Modernising Violence and Social Change in the Spanish Sahara (1957–1975)

Enrique Bengochea Tirado, Francesco Correale

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In Spain's last colony, Western Sahara, both efforts by the colonial power to stimulate development and the negative impacts of colonisation intensified between the end of the Ifni-Sahara War (1957–58) and the Spanish withdrawal in 1975. Spanish economical and geopolitical interests triggered an important industrial and urban development of the territory. Cities such as Laayoune, Villa Cisneros, Smara, and the Bou Craa phosphate deposits were to showcase Spanish modernising colonial policies.
However, the effects of war, the control of colonial frontiers, and severe droughts during the 1960s strongly affected Sahrawi society. In this context, the Spanish colonial state developed new forms of control over the Sahrawi population, which included the progressive (forced) settling of nomadic people around military posts and Spanish cities, bringing about the adoption of new economic paradigms. Not only did the Francoist government distribute subsidies, both money and goods; it furthermore implemented policies aimed at controlling the Sahrawi way of life, particularly in the areas of hygiene, education, and gender relations. The essay analyses these “carrot-and-stick” strategies at the intersection of colonial control and forced sedentarisation with regard to the implementation of a market-oriented economy in Western Sahara.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-54
Number of pages21
JournalItinerario : Journal of Imperial and Global Interactions
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Western Sahara
  • Spanish colonialism in Africa
  • Ifni-Sahara War
  • Sección Femenina
  • social and economic changes
  • Sahrawi nationalism


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