This question is somewhat related to this one.

The three maghreban countries of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia are almost like three sisters and share everything in common culturally and historically. All three were conquered by France in the 19th century.

However, while Morocco and Tunisia were made French protectorates and considered colonies, Algeria was annexed and considered to be part of France proper until 1962, and that even though Algeria was separated from france since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, and is connected to France only by sea. Why did the French make such a difference?


2 Answers 2


One of the main differences between Algeria and other Maghreb countries controlled by France was the extensive settlements established there. European settlers began arriving immediately after the capture of Algeria in 1830.

These settlers were encouraged by the colonial policy which makes it easy for them to massively "buy" Algerian lands at the expense of the native population. Later a set of laws (Code de l'indigénat) was codified to create an inferior legal status for the natives and give even more special status to the colonists.

Anyway, in 1847 (slightly before the official annexation of Algeria in 1848), the settler population already reached 100,000, almost 5% of the total population. Later this reached around 10% of the total population, disproportionately holding a large part of the arable lands. The settler population was nowhere ever near this level in Morocco and Tunisia.


Table source: Wikipedia

As for why Algeria had more settler population than the other colonies, a possible simple reason (highlighted by Medi Saif in the comments of this answer) might be that it was the first to be controlled by France. Algeria was captured in 1830, while Tunisia was captured in 1881 and Morocco became a French protectorate only in 1912.

So, the initial settlement of Algeria by the Europeans encouraged higher degree of integration with France (including annexation) and favorable laws to French citizens, and in turn all these things encouraged even more settlement to Algeria. I hope this answer your question.

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    My understanding is that there might have been a catch 22 situation there. More settlers causes more formal integration with France proper (to protect the settlers). More formal integration means it is more attractive for settlers, which causes more settlers. As for why initially there were more settlers, it might have been just some simple reason like it was closer/more accessible to France. Even a slight advantage might matter due to the catch-22 effect. But this part is just my speculation.
    – user69715
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 0:49
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    @Bregalad note that Algeria was also longer colonized by France 1830-1961 >130 years! (Morroco officially 1912-1956, Tunisia 1881-1956)
    – Medi1Saif
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 9:22
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    @MediSaif I think that makes more sense than my speculation. Included this point in my answer.
    – user69715
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 5:43
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    @user69715 "Catch 22"...you keep using that phrase and clearly do not know what it means. Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 14:42
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    What you call "catch 22" is "self-reinforcing." There is no internal conflict in a self-reinforcing situation. For example, the Catch-22 from the novel held the following conflict: you could not be excused from flying combat missions unless you were crazy, but anyone who wanted to avoid combat missions was by definition not crazy: so you're going on that combat mission. Catch-22= a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions Commented Jun 12, 2017 at 14:54

Timing was a major factor.

The French invasion of Algeria in 1830 (with the excuse that the Dey had touched the French consul with a fan) was in a period shortly after the Napoleonic wars when conquest was seen as an acceptable method of acquiring territory.

By 1880, the Scramble for Africa had led to the development of some forms of rules for civilised behaviour in imperialism. More significantly, in the Tunisian case Italy (with its eye on Libya) objected to French expansion, while in the Moroccan case Spain (with its eye on the north coast) and later Germany objected to French expansion. The desire to avoid European wars lead to a more moderate façade of colonial protection rather than annexation.

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