Bled al-Siba/Bled al-Makhzan

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a theory recognizing the pragmatic governance of a multicultural society.

French colonial theorists developed the idea that pre-colonial Morocco consisted of two areas, bled almakhzan, the land of government, where the sultan ruled over plains and cities and collected taxes more securely, and bled al-siba, the many Berber mountainous areas where the sultan was relatively powerless. The use of the term makhzan (treasury) for the government clearly showed the relationship between taxation and authority. The sultan's authority over siba areas, they said, was confined to his religious role. The makhzan-siba division laid the theoretical basis, under the protectorate, of a system of "indirect rule," under which the Berber areas would be administered separately from the Arab-speaking areas, supposedly in accordance with their customary law. Arabic-speaking nationalists saw this as an attempt to "divide and rule." Nationalist historians pictured the sultan not as a powerless figurehead but as an arbitrator who stepped in to settle disputes in the mountainous and Berber areas, but who was otherwise content to allow these more remote and poor areas to use local systems to maintain order.


Hoffman, Bernard G. The Structure of Traditional Moroccan Rural Society. The Hague and Paris: Mouton, 1967.

C. R. Pennell