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History of Tunisia
History of Tunisia
Early History
  Berber origins, culture, society
Punic Era
  Phoenicia, Carthage; Berbers, Romans
Roman Era
  Africa Province; Berbers; Vandals
Early Islamic Era
  Ifriqiya: Umayyad, Abassid, Fatimid
Medieval Era
  Berber states: Zirid, Almohad, Hafsid
Ottoman Era
  Beylerbey; Muradid, Husaynid; Reform
  French Era
  Protectorate; Independence movement
  Modern Era
  Republic: Bourghiba, Ben Ali

The History of Ottoman era Tunisia presents the Turkish presence in Ifriqiya, which was a part of their control of North Africa. Beginning in Algiers, the Ottomans eventually came to include all of the Maghrib except Morocco. Tunisia was the last region here to be included in the Ottoman Empire. Nominally supervised from Algiers, Tunis soon became in effect a self-governing sector of the Turkish Muslim empire. This evolution of status was challenged from time to time by Algiers. During the nineteenth century, Tunisian rulers became aware of the ongoing efforts at political and social reform in the capital at Istanbul. Tunisia then, by its own lights but informed by the Turkish example, attempted to effect a modernizing reform of its institutions and economy. Unfortunately Tunisian international debt grew unmanageable. This was the reason or pretext for French forces to establish a Protectorate.[1]

The entry of the Ottomans into the Maghrib is important for several reasons. Their empire was then recognized as the political leader and the primary focus of Islam in the west. Contact with the Ottomans enriched Tunisia by the learning of its elites and literature, the Turkish language being third in Islam (after Arabic and Persian). The Turkish language "played a very important role in the intellectual life of the Near East for the last three hundred years."[2]

Geography Weather in the north is temperate, enjoying a Mediterranean climate, with mild rainy winters and hot dry summers, the terrain being wooded and fertile. The Medjerda river valley (Wadi Majardah, northwest of Tunis) is productive, valuable farmland. Along the eastern coast the "central plains" enjoy a moderate climate, less rainfall but with heavy dew; these coastlands are currently used for orchards and grazing. Near the mountainous Algerian border to the west rises Jebel ech Chambi, the highest point at 1544 meters. From here to Cape Bon runs (southwest to northeast) the Dorsale, descending from the high tell to the lower; the Dorsale range is cut by several passes, including the Kasserine.[3] In the near south, an east-west belt of salt lakes cuts across the country. Further south lies the Sahara desert, including sand dunes of the Grand Erg Oriental.[4][5][6 ]

The present day Republic of Tunisia, al-Jumhuriyyah at-Tunisiyyah, has over ten million citizens, almost all of Arab-Berber descent. The Mediterranean Sea is to the north and east, Libya to the southeast, and Algeria to the west. Tunis is the capital; it is located near the ancient site of the city of Carthage.

The Coat of Arms of the Republic of Tunisia


Ottomans in the West

A long-term contest for the Mediterranean began in the sixteenth century, between Spaniard and Turk. Both were confident due to recent regional triumphs. In 1492 Spain had completed her centuries-long reconquista of the Iberian penninsula. For their part, the Ottoman Turks had fulfilled their long-term ambition of capturing Constantinople in 1453.

Ottoman Empire (1299-1918), here to 1683.

First Spain had occupied a series of ports in North Africa, e.g., Oran (1505), Tripoli (1510), Tunis (1534). Some Muslim rulers encouraged Turkish forces to enter the area in order to counter the Spanish presence. The Hafsids of Tunis, however, saw in the Muslim Turks a greater threat and arranged a Spanish alliance.[7][8]

In this naval struggle, the Ottoman Empire accepted many corsairs as their agents, who would raid European commercial shipping in the Mediterranean. The corsairs made Algiers their base, and included Khair al-Din [Arabic name] and his brother Aruj (both known for red beards and called Barbarossa),[9] and Uluj Ali.[10] In 1551 the corsair Dragut ruled Tripoli; from the east he entered Kairouan in 1558.[11] Then in 1569 Uluj Ali, advancing from Algiers in the west, seized Tunis.[12][13] After the Christian naval victory at Lepanto in 1571,[14] Don Juan of Austria retook Tunis for Spain in 1573. Uluj Ali returned in 1574 with a large fleet and army to capture Tunis with finality, and then sent the last Hafsid to Constantinople.[15]

Janissary Deys

Following imposition in 1574 of permanent Ottoman imperial rule, government in Tunisia was put on a more stable footing after a long period of flux and chaos. The Porte in Constantinople appointed a Pasha as the civil and military authority in Tunisia, which was made a province of the empire. Turkish became the language of the state. The capital city of Tunis was originally garrisoned with 4,000 Janissaries, recruited primarily from Anatolia, commanded by an Agha. The Porte did not maintain the ranks of Janissaries, rather the Pasha in Tunisia himself began to recruit such soldiery from many different regions. From 1574 to 1591 a council (the Diwan), composed of senior military (buluk-bashis) and local notables, advised the provincial government.

A Janissary, drawing by Gentile Bellini (15th century).

The new energy of Turkish rule was welcome in Tunis, and by the ulama. Although the Ottomans preferred the Hanifi school of law, some Tunisian Maliki jurists were admitted into the administration. Yet the rule remained one of a foreign elite. In the countryside, efficient Turkish troops managed to control the tribes without compromising alliances, but their rule was unpopular. The rural economy was never brought under effective regulation by the central authority. For revenues the government continued to rely primarily on corsair raiding in the Mediterranean.

In 1591 Janissary junior officers (deys) who were not of Turkish origin forced the Pasha to acknowledge the authority of one of their own men, called the Dey (elected by his fellow deys). Relatively independent of the Ottomans, the Dey exercised control in the cities. 'Uthman Dey (1598-1610) and Yusuf Dey (1610-1637) managed well enough to establish peace and order in place of chronic social turbulence.

In the tribal rural areas, control and collection of taxes were assigned to a chieftain, called the Bey [Turkish]. Twice a year, armed expeditions (mahallas) patrolled the countryside, showing the arm of the central authority. As an auxiliary force, the Beys organized rural cavalry (sipahis), mostly Arab, recruited from what came to be called "government" (makhzan) tribes.[16][17]

Muradid Beys

Ramdan Bey had sponsored the Corsican Murad Curso since his youth.[18] After Ramdan's death in 1613, Murad then followed his benefactor into the office of the Bey, which he exercised effectively (1613-1631). Eventually he was also named Pasha, a ceremonial post; his position as Bey remained inferior to the Dey. His son Hamuda (r.1631-1666) inherited both titles, with the support of the local notables of Tunis. By virtue of his title as Pasha, the Bey came to enjoy the prestige of connection with the Sultan-Caliph in Constantinople. In 1640, at the death of the Dey, Hamuda Bey maneuvered to establish his control over appointments to that office.

Under Murad II Bey (r.1666-1675), son of Hamuda, the Diwan again functioned as a council of notables. Yet in 1673 the janissary deys, seeing their power ebbing, rose in revolt. During the consequent fighting, the urban forces of the janissary deys fought against the Muradid Beys with their largely rural forces under the tribal shaykhs, and with popular support from city notables. As the Beys secured victory, so did the rural Bedouins and the Tunisian notables, who also emerged triumphant. The Arabic language returned to local official use, although the Muradids continued to use Turkish in the central government, accentuating their elite status and Ottoman connection.

At Murad II Bey's death, internal discord with the Muradid family led to armed struggle. The Turkish rulers of Algeria later intervened on behalf of one side in a subsequent domestic conflict; the Algerian forces did not withdraw and proved unpopular. This unfortunate condition of civil discord and Algerian interference persisted. The last Muradid Bey was assassinated in 1702 by Ibrahim Sharif, who then ruled for several years with Algerian backing.[19][20][21]

A gradual economic shift occurred during the Muradid era, as corsair raiding decreased due to pressure from Europe, and commercial trading based on agricultural products (chiefly grains) increased due to an integration of the rural population into regional networks. Mediterranean trade, however, continued to be carried by European shipping concerns. The Beys, in order to derive the maximum advantage from the export trade, in addition to taxation instituted government monopolies which mediated between the local producers and foreign merchants. As a result, the rulers and their business partners (drawn from foreign-dominated elites connected to the Ottomans) took a disproportionate share of Tunisia's trading profits.[22] This precluded the development of local interests, whether rural landowners or a wealthy merchant strata. A social divide persisted, with the important families in Tunisia identified as a "Turkish" ruling caste.[23]

Husaynid Beys

The Husaynid Beys ruled from 1705 to 1881, and reigned until 1957. In theory, Tunisia continued as a vassal of the Ottoman empire (the Friday prayer was pronounced in the name of the Ottoman Sultan, money was coined in his honor, and an annual ambassador brought gifts to Istanbul) but the Ottomans never were able to depend on, or exact, obedience.

Husayn ibn Ali (1669-1740), a cavalry officer of Greek Cretan origin, came into power in 1705, remaining in control until 1735. He had won backing from the Tunisian ulama and notables, as well as from the tribes, for his opposition to Algerian influence which was removed. Yet in a succession dispute, his nephew Ali and his son Muhammad fought a divisive civil war, which ended in 1740 with Ali's uncertain victory. This result was reversed in 1756 after ten more years of fighting, but not without meddling by Algeria.[24]

Captain William Bainbridge (U.S.A.) with tribute for the Dey of Algiers in 1800; the Pasha of Tripoli declared war in 1801.[25]

Early Husaynid policy required a careful balance among several divergent parties: the Ottomans, the Turkish speaking elite in Tunisia, and local Tunisians (both urban and rural, notables and clerics, landowners and the more remote tribes). Entanglement with the Ottoman Empire was avoided due to its potential ability to absorb the Bey's prerogatives; yet religious ties to the Ottoman Caliph were fostered, which increased the prestige of the Beys and helped in winning approval of the local ulama and deference from the notables. Janissaries were still recruited, but increasing reliance was placed on tribal forces. Turkish was spoken at the apex, but use of Arabic increased in government use. Kouloughlis (children of mixed Turkish and Tunisian parentage) and native Tunisians notables were given increased admittance into higher positions and deliberations. The Husaynid Beys, however, did not themselves intermarry with Tunisians; instead they often turned to the institution of mamluks for marriage partners. Mamluks also served in elite positions.[26] The dynasty never ceased to identify as Ottoman, and thereby privileged. Nonetheless, the local ulama were courted, with funding for religious education and the clerics. Local jurists (Maliki) entered government service. Marabouts of the rural faithful were mollified. Tribal shaykhs were recognized and invited to conferences. Especially favored at the top were a handful of prominent families, Turkish speaking, who were given business and land opportunities, as well as important posts in the government, depending on their loyalty.[27]

The French Revolution and reactions to it caused disruptions in European economic activity which provided opportunities for Tunisia to profit handsomely. Hammouda Pasha (1781-1813) was Bey during this period of prosperity; he also turned back an Algerian invasion in 1807, and quelled a janissary revolt in 1811.

After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Britain and France secured the Bey's agreement to cease sponsoring or permitting corsair raids, which had resumed during the Napoleonic conflict. Then in the 1820s economic activity in Tunisia took a steep downturn. The Tunisian government was particularly affected due to its monopoly positions regarding many exports. Credit was obtained to weather the deficits, but eventually the debt would grow to unmanageable levels. Foreign business interests increasingly exercised control over domestic commerce. Foreign trade proved to be a Trojan Horse.[28]

Under the French Protectorate (1881-1956) the Husaynid Beys continued in a largely ceremonial rôle. Following independence, a republic was declared in 1957; the Beylical office was terminated and the Husaynid dynasty came to an end.

Era of Reform

In the 19th century under the Husaynid Beyds, commerce with the Europeans increased, with permanent residences established by many foreign merchants. In 1819 the Bey agreed to quit corsair raids. In 1830 the Bey also agreed to enforce in Tunisia the capitulation treaties between the Ottomans and various European powers, under which European consuls would act as judges in legal cases involving their nationals. During 1830 the French royal army occupied neighboring Algeria.

Ahmad Bey (1837-1855) assumed the throne during this complex situation. Following the examples of the Ottoman Empire under sultan Mahmud II, and of Egypt under Muhammad Ali, he moved to intensify a program to update and upgrade the Tunisian armed forces. In pursuit of this policy, he instituted a military school and started industries to supply a more modern army and navy. In a major step, he initiated the recruitment and conscription of individual native Tunisians (instead of foreigners and by tribes) to serve in the army and navy, a step which would reduce the long division between the state and its citizens. Yet the resulting tax increases for these military improvements measures were not popular.[29]

Although desiring Ottoman support, Ahmad Bey repeatedly refused to apply in Tunisia the Ottoman legal reforms concerning citizen rights, i.e., the Tanzimat of 1839. Instead, he instituted progressive laws of his own, showing native Tunisian authority in the modernizing project and hence the redundancy of importing any of the Ottoman reforms. The Slave trade was abolished in 1841, slavery in 1846. Yet these legal reforms had limited application to many Tunisians. Ahmad Bey continued the general Beylical policy, i.e., to decline or reject political attachment to the Ottoman state, but welcome religious ties to the Ottoman Caliphate.[30][31]

As part of his maneuvering to maintain Tunisia's sovereignty, Ahmad Bey sent 4,000 Tunisian troops against the Russian Empire during the Crimean War (1854-1856). In doing so he allied Tunisia with Turkey, France, and Britain.[32] {IN PROGRESS}

Reference notes

  1. ^ This article follows History of medieval Tunisia and preceeds History of French era Tunisia.
  2. ^ Najib Ullah, Islamic Literature (New York: Washington Square 1963) at xi-xii. "Each of the three languages of the Islamic world belongs to a different language group. Turkish is an Ural-Altaic language." Ullah (1963) at 370.
  3. ^ LaVerle Berry and Robert Rinehart, "The Society and Its Environment" at 71-143, 76, map at 75, in Nelson, editor, Tunisia. A country study (Washington, D.C.: American Univ., 3d ed. 1986
  4. ^ Kenneth J. Perkins, Tunisia. Crossroads of the Islamic and European Worlds (Boulder, Colorado: Westview 1986) at 1-5.
  5. ^ Jamil M. Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib (Cambridge Univ. 1971) at 1-6.
  6. ^ The World Factbook on "Tunisia".
  7. ^ Cf., Perkins, Tunisia (1986) at 51-54.
  8. ^ Spain also had a tacit alliance with the Sa'dids of Morocco. Laroui, A History of the Maghrib (1970, 1977) at 250-251.
  9. ^ The brothers hailed from the Greek island of Lesbos (Medelli). Wm. Spencer, Algiers in the Age of the Corsairs (Oklahoma Univ. 1976) at 18.
  10. ^ Uluj Ali, also spelled Ochiali, was a renegade of Italian (Neapolitan, Calabrian) origin. Later from the Sultan he received the name Kilij [Turkish for "sword"]. J.P.D.B.Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries. The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire (New York: Wm. Morrow, Quill 1977) at 271.
  11. ^ Laroui, The History of the Maghrib (1970, 1977) at 251.
  12. ^ Fernand Braudel in his ''La Méditerranée et le Monde Méditerranéen à l'Epoque de Philip II (Librairie Armand Colin 1949, 2d ed. 1966), translated by Siân Reynolds as The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (Wm. Collins/Harper & Row 1973, reprint 1976) at II: 1066-1068. Here Uluj Ali is called Euldj 'Ali.
  13. ^ Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib (1971) at 173.
  14. ^ The combined fleets of various Christian powers, including Spain as well as Venice and Genoa, under the leadership of Don Juan of Austria (half-brother of Philip II of Spain) met and defeated the Turkish fleet off the coast of western Greece. Algerian ships under Uluj Ali escaped. J.Beeching, The Galleys at Lepanto (New York: Scribner's 1982) at 184-187, 219, 233-234.
  15. ^ Rinehart, "Historical Setting" 1-70 at 22, in Tunisia. A country study (3rd ed. 1986).
  16. ^ Perkins, Tunisia (1986) at 55-57.
  17. ^ Abun-Nasr, A History of North Africa (1971) at 177-178.
  18. ^ His second name "Curso" indicates his Corsican origin. A Spanish intelligence report of 1568 estimated that there were 10,000 renegades in Algiers, of whom 6,000 were Corsicans. Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World (1949, 1966, 1973) at I: 159-160.
  19. ^ Laroui, The History of the Maghrib (1970, 1977) at 255-256.
  20. ^ Perkins, Tunisia (1986) at 56-58, 60.
  21. ^ Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib (1971) at 178-180.
  22. ^ Government control of the economic wealth was evidently common in the region during the 16th century. Cf., Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World (1949, 1966, 1973) at I: 449-451. From such systematic policy in practice would later emerge the Mercantilist economic theory.
  23. ^ Perkins, Tunisia (1986) at 58-61.
  24. ^ Perkins, Tunisia (1986) at 61-62.
  25. ^ Clark, Stevens, Alden, Krafft, A Short History of the United States Navy (Philadelphia 1910, revised by Alden in 1927) at 43 (1793), 61-92 (1800-1805), 204-206 (1807, 1812-1815).
  26. ^ In Tunisian practice, non-Muslim slave youths were purchased in Ottoman markets, educated with royal scions in high government service and in the Muslim religion, converted, given high echelon posts, and often married to royal daughters. Mamluks would number about 100. Perkins, Tunisia (1986) at 63.
  27. ^ Perkins, Tunisia (1986) at 62-63, 66.
  28. ^ Lucette Valensi, Le Magheb avang la prise d'Alger (Paris 1969), translated as On the Eve of Colonialism: North Africa before the French conquest (New York: Africana 1977); cited by Perkins (1986) at 67.
  29. ^ Perkins, Tunisia (1989) at 69-72.
  30. ^ Abun-Nasr, A History of the Maghrib (1971) at 259-275.
  31. ^ Perkins, Tunisia (1989) at 72.
  32. ^ Robert Rinehart, "Historical Setting" 1-70, at 27, in Tunisia. A country study (3rd ed., 1987).

See also

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