Algeria (Fr. Alger ie), a country on the north coast of Africa, which has since 1830 been a French possession, and is now regarded as an outlying part of France rather than as a colony. It lies between Morocco and Tunis, and is usually defined as extending from the Mediterranean to about the 30th parallel of N. lat. on the south. But the southern boundary, separating the Algerian Sahara from the rest of French Sahara (which now extends southwards to a line drawn west from Lake Chad to the Niger), is very arbitrary. The total area, with the northern or Algerian Sahara, is about 255,000 sq. m., or more than twice the size of Great Britain and Ireland. From the coast inwards Algeria is marked off into three distinct regions: in the north, the Tell - mountainous, cultivated land, with fruitful valleys; in the middle, the region of Steppea - mountainous tableland, producing much grass and other fodder for cattle after the rains, and traversed from west to east by a string of brackish lakes or marshes, called Shotts; while farther south is the Algerian Sahara, with oases. In the northern part of the Tell is a series of mountain-chains, called by the French the Lesser Atlas or Coast Mountains; while the south limit is a parallel chain, the Middle Atlas. The Tell, the most fertile and much the most populous section of Algeria, occupies an area altogether of about 54,000 sq. m. The Algerian Sahara consists partly of sandy dunes, partly of country covered after rain with herbage; and there are oases round the wells.
The more considerable streams of Algeria rise in the middle region, and have therefore to seek their outlet in the Mediterranean, through passes in the middle and coast ranges. Though swollen in the winter, they shrink in the summer to a thread, or even quite out of sight. Not one of them is navigable, but they are used for purposes of irrigation. The Shelif is the longest and largest.
The climate of Algeria is distinguished into only three seasons: winter, from November to February; spring, from March to June; summer, from July to October. The planting of forests, drainage, and irrigation, by the French, have effected great improvements. In the Sahara, by the sinking of artesian wells, desert tracts have been converted into cultivated land, and in ten years the inhabitants of the oases of the northern Sahara increased from 6600 to 13,000, while about 517,000 palms and 90,000 fruit-trees are now counted. Algeria is coming to the front as a wheat-growing country. Fruits and vegetables are grown for the markets in France, England, and Germany. The cultivation of the grape, silk, and tobacco is rapidly extending. Immense tracts of land, suitable for no other cultivation, have been successfully planted with vines. The forest vegetation of Algeria is extremely rich by nature, comprising pine, oak, cedar, pistachio, mastic, carob, olive, myrtle. Special exports are cork and halfa or esparto grass. Algeria has a very considerable wealth of metals, iron and copper being abundant, though little worked. Over 100 mineral springs are counted in Algeria.
Algeria is divided into three departments, each subdivided into a civil and a military territory:
Area in sq. m.
The number of Europeans, in 1830 only 600, in 1S40, 27,000, in 1881, 400,000, was in 1901 about 500,000, of whom 293,000 were French by origin or naturalisation, and 150,000 Spanish, and 57,667 naturalised Jews, besides Italians, Germans, etc. The native population, partly Arabs (including Bedouins), partly Berbers or Kabyles; the Moors of the towns being of mixed descent from these two stocks. In 1904 about 1900 English miles of railway were open for traffic, and the telegraph had over 6300 miles of line.
The trade of Algeria shows a constant increase. Since the French occupation, the imports have increased fifty, and the exports one hundredfold. The imports, three-fourths of which come from France, have varied of late years from £8,800,000 to £13,000,000. The exports, twothirds of which go to France, varied from £6,000,000 to over £12,000,000. The imports are chiefly manufactured cotton, hemp, linen, silk, and woollen stuffs; cloths, sugar, hides, paper, liquors, metals, building materials, etc. The exports are cereals, wool, raw hides, living animals, minerals, early fruit, halfa and other vegetable fibres, cork, iron, copper, and lead ores.
Part of the present Algeria was anciently included in Numidia and part in Mauritania. Occupied and partially Romanised by the Romans, it was overrun by the Vandals in the 5th century. Later came the Arabs, who began about the 9th century to establish Mohammedan dynasties and states. Hither emigrated many of the Moors expelled from Spain. From the middle ages downward, the Algerian coast towns were known to Europe mainly as nests of pirates. The French conquered the country, not without much fighting, in 1830. From 1834 down to 1870 Algeria was entirely under military rule. At that date a civil governor-general, with residence at Algiers, was substituted; the Sahara is still under military rule. The governor-general is assisted by a council whose function is purely consultative. The colonists send two deputies and one senator for each department to the French Chambers.