Introduction to History of Algeria
History of Algeria. Cave paintings found in southern Algeria indicate that there were people living there as early as 8000 B.C. When the Phoenicians began founding settlements along the coast in the ninth century B.C., the inland area was inhabited by nomadic Berbers. By the second century B.C., when the Romans were winning control of North Africa from the Carthaginians, the Berbers nearer the coast had become settled and had organized themselves into kingdoms. Numidia was south of the coastal strip in the east, Mauretania in the west.
Sovereignty over Numidia and Mauretania changed often, being awarded by Rome to the native rulers who supported the Romans in various wars. Numidia was annexed temporarily by Rome in 46 B.C., permanently in 25 B.C. Mauretania was annexed in 42 A.D. Caesarea (Cherchel) was the major city of eastern Mauretania, Cirta (Constantine) of Numidia. Hippo Regius (Annaba, or Bne) was seat of the Christian bishopric held by Saint Augustine (354430), a native of the area. Northern Algeria was occupied by the Vandals in 429, and retaken by Byzantine forces for the Eastern Roman Empire in 533.
In the second half of the seventh century Muslim Arabs overran western North Africa, which they called the Maghreb (Arabic for western). The Berbers converted to Islam, but were denied many of the privileges enjoyed by the Arabs. Early in the eighth century, a number of Berbers formed a separate Muslim sect, the Kharidjites, and in 740 they revolted against Arab political and religious domination. A small autonomous Kharidjite state was founded in northern Algeria, at Tiaret, in about 776; it lasted into the 10th century.
Throughout the 9th and 10th centuries, there were Berber uprisings against the Arabs, and several autonomous Berber kingdoms were established in western Algeria. In the 11th century the Fatimid dynasty in Egypt, determined to regain Arab control over the area, sent warlike tribes into the Maghreb to destroy the power of the Berber kingdoms. As the tribes moved in, the Berbers retreated to the mountains. Here, at Tlemcen, another independent Berber dynasty arose in the 13th century, and for 200 years it ruled over much of what is now Algeria.
In the early 16th century the Spanish, who had expelled the Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula in Europe, attacked the coast of Barbary, as Europeans called the Maghreb, and won control of several ports. The Ottoman Turks, however, had begun the conquest of North Africa. Turkish corsairs (sea raiders) under the Barbarossa brothers seized the port of Algiers and in 1519 organized what is now northern Algeria into a Turkish province. Theoretically tributary to the sultan, it became increasingly independent under corsair rule. Algiers was soon one of the pirate capitals of the Barbary coast.
The Spanish attacked Algiers in 1541, but failed to take it. Gradually Spain lost its garrison posts until only those on the Gulf of Oran were left. For almost 300 years efforts by the Christian nations to curb the Barbary corsairs were largely unsuccessful.
In the 1820’s relations between the French and the Algerians grew tense. After an ineffectual naval blockade in 1829, France invaded Algiers in 1830 and won a quick victory over the coastal area. Inland, however, resistance was strong under the leadership of Abd-el-Kader, the Arab ruler of Mascara. The Algerians did not surrender until 1847. In 1848 northern Algeria was annexed to France. Periodic insurrections continued into the 20th century; French military posts were gradually established in the Algerian Sahara, and the desert Berbers were eventually subdued.
France’s efforts to colonize Algeria were only partially successful until after the Franco-Prussian War (187071), when a number of refugees from German-occupied Alsace moved in. Settlers came also from southern France to establish vineyards. The colonists were given the most fertile lands. The native Algerians were permitted to become French citizens only if they renounced their Islamic beliefs. Since few would do so, the country was run by and for the benefit of the colonists.
Resentment toward the French began building into an independence movement in the period between World Wars I and II. The French government tried to improve the political status of the Muslims, but faced bitter opposition by the colonists. In 1945 a violent uprising of Muslims was put down with great severity.
In 1947 France gave the Muslims citizenship, but adjusted the voting laws so that the colonists would retain political control. Soon after, the Muslims formed a revolutionary organization, the National Liberation Front (FLN). In 1954 the FLN began a rebellion, which France, with an unstable government, was unable to put down. In 1958 France’s Fourth Republic fell, and Charles de Gaulle, leader of the new French government, entered into negotiations with the FLN. While negotiations were being carried on, colonists, strongly opposed to Algeria’s independence, fought the Muslims. As fighting intensified in early 1962, growing numbers of Europeans left Algeria for France. By the time Algeria gained its independence in mid-1962, half of the French population had left.
The departure of French colonists, many skilled in government and technology, left the economy near collapse. With French governmental assistance, the nation slowly recovered. The two countries cooperated in developing oil and gas resources.
Ahmed Ben Bella of the FLN was elected president in 1963. In 1965 he was deposed and control of the country was taken over by Houari Boumedienne, who pursued a policy of socialism. He died in 1978 and was succeeded by Colonel Benjedid Chadli. In the 1980’s, Chadli encouraged the development of private enterprise.
In the early 1990’s Islamic fundamentalists became a major political force. In 1991, they won 46 per cent of the seats in the national assembly; a second round of voting was scheduled in districts where no candidate received a majority. In January, 1992, Chadli resigned; he was succeeded by Mohammed Boudiaf. The army canceled the second-round elections to prevent a fundamentalist takeover. In June, 1992, Boudiaf was assassinated. A five-member High State Council was formed to temporarily replace the presidency; in 1994 it appointed a new president, Lamine Zeroual.
In 1995 Zeroual was elected president. Revisions to the constitution, which were passed in 1996, included such changes as banning political parties based on religion and creating a two-chamber legislature. In 1997, multiparty elections for the new legislature were held; these were the first such elections since 1991.
In the years following the cancelled elections of 1992, fundamentalists carried out a terrorist campaign of murder, targeting government employees, intellectuals, Westernized citizens, and foreigners. The government retaliated with counterinsurgency measures. By 1997, more than 60,000 people had been killed in the conflict.
Independent candidate Abdelaziz Bouteflika was elected president in 1999 . He was reelected in 2004 and 2009. Berber protestors seeking increased political and cultural recognition clashed with security forces in northern Algeria in 2001. In 2002, the Berber language, Tamazight, became a national language of Algeria in response to the protests.
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