“Asuntos negros”. Las autoridades españolas frente a la esclavitud y el servilismo en los territorios del Sahara occidental (1934-1957)

Josep Lluis Mateo Dieste*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Web of Science)
1 Downloads (Pure)


This article analyzes Spanish colonial policy towards slavery and servility in the Sahara between 1934 and 1957, with the aim of reconstructing the practices and the administrative language of Spanish officials on a silenced and complexly defined issue such as extreme forms of dependence. The main source on which the study is based is the internal documents of the colonial administration in the Spanish Sahara, which will be interpreted from a double perspective: to reconstruct the power relations between the colonizers and the colonized, and to discover the problems of the colonizers in defining and handling the notions of slavery. The result of the analysis is that the Spanish authorities developed a paradoxical policy that formally prohibited the slave trade, but respected the institution of servility so as not to contravene many tribal chiefs. Despite this supposed neutrality, Spanish officials had to manage numerous conflicts related to the purchase and sale, manumission or escape of slaves in a complex colonial frontier space, which revealed the agency of the subalterns. All this took place in a scenario full of tensions and uncertainties that showed the struggle to define the very phenomena of slavery and servility in an era of change.
Original languageSpanish
Pages (from-to)275-304
Number of pages30
JournalHistoria y Politica
Issue number44
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020

Cite this