1.8 million years ago the first people lived in what is now Algeria. They found hand axes made of stone. The oldest finds of human bones from Homo erectus are 700,000 years old.
Over time, from around 6000 BC, hunters and gatherers became BC – sedentary farmers. Probably in the 2nd millennium BC Chr. Settled Berber tribes the area. They are considered to be the original inhabitants of Algeria.
Ancient rulers and conquerors
North Africa was conquered by several rulers in ancient times. The Phoenicians founded from the 12th century BC Trading posts on the North African coast and 814 BC. Their capital Carthage (in today’s Tunisia). They also founded cities in present-day Algeria, such as Bejaia and Tipasa.
202 BC BC Berber tribes united to form the Kingdom of Numidia and allied with the Romans against the Phoenicians. Rome defeated 146 BC Carthage and 46 BC BC Numidia. So the area finally became the Roman province of Numidia-Mauretania. Several centuries of Roman rule left their mark.
In 429 the Vandals finally conquered North Africa and established their own empire. It ended itself in 534 when Byzantium took the area and made it its province.
The Arabs are coming
From the middle of the 7th century, the Arabs advanced west. They named the Maghreb region: west or sunset. In 697 most of what is now Algeria was under Arab rule. The Arabs also brought their religion, Islam. Most of the Berbers were Islamized, others fought against the new conquerors in revolts.
From the Almoravids to the Abdalwadids
In the 11th century the Berber dynasty of the Almoravids established a great empire. In 1147 they were replaced by the Almohads. Until 1235 they ruled over a large empire that stretched from Morocco to Algeria to Tunisia. When their empire fell apart, the east of Algeria became part of a Tunisian principality, and the Abdalwadids ruled in the west. They remained in power until 1555. Their capital was Tlemcen. Today it is in the extreme northwest of Algeria.
Piracy and Ottoman rule
At the end of the 15th century, the last Moors were expelled from southern Spain. Many of them settled in North Africa and practiced piracy from there. As corsairs, they attacked ships of the Christian Mediterranean powers and abducted people from their coasts to sell them as slaves.
In the 16th century the area of Algeria came under Ottoman rule. One of the leaders of the corsairs submitted to the protection of the Ottoman sultan. Algiers became an Ottoman province.
History of Algeria from French colonial rule to today
French colonial rule
In 1830 France began to intensify the fight against piracy and captured Algiers. Long years of fighting followed, but finally the French triumphed in 1847. As a settlement colony, Algeria took in numerous French settlers. At the turn of the century, the Sahara regions in the south were also conquered. Again and again, however, there were riots and revolts against foreign rule. Together with Tunisia and Morocco, Algeria became a colony of French North Africa.
At the end of the 1930s, the independence movement grew strongly. In 1945, French troops killed tens of thousands of Algerians in the Sétif massacre. In 1947 all Algerians were granted French citizenship. But that couldn’t stop the struggle for independence. In 1954 a long and bloody war of independence (Algerian War) began. It ended in 1962 with the independence of Algeria.
Independence and the People’s Socialist Republic (1962-1989)
Algeria gained independence on July 5, 1962. The first two presidents could only hold out for a short time and in 1965 Houari Boumedienne came to power through a military coup. He established a socialist state. Economically, he put Algeria on the road to success with income from oil production. From 1972 there was a slow opening to the west.
After his death in 1978 and a short transition period, Chadli Benjedid became the new president. He introduced the market economy. In 1988, high unemployment and housing shortages sparked unrest. Benjedid agreed to democratize the country. A new constitution was passed that included a distribution of power, political freedoms and the guarantee of human rights.
In 1991 there were free elections through which the previously ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) lost its power. Radical Islamists (Islamic Salvation Front, FIS) won the first round of elections, which is why the military staged a coup. A state of emergency was declared, the FIS banned, and Benjedid was forced to resign.
Algerian Civil War (1992-2002)
When the FIS was banned, many of its members went underground. Years of civil war followed. Around 120,000 Algerians died as a result of acts of war and acts of terror. The state and its intelligence agencies used methods such as torture or simply made people disappear. Then no one knew exactly where they had disappeared to.
Abd al-Aziz Bouteflika was elected President in 1999. He began a policy of reconciliation with the Islamists and granted repentant supporters impunity. The civil war was finally ended in 2002.
Political situation since 2002
Bouteflika was re-elected in 2004, as well as in 2009 and 2014. He belonged to the FLN, which is now again the strongest ruling party.
Economic and social problems persist. Islamist movements are still fighting for an Islamist state. There are repeated terrorist attacks, now mainly by the group “al-Qaida in the Maghreb”.
In 2011 the 19-year state of emergency was lifted. There is still a lack of democratic structures. Freedom of the press is restricted and human rights violations are reported.
Bouteflika wanted to run again, but gave up this plan after popular protests. Abdelkader Bensalah was then elected interim president in April 2019. Abdelmadjid Tebboune then became President of Algeria in December 2019.