Philip Trotter, Our Mission to the Court of Marocco

This is the final post in a series that briefly outlines the texts we’re reading and who wrote them.

Our Mission to the Court of Marocco, Under Sir John Drummond Hay, published in 1881.

Sir John Drummond Hay was the British ambassador to Morocco from 1845 through 1886. Illustrations by “D. Lawless, Rifle Brigade.” Unlike Glorvina Fort and Frances Macnab, Trotter wrote about his experiences in Morocco from the perspective of a man and a British military officer attached to the British government’s diplomatic envoy there. Although he accompanied Drummond Hay “in a private capacity” (p.3), he was privy to the daily ins and outs of diplomatic life on the trip he describes.

Carte de l’Empire de Maroc, 1850. via Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps

The book details Drummond Hay’s journey from Tangier to present himself at the court of the Sharifian Court in Fes––that is, the court of the sultan of Morocco; it’s an edited version of the diary Trotter kept during the trip. As such it’s an embodiment of the physical and cultural distance between Tangier, where many international consuls and diplomats lived, and Fes, where the sultan held court at the time.

The work offers insights into the early ethnology being carried out in Morocco by Western social scientists (a detailed account of French ethnology and ethnography in Morocco is given in Edmund Burke III’s The Ethnographic State: France and the Invention of Moroccan Islam): in addition to describing the journey he took, Trotter explains early Western categorizations of Arab and “Berber” (or Amazigh) groups in Morocco. He also mentions the “black bondsmen of the Sultan” (p. 291), a group of darker skinned Moroccans descended from Moulay Ismail’s 18th century “black army” (read more about them in Chouki El Hamel‘s work). Trotter describes all three groups as separate “races,” distinctions that would eventually come to play a role in the colonial rule of Morocco.

As an aside: Philip Trotter didn’t misspell Morocco in the title to his book. The English name for Morocco comes from the name of the city of Marrakesh, and has been spelled all kinds of ways.

You can read and Trotter’s narrative here.

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