Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey

The French marshal and colonial administrator Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey (1854-1934) is famed for the pacification and colonization of Morocco.

On Nov. 17, 1854, L. H. G. Lyautey was born at Nancy to a family with strong military traditions. He was educated at the military academy of Saint-Cyr and the Staff College and was then commissioned as a cavalry officer. He served in Algeria from 1880 to 1887. In 1894 he was transferred to Indochina under Gen. Joseph Simon Gallieni, who first inspired his interest in colonial affairs. When Gallieni was transferred to Madagasgar as governor general, he took Lyautey along as his chief of staff. Together they were very successful in pacifying the island and in applying new methods of government.

In 1900 Lyautey was appointed colonel and, after a short period in France, was given command of the AinSefra territory in Algeria. In 1903 he was promoted to general and, as commander of the Oran division in Algeria, was entrusted with enforcement of international agreements concerning Morocco. He restored order on the border and then served briefly as commander of the X Corps at Rennes.

In April 1912 Lyautey was sent as resident general and high commissioner to Morocco, which had recently been declared a protectorate. He first relieved Fès and then began the tasks of pacification and colonization which were to occupy his attention for the next 13 years. Lyautey's work in Morocco has come to be recognized as a masterpiece of French colonization. He believed that pacification should be achieved with a demonstration of force and as little fighting as possible. To him, colonization was, above all, a creative work. Although he endeavored to preserve the political, social, and economic traditions of Morocco, he wished the country to progress through adopting some of the material civilization of Europe and by acquaintance with its spirit. Medicine, education, public works, and agricultural colonization were the chief means by which he hoped to accomplish these ends.

Although Lyautey was ordered to withdraw from the interior of Morocco at the beginning of World War I, to free as many of his forces as possible, he maintained his ground during the war and even extended the subjugated territory. He served as minister of war for 3 months, from December 1916 to March 1917, and then returned to Morocco, where he remained until his retirement in 1925, successfully subduing the Riff rebellion under Abd el-Krim. He was elected to the French Academy in 1912 and was made marshal of France in 1921. He wrote many articles on colonial administration. Lyautey died on July 27, 1934, at Thorey, in Lorraine, where he had spent his last years.


Further Reading on Louis Hubert Gonzalve Lyautey

A vivid portrayal of Lyautey's thought and personality is in the interesting and literate André Maurois, Lyautey (trans. 1931). His career is discussed at length in Eleanor Hoffmann, Realm of the Evening Star: A History of Morocco and the Land of the Moors (1965), and John P. Halstead, Rebirth of a Nation: The Origins and Rise of Moroccan Nationalism, 1912-1944 (1967).

Additional Biography Sources

Hoisington, William A., Lyautey and the French conquest of Morocco, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.