*** Tunisia Tunisian history French Protectorate

Tunisian History: French Protectorate (1881-1956)

Tunisia French PRotectorate
Figure 1.--The photo was taken in Tunis on August 29, 1921. At the time Tunisia was a French protectorate, but there was also a large Italian community. It depicts Ghafour, a local home servant, with two European children.. we are not sure if they are french or Italian.

In the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and encounters with Westrern navies, what is now Tunisia, remained a quasi-autonomous privince of the declining Ottoman Empire. odern European navies largely put an end to Nrbary piracy. Trade with Europe increased substantially as European merchants began establishing businesses in the country. Rge Tunisian econmy became more oriented toward urope than the Ottoman Empire, althiough the Ottoman Sukltan was still an inmprtant religious authority. France began to establish a colony in neighboring Algeria (1830). Tunisia adopted the first constitution in the Arab world (1861). Little real progress toward establishing a modern economy and political structure occurred. There were few productive enterprises and there was political unrest. The ruling beys (largely autonomous Ittoman governors) borrowed heavily from European bankers (19th century). The loan amounts increased and payments became a growing problem. Tunisia declared bankruptsy. As a result, an international financial commission (bankers from France, Britain, and Italy) took control of the country's finances. A series of incidents including raids on French Algeria resulted in France seizing control of Tunisia. The French forced the bey to sign the treaties of Bardo (1881) and Mersa (1883) which estblished a French protectorate. The French appointed a French resident general. The French protectorate angered the Italians who had asperations of colonizing Tunisia as they would do in Libya. The Italians had subsantial economic interests and nationals in Tunisia, more so than the French. The French Army with Bruitish diplomasic support occupied Tunisia (1881). (Drance in turn supported Britasin over Cyprus.) The French claimed that Tunisian troops had attacked French Algeria. France made Tunisua a French protectorate, formalised by the Treaty of Bardo (Al Qasr as Sa'id) signed by by Muhammad III as-Sadiq. [Cooley, et. al., pp. 193–96.] This meant that France gradually contolled the country. The French action was a major cause of Italy joining what would become the Central Powers whjioch almost resulted in Itsly joining Germany and austria in Wirld War I. It short order the French assumed the major administrative posts. The French ssumed the Tunisian debt and closed the international finance commissiion. The French Government promoted French settlement and World War had about a quarter of the cultivated land. When the French arrived Tunisia had almost no modern infrastructure. The French began to build the country's infrastructure. This included a modern education system. Many Tunisians saw these as positive improvements, but there was from an early point resistance to French rule. This appeared in the universities the frebch opened. The French supressed nationlist publicastions and politicual organizations. Violence flared and natuonalist lkeadees were exiled (1911).


Cooley, Baal, Christ, and Mohammed. Religion and Revolution in North Africa (New York: 1965).

Laroui. History of Maghrib.


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Created: 2:24 PM 11/21/2022
Last updated: 2:24 PM 11/21/2022