Essaouira was founded in 1764 by Sultan Sidi Muhammad b. Abdullah as his port for developing trade with Europe. Through a group of Jewish middlemen, it served as a link between Europe, Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries its fame rivalled Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers.
Based on extensive untapped archives in Morocco, papers of Jewish merchant houses and consular records of Britain, France and the United States, this book gives an account of the city in its heyday. Essaouira was an opening to foreign penetration, but it was also important to the Moroccan government, because potentially dissident regions became tied to its commercial and political activities. The control of the sultans was undermined as foreign powers imposed liberal trade and intervened in Moroccan affairs. This study of a specific city and region throws light on the problems of traditional societies in the age of European economic imperialism.