thought that...

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Note on Transliteration and Names

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pp. xiii-xiv

For Arabic words, I have employed a simplified system of transliteration based on the one found in Hans Wehr’s A Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic. In a few instances I have used a spelling that approximates common pronunciation, for example, mellah instead of...

Principal Characters

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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. 1-16

This book is about a murder and its consequences. It seemed like a senseless murder at the time when it took place in Marrakesh on March 19, 1907. It is thus a book about yesterday’s news, now long beyond the reach of living memory. Some of the most important...

Part 1. Life

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pp. 17

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1. Civilization’s Martyr

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pp. 19-45

The spring of 1907 was an especially dolorous time for France. On March 12 an accidental explosion of munitions blew up the 12,000-ton warship I

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2. The Road to Marrakesh

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pp. 46-73

Beginning in 1904, Th

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3. Europeans and Jews

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pp. 74-91

At the turn of the century, explorers such as Segonzac and Doutt

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4. A Doctor in Marrakesh

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pp. 92-106

By December 1905, Mauchamp’s clinic was up and running, at least for the time being, in the disputed but now remodeled Dar Ould Bellah house. Mauchamp wrote enthusiastic letters to all and sundry, extolling the immediate success of his practice. To the Morocco...

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5. False Starts and False Reports

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pp. 107-127

To many observers southern Morocco seemed primed to explode in the second half of 1906. Throughout the summer rumors circulated that Moulay Hafid was about to proclaim himself sultan in Marrakesh. In nearby Essaouira an inexplicable panic seized the Jewish...

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6. March 19, 1907

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pp. 128-162

At the start of February 1907, with his furlough in France at an end, Mauchamp left Chalon for the long journey to Marrakesh. In Tangier he joined up with the geologist Louis Gentil, who was traveling with his wife and their six-year-old daughter, Suzanne. With funding...

Part 2. Death

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pp. 163

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7. In Morocco, No One Dies without a Reason

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pp. 165-184

In the aftermath of Mauchamp’s death a controversy immediately arose. What was it exactly on the doctor’s roof that had incited his Moroccan neighbors to violence? The official Moroccan version— disseminated throughout the country in a letter from the...

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8. Negotiations

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pp. 185-214

A quarter century after his departure, Georges Saint-René Taillandier wrote a memoir of his five years as France’s minister to Morocco. Saint-René Taillandier left Morocco in 1906, soon after Mauchamp’s arrival. His tenure coincided with such notable events as the granting...

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9. The Crisis of the Month

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pp. 215-240

While Moroccan negotiators in Tangier engaged in “tergiversation,” as Regnault put it, justice spun its wheels in Marrakesh. Under pressure to arrest Mauchamp’s murderers, Hajj Abdeslam al-Warzazi, first apprehended two men. One, identified as being from the...

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10. Remains of the Day

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pp. 241-261

As for the handful of European businessmen and missionaries who had fled to the coast in June 1907, they soon trickled back to Marrakesh. But there, only a few weeks after their return, the news of the murdered European workers in Casablanca revived fears that...

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Conclusion: The Old Morocco

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pp. 262-278

Mauchamp’s memory was supposed to last forever. On that day in April 1907 when his mortal remains were laid to rest in the cemetery of Chalon-sur-Saône, one orator prophesied that Mauchamp’s example would “sustain imitators among our generous and chivalrous French...


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pp. 279-332


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pp. 333-347


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pp. 349-358

E-ISBN-13: 9780253112330
E-ISBN-10: 0253112338
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253348159

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: 13 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2006