In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Spanish Colonial Rule

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Africanismo

African Studies Spanish Colonial Rule
Alicia Campos Serrano, Irene Gonzalez, Francesco Correale
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 August 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0205


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.

General Overviews

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.

    DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300125207.001.0001

    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.

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