The Politics of Food in Modern Morocco

Stacy E. Holden

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"In this meticulously researched and highly original study, Stacy Holden does for the urban citizens of Fez what Paul Pascon did for the tribesmen of the rural Haouz. She vividly documents the lives of ordinary people and shows how their needs and wants unexpectedly shape the structure of power in Morocco."--Jonathan G. Katz, Oregon State University

Unlike most other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco has had a stable government for centuries. Even when it was a French protectorate (1912-56), the Alaouite Sultans wielded centralized power. The reasons why are the subject of Stacy Holden's book, and the answers may come as a surprise.

Holden successfully argues that, rather than the importance of a theocratic government to the citizenry, the key factor in the government's stability is its ability to provide food to its people in an equitable manner, despite arid conditions. Further, without apologizing for abuses of power, she suggests that an authoritative government may be the most logical form of government in the semi-arid lands of the Arab-Islamic world.

She offers a new interpretation of Moroccan history by demonstrating the ways in which the French policies regarding food distribution were consistent with those of the precolonial Sultans. In Holden's telling, it was the weaknesses of the French government--especially when faced with local drought and global recession that bankrupted the government--that led to its inability to provide food to the people and subsequently to the rise of popular nationalism.

Stacy E. Holden is associate professor of history at Purdue University and the editor of A Documentary History of Modern Iraq.

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Offers a deep analysis of Moroccan history through the lens of food production and distribution.-- "The complex historical analysis and layered uses of Arabic language aligns this book well with graduate work, as well as that of researchers and faculty." CHOICE

Charity, patronage, and highly personalised economic relations are a theme running through the book, just as they are strong strand in Moroccan political culture. Holden emphasises how the conservation of the Fez elites influenced the anti-colonial movement: in 1934 the nationalists celebrated Throne Day by distributing tajine, cakes and tea to workers in Tangiers, and in Fez they distributed loaves to the poor.-- Middle East Bulletin

Stacy Holden shows a remarkable command of archival resources, including her own collection of oral histories, as well as of larger issues in contemporary Middle Eastern history. The book should be of wide interest to students of the region. Gastronomica

An important, welcome, and fresh contribution to the literature on political modernity in the Middle East and North Africa… extremely ambitious in its scope… points to new paths for future research.-- Middle East Journal

Holden writes in a clear, concise and lively, style, and she creatively employs a wide variety of sources… strongly recommend[ed]… [for] everyone interested in the history of modern Morocco, pre-industrial towns, colonial policies and the study of politics in the Arab Islamic world.-- Social History

A welcome addition to literature focusing on how food-related commodities and ecological conditions affect politics.-- American Historical Review

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