"In this meticulously researched and highly original study, Stacy Holden does for the urban citizens of Fez what Paul Pascon did for the tribesmen of the rural Haouz. She vividly documents the lives of ordinary people and shows how their needs and wants unexpectedly shape the structure of power in Morocco."—Jonathan G. Katz, Oregon State University
Unlike most other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, Morocco has had a stable government for centuries. Even when it was a French protectorate (1912-56), the Alaouite Sultans wielded centralized power. The reasons why are the subject of Stacy Holden's book, and the answers may come as a surprise.
Holden successfully argues that, rather than the importance of a theocratic government to the citizenry, the key factor in the government's stability is its ability to provide food to its people in an equitable manner, despite arid conditions.. Further, without apologizing for abuses of power, she suggests that an authoritative government may be the most logical form of government in the semi-arid lands of the Arab-Islamic world.
She offers a new interpretation of Moroccan history by demonstrating the ways in which the French policies regarding food distribution were consistent with those of the precolonial Sultans. In Holden's telling, it was the weaknesses of the French government--especially when faced with local drought and global recession that bankrupted the government--that led to its inability to provide food to the people and subsequently to the rise of popular nationalism.