The British Empire before the British Empire

England's occupation of Tangier can be seen as many things.

Some choose to see it as a foreign adventure turned disaster; others see it as one of history's ‘could-have-beens', sabotaged by issues at home; others again see it as the birth of the British Army, and some see it as the precursor to Gibraltar.

Whatever your view, it's hard to not see English Tangier as a prototype for British Empire that was yet to come. From the presence of English governors in North Africa to the red-coated English foot soldiers, the similarities are almost eerie.

                       Detail from watercolour of Tangier Bay 1667

National Archives MP1.1.1

a drawing on parchment of Tangier from the point of view of someone on the sea 


                                      Prospect of Lower Part of Tangier

Wenceslaus Hollar, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

a drawing of the countryside with Tangier in the distance


This website - a resource for information
related to English Tangier

With all this in mind, the goal of this website is to be a constantly-evolving resource for anyone and everyone interested in this drama. You'll find a mixture of broad-scope oversights of the background and context behind English Tangier and the individual stories of the men and women who were involved.

This site is one amateur historian's project and I'm always open to clarification or reliable sources about English Tangier, be they primary, secondary or something else.




Why was Tangier English?

In an age of constant war and religious division, English Tangier can't be viewed in a vacuum. Discover how and why England came to control a port town on the far side of Europe. 

Armies and Navies

No country can exert its influence without fighting men. Read about the military backdrop of English Tangier here. 

Historical Research

Find out about the contemporary letters, pamphlets, maps and other items we have from the late 17th century that inform us about English Tangier.




'Tangier' published 

This site provides context and a wider backdrop for English Tangier. The occupation itself is detailed as a narrative history - a novel centred around four characters - in

'Tangier - The Earliest Battle Honour'.

Historical accuracy is assured by gleaning descriptions of day-to-day life, military actions and the activities of the dramatis personae from contemporary C17th records.

Accounts of significant military engagements and decisive battles are given with maps of terrain, defences and troop dispositions, along with information on uniforms weapons and tactics.

The book is blessed with a full index.

Tangier is a comprehensive story of English Tangier.

the front cover of Tangier The Earliest Battle Honour by John Hawkins



 'contains a wealth of military detail about troops involved, leadership, equipment, tactics and battles ... many maps, plans and illustrations ...  a good read and a useful reference'. KMcW U3A Military History Group.

'easy read and vividly brings 17th Century Tangier to life ... inspired me to visit modern Tangier to see some of the places mentioned for myself!' Arty Jem


Buy my Book here




I've aimed to get to grips with as many sources as one man can, yet my own research has led me to a few dead ends. If you can point me in the direction of answers to some of my unanswered questions, please get in touch with me at

Should you have any questions, please e-mail me via my contact form.

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My Approach

Conventional history tends to be ‘top-down', viewing events and nations through the eyes of leaders and the elite. Wealthy and powerful people tend to be written about or write about themselves, after all.

That said, the late 17th-century is a rather well-documented period, and the story of English Tangier especially. The ‘little people' linked to English Tangier are no less interesting than the movers and shakers who brought it to life.



Diaries and letters detail the private dramas of conspiring merchants, press-ganged sailors and long-suffering slaves trying to make the best of their situation. They often offer a glimpse into later stories of the British Empire – people trying to find new beginnings away from home, often with mixed results.


Documents from government officials can tell us a lot about how English Tangier was governed but not much about life in the town itself. For that reason, I've tried to include as much of a balance between the two as possible.





In the interest of historical accuracy and scholarly integrity, this site will be updated constantly as more information becomes available or is pointed out to me.
If you notice anything that you think is incorrect, please contact me at and quote the source of your correction.

Pictures not given attribution by the image are acknowledged on the Attributions blog page 


If you have any further questions, please get in touch via my contact form and I will do my best to assist.

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