Murder in Marrakesh: Émile Mauchamp and the French Colonial Adventure

Publication Year



In the years leading up to World War I, the Great Powers of Europe jostled one another for control over Morocco, the last sovereign nation in North Africa. France beat out its rivals and added Morocco to its vast colonial holdings through the use of diplomatic intrigue and undisguised force. But greed and ambition alone do not explain the complex story of imperialism in its entirety. Amid fears that Morocco was descending into anarchy, Third Republic France justified its bloody conquest through an appeal to a higher ideal. France’s self-proclaimed "civilizing mission" eased some consciences but led to inevitable conflict and tragedy. Murder in Marrakesh relates the story of the early days of the French conquest of Morocco from a new perspective, that of Émile Mauchamp, a young French doctor, his compatriots, and some justifiably angry Moroccans. In 1905, the French foreign ministry sent Mauchamp to Marrakesh to open a charitable clinic. He died there less than two years later at the hands of a mob. Reviled by the Moroccans as a spy, Mauchamp became a martyr for the French. His death, a tragedy for some, created opportunity for others, and set into motion a chain of events that changed Morocco forever. As it reconstructs Mauchamp’s life, this book touches on many themes—medicine, magic, vengeance, violence, mourning, and memory. It also considers the wedge French colonialism drove between Morocco’s Muslims and Jews. This singular episode and compelling human story provides a timely reflection on French-Moroccan relations, colonial pride, and the clash of civilizations.

Table of Contents

A Note on Transliteration and Names
List of Principal Characters

Part 1. Life
1. Civilization's Martyr
2. The Road to Marrakesh
3. Europeans and Jews
4. A Doctor in Marrakesh
5. False Starts and False Reports
6. March 19, 1907
Part 2. Death
7. In Morocco, No One Dies without a Reason
8. Negotiations
9. The Crisis of the Month
10. Remains of the Day
Conclusion: The Old Morocco



 “ . . . a tour de force of historical excavation. —” — France

“Katz ought to be commended for his exhaustive survey of French, British, and most significantly Moroccan archives for any piece of information concerning Mauchamp's mission to Marrakesh, his life there, the circumstances of his death, and the aftermath of that affair.”  — Middle East Journal

“If historians are detectives following clues of eras past, then Jonathan Katz is the sleuth par excellence of the advent of French colonialism in Morocco. ”  — Intl. Journal of Middle East Studies 40 (2008)

Indiana University Press