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Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua 1893-1956 Paperback – December 31, 2004

4.1 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Contains may superb color photographs that enhance Maxwell's lively narrative." --"Library Journal"

About the Author

Gavin Maxwell was born in 1914, educated at Stowe and Oxford and served in the Scots Guard during the Second World War. Invalided out in 1944 he bought the Island of Soay and set up his Basking Shark fishery there - the subject of his first book, Harpoon at a Venture, (1952). Other books include A Reed Shaken by the Wind (1958), an account of the Marsh Arabs of Iraq, The House of Elrig (1956), an autobiography of his childhood, and his world famous West Highland books about otters: Ring of Bright Water (1960), The Rocks Remain (1963) and Raven Seek Thy Brother (1969). He died in 1969.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Eland Books (December 31, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0907871143
  • ISBN-13: 978-0907871149
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #104,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This curious book is a cross between a coffee-table book and a real book meant for reading. It is visually stunning -- beautiful layout and magnificent photographs, both historical and current. As a history, the book is patchy. Sometimes it seems pieced together from bits of disconnected information. Large portions are quotations from a 1912 book by Walter Harris, who lived in Morocco and was a friend to sultans. The book relates the rise and fall of the Glaoui family. Two brothers, Madani and T'hami, ruled Marrakesh and southern Morocco as warlords from the early 1900's until 1956. Eventually, T'hami El Glaoui became a tool of the reactionary French colonial powers, until they abandoned him in the face of the inevitable movement toward independence. The book is full of fascinating and odd facts. You'll be able to amaze your friends with little known facts -- why the Jewish quarters of Fez and Marrakesh are called "mellahs," which means "salt;" what anatomical tidbit showed up in a restaurant stew during the massacres in Casablanca in the early 1950s; what Moroccan prostitutes sometimes have tattooed in special places. One negative comment -- the book is very badly proofread -- there are numerous typos from the dust jacket throughout the book. I highly recommend this book -- it's not your usual dry narrative of events.
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Format: Paperback
The fact that the first half of this book draws extensively and almost exclusively from the work of Harris, should in no way detract from the achievement of Maxwell. He has presented a very complex period of history, in an accessible and entertaining format. At times it is necessary to remind yourself that not only is this a true story, but that most of the events portrayed took place this century. It is a fantastic account of the power behind the French Protectorate, and a reminder that politics has always been a filthy business. Anyone planning a visit, or who has been to Morocco, especially the Glaoui kasbahs of the High Atlas, should read this book, as should fans of bloody, political intrigue.
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Format: Hardcover
Lay readers and any with a general interest in history will relish this survey of the rise and fall of the house of Glaoua from 1893-1956: Lords Of The Atlas provides an epic story of Moroccan history which reads almost like fiction but which is packed with facts. Add the unusual attribute of modern color photos of the region throughout and you have an unusually inviting coverage of a little-covered area.
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Format: Paperback
Gavin Maxwell wrote "Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua" in 1966, a decade after Morocco won independence from France. The Glaoui were one of the three principal Caids of the High Atlas, made wealthy by a profitable salt mine, who controlled one of the mountain passes. Their dominion over the tribes of southern Morocco began when the armies of Sultan Moulay Hassan beat a retreat to Marrakesh in 1893 through the pass controlled by the Glaoui, who gave him aid. The Sultan showed his appreciation by making the Glaoui his representatives in the region and giving them modern arms and ammunition with which to expand their domain.

"Lords of the Atlas" is divided into two books. The first traces the rise of the House of Glaoua under Madani El Glaoui, the son of Caid Si Mohammed Ben Hammou and an Ethiopian concubine, who led his family to power by conquering the Berber tribes of the South and by committing himself to the French, who were able to make Morocco a Protectorate in 1912 partly due to Madani's success in uniting the nation through conquest. Book Two follows the reign of Madani's brother T'hami El Glaoui, who inherited his brother's power and politics upon Madani's death in 1918. T'hami was officially the Pasha of Marrakesh but became a man more powerful than the Sultan himself, his status dependent upon the French Protectorate, which ended in 1956.

Gavin Maxwell thinks Madani a more impressive man than T'hami, though he defends T'hami against anti-colonialist propaganda. There is less personal information about Madani than his brother, and Maxwell speaks of his character in broader terms.
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Format: Paperback
In the late 19th century, before the French finally occupied Morocco (calling it a "protectorate"), there were no roads or railways in the country. The Sultans could not control the outlying areas. They tried to do so through local caids who had their own armies and made continual raids into the large, rugged areas beyond central control. The fortunes of these subordinate rulers waxed and waned. Maxwell's book is about the most successful family of these in the 20th century, a family based in the Atlas Mountains, which divide Morocco more or less down the middle. In competition with two other of these local caids, the Glaoui family cast its fortune with the French and became the most powerful in the whole country. They commanded an army of Berber warriors who gradually got modern arms. They plotted and planned and got their relatives into all the important positions in much of the country. The Glaoui family became so powerful as to get the sultan dethroned and exiled to Madagascar. They called the shots---but only for a short while. The tide of history changed. Colonialism became too expensive and politically untenable. The nationalist movement (Istiqlal) grew stronger, taking the exiled Sultan as its symbolic leader. The French saw the writing on the wall; they were fighting a vicious war in neighboring Algeria. They caved in. The Sultan returned and the Glaoui fell from power. T'hami El Glaoui died in early 1956 and Morocco regained its independence in the same year. Today the once-mighty forts erected by the Glaoui family sit crumbling in the mountains. How all this happened is a fascinating story, very well told in this book. While it might not be academic history, you don't get a chance to read about these events and these characters in many places. Give it a try.
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