Historically, the Spanish presence in Africa has been characterized by a relationship of convergences and divergences—particularly intense in the northwest part of the continent, most especially the northern region of early-21st-century Morocco and the hinterland of the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla—and the traditional contacts maintained with the Atlantic fishing grounds near the Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands. During the 19th century, Spanish interest expanded to other regions, such as Western Sahara and the Gulf of Guinea. After Spain lost its last colonies in Cuba and the Philippines in 1898, its interest in the African continent increased. The effective Spanish colonization of Africa was finally established in the first third of the 20th century. North Morocco, Ifni, the Tarfaya region, Western Sahara, and the territories of early-21st-century Equatorial Guinea comprised what broadly could be defined as Spanish colonial Africa. Spain’s colonial presence in Africa—with its different periods of colonization, various links between the colony and the metropoles, a plurality of legal forms (protectorate or colony), and diverse regional contexts (Arab world or sub-Saharan region)—produced a geographical and administrative division of the colonies. There was a distinction between North Morocco—whose very colonization was accompanied by a series of violent clashes that had immediate repercussions in Spain—and Spanish Western Africa, which constituted the other African colonial space. In the early 21st century, this division made by the Spanish administration is reflected in academic research, but few publications have made a comprehensive study of the Spanish colonization of Africa. Although the number of publications on Spanish colonial policy in Africa has increased in recent years, many subjects have not been addressed as of the mid-2010s. Political studies have only slowly given way to research into history, economy, anthropology, literature, health, education, and religion. Because of this research, it is now possible to have a broader understanding of this topic, with complementary views of Spanish colonization in Africa. Studies of Spanish colonial policy on the continent have not been grouped into a separate field; rather, these studies are incorporated into thematic areas or geographic areas. Thematic areas include modern history, political science, anthropology, and geography. Geographic areas include North African studies, North African and Middle East studies, and African studies (when the topic is North Morocco, Western Sahara, or Equatorial Guinea). This demonstrates the complexity of Spanish Colonial studies, the lack of interconnection in the field, and the dearth of comprehensive studies for the African context.
Comparative studies of Spanish colonialism in Africa are scarce (Aixelà Cabré 2017). Case analyses have dominated academic interest, making it difficult to evaluate the specific features and overall dynamics of Spanish colonialism. Salafranca Ortega 2001, a descriptive work, constitutes the first attempt to produce a general publication about the political aspects of Spanish colonial policy in Africa. The most notable comprehensive analyses in the field are Pardo Sanz 2010, Torre del Rio 2007, and Vilar 2010. Together, those references provide different working angles and views of Spanish colonialism in Africa. Topics related to identity, film, and literature in Martin-Márquez 2008, Carrasco González 2000, and Elena 2010 constitute the first attempts to analyze Spanish African colonization as a whole, using a cross-cutting approach.
Aixelà Cabré, Yolanda. “Exploring Euro-African Pasts through an Analysis of Spanish Colonial Practices in Africa (Morocco and Spanish Guinea).” Canadian Journal of African Studies 51.1 (2017): 23–42.
Spanish title: Revue canadienne des études africaines. A comparative analysis of Spanish colonialism in North Morocco and Guinea, highlighting the correlations and differences. Available online by subscription.
Carrasco González, Antonio M. La novela colonial hispanoafricana: Las colonias africanas de España a través de la historia de la novela. Casa de África 7. Madrid: SIAL Ediciones, 2000.
Extensive study of Spanish colonial literature from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century that analyzes authors such as Benito Pérez Galdós and Ramón J. Sender, literary genres such as the missionary novel, and topics that have received special literary attention, such as the 1921 Battle of Annual in North Morocco.
Elena, Alberto. La llamada de África: Estudios sobre el cine colonial español. Barcelona: Bellaterra, 2010.
Detailed study of Spanish colonial film with an extensive bibliography and complete directory of Spanish feature films and documentaries on colonial topics.
Martin-Márquez, Susan. Disorientations: Spanish Colonialism in Africa and the Performance of Identity. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008.
Dissertation analysis of the concept of Spanish national identity in correspondence with the presence of Spanish colonialism in Africa. Includes a bibliography and visual material. Published in Spanish as Desorientaciones: El colonialismo español en África y la performance de identidad (Barcelona: Bellaterra, 2011).
Pardo Sanz, Rosa María. “Fernando María Castiella y la política española hacia el mundo árabe, 1957–1969.” In España, el Mediterráneo y el mundo arabomusulmán: Diplomacia e historia. Edited by Bernabé López García and Miguel Hernando de Larramendi, 117–145. Barcelona: Icaria, 2010.
Analysis of the Arab policies of Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs Fernando María Castiella, appointed after North Morocco won independence in 1956, and his effect on Spanish colonial policies in Ifni, Sahara, and Guinea.
Salafranca Ortega, Jesús F. El sistema colonial español en África. Málaga, Spain: Algazara, 2001.
An examination of Spanish colonial geography policy in Africa.
Torre del Rio, Rosario de la. “De ultramar a la frontera meridional: Iniciativas en busca de una garantía internacional para España, 1898–1907.” In Modernizar España: Proyectos de reforma y apertura internacional (1898–1914). Edited by Guadalupe Gómez-Ferrer and Raquel Sánchez, 153–175. Madrid: Biblioteca Nueva, 2007.
Synthesis of Spanish positioning in the international context and European colonial policy in Morocco.
Vilar, Juan Bautista. “La proyección española en África.” In La política exterior de España de 1800 hasta hoy. Edited by Juan Carlos Pereira, 459–485. Barcelona: Ariel, 2010.
Chapter 20 provides an overview of Spanish colonialism in Africa from its inception to the end of the decolonization processes. Includes a list of recommended readings by geographic area.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Achebe, Chinua
- Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi
- African Socialism
- Africans in the Atlantic World
- Aid and Economic Development
- Arab Spring
- Arabic Language and Literature
- Archaeology and the Study of Africa
- Archaeology of Central Africa
- Archaeology of Eastern Africa
- Archaeology of Southern Africa
- Art, Art History, and the Study of Africa
- Arts of Central Africa
- Arts of Western Africa
- Asante and the Akan and Mossi States
- Bantu Expansion
- Benin (Dahomey)
- Botswana (Bechuanaland)
- Brink, André
- British Colonial Rule in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Burkina Faso (Upper Volta)
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- Children and Childhood
- China in Africa
- Christianity, African
- Coetzee, J.M.
- Colonial Rule, Belgian
- Colonial Rule, French
- Colonial Rule, German
- Colonial Rule, Italian
- Colonial Rule, Portuguese
- Communism, Marxist-Leninism, and Socialism in Africa
- Comoro Islands
- Congo, Republic of (Congo Brazzaville)
- Congo River Basin States
- Conservation and Wildlife
- Crime and the Law in Colonial Africa
- Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire)
- Development of Early Farming and Pastoralism
- Diaspora, Kongo Atlantic
- Disease and African Society
- Early States And State Formation In Africa
- Early States of the Western Sudan
- Economy, Informal
- Education and the Study of Africa
- Egypt, Ancient
- Environmental History
- Equatorial Guinea
- Ethnicity and Politics
- Europe and Africa, Medieval
- Family Planning
- Farah, Nuruddin
- Food and Food Production
- Fugard, Athol
- Genocide in Rwanda
- Geography and the Study of Africa
- Gikuyu (Kikuyu) People of Kenya
- Gordimer, Nadine
- Great Lakes States of Eastern Africa, The
- Hausa Language and Literature
- Health, Medicine, and the Study of Africa
- Historiography and Methods of African History
- History and the Study of Africa
- Ijo/Niger Delta
- Image of Africa, The
- Indian Ocean and Middle Eastern Slave Trades
- Indian Ocean Trade
- Invention of Tradition
- Iron Working and the Iron Age in Africa
- Islam in Africa
- Islamic Politics
- Kongo and the Coastal States of West Central Africa
- Language and the Study of Africa
- Literature and the Study of Africa
- Lord's Resistance Army
- Maasai and Maa-Speaking Peoples of East Africa, The
- Mau Mau
- Media and Journalism
- Military History
- Modern African Literature in European Languages
- Music, Dance, and the Study of Africa
- Music, Traditional
- Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o
- North Africa from 600 to 1800
- North Africa to 600
- Northeastern African States, c. 1000 BCE-1800 CE
- Obama and Kenya
- Oman, the Gulf, and East Africa
- Oral and Written Traditions, African
- Police and Policing
- Political Science and the Study of Africa
- Political Systems, Precolonial
- Popular Culture and the Study of Africa
- Popular Music
- Population and Demography
- Postcolonial Sub-Saharan African Politics
- Seychelles, The
- Slave Trade, Atlantic
- Slavery in Africa
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Social and Cultural Anthropology and the Study of Africa
- South Africa Post c. 1850
- Southern Africa to c. 1850
- Spanish Colonial Rule
- States of the Zimbabwe Plateau and Zambezi Valley
- Sudan and South Sudan
- Swahili City States of the East African Coast
- Swahili Language and Literature
- Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar)
- Traditional Religion, African
- Trans-Saharan Trade
- Urbanism and Urbanization
- Wars and Warlords
- Western Sahara
- Women and African History
- Women and Colonialism
- Women and Politics
- Women and Slavery
- Women, Gender and the Study of Africa
- Women in 19th-Century West Africa
- Yoruba Language and Literature
- Yoruba States, Benin, and Dahomey