Tunisia Recent History
The Ottoman government, if it had lost Algiers in 1830, had however managed to re-establish sovereignty in Tripoli (1835), and hoped to restore direct dominion in Tunis as well. This was opposed by France, which, busy with establishing its dominion in Algeria on a firmer basis, had no interest in seeing the Turks close to each other; England, on the other hand, was in favor, wishing not to allow France to enlarge too much, which could one day extend its influence over Tunis as well. The beys resisted the opposing forces; but they soon found it inevitable to make concessions to the predominance of the French. The Ṣāḥ ib a ṭ – ṭā ba‛(Ie secretary and minister of the bey) Shākir, suspected of connivance with the Turks, was killed in 1837. In the following years the beys carried out a series of reforms to give Tunisia a civil order, following and sometimes preceding the reform program that it was carried out in the Ottoman Empire.
The 1846 decree for the abolition of Negro slavery (under Aḥmed Bey), the 1857 issue of a security pact (Pacte fondamental in the French translation, ‛ ahd al – am ā n in Arabic), proclaiming freedom of conscience, the equality of all subjects before the law and in tax obligations (analogous to khha ṭṭ – i sher ī fOttoman of 1839 and better to the Ottoman “sign of reforms” of 1856). Muḥammad aṣ-Ṣādiq Bey (1859-1882) confirmed the pact and developed it with the donation of a true constitution, which was exposed by him to Napoleon III in Algiers in 1860 and promulgated the following year: it fixed the attributions of the bey, of the council of ministers chaired by a prime minister (al – waz ī r al – akbar) and a Grand council of 60 members chosen from among notables. The succession to the throne remained fixed according to the seniorate system among the members of the ḥuseinite family.
But not everything was going well; the application of the reforms, the strengthening of the army and navy caused an increase in the public debt, which rose in 1861 to 28 million francs and increased in 1863 with a new loan of 35 million, which was contracted in Paris and yielded to the treasury only 5 million. Prime Minister Muṣṭafà Khaznadār, responsible for the situation, worsened it by doubling the personal tax called al – ma ǵ b ā from 36 to 72 plates. An unrest then arose in the country, which in the Tālah region was led by ‛Alī ibn Ghadāham; it was smothered with weapons and provoked an deployment of French, English and Italian naval forces on the Tunisian coasts (1864). To guarantee the interests of creditors, an international finance commission was established in 1869 (abolished following the French occupation of 1881); the claims claimed were reduced from 150 to 120 million francs and the exorbitant 12 per cent interest was reduced to 5 per cent. In 1873 Muṣṭafà Khaznadār was dismissed; his successor Kheir ed-Dīn (v.), a Circassian slave of origin, raised in Tunis, educated and modern-minded, spent the four years in which he was prime minister put in order to arrange the finances and give structure to the administration. For Tunisia history, please check areacodesexplorer.com.
Meanwhile, the political conditions of Tunisia were becoming precarious; the bey had to a certain extent recognized his dependence on the sultan of Constantinople, sending ships to his aid at the battle of Navarino (1827) and soldiers during the Crimean war (1854-1855); 10,000 well-armed men sent by Bey Aḥmed fought in Bāṭūm against the Russians; less than half returned to their homeland. The sultans, with firmans in 1841, 1864 and 1871, while confirming the investiture, even hereditary, of the beys, aimed to establish their status as vassal; France strongly opposed the change in the status quo, which she interpreted in the sense of an almost total independence from the Porta. Italy, strongly interested in Tunisia due to its proximity to Sicily and the large number of Italians there, could not, however, prevent France from carrying out its political plan. Taking the opportunity of raids by Tunisian tribes in Algerian territory, France advanced an expeditionary force from Algeria, which occupied el-Kef (el-Kāf) and Tunis; the bey with the so-called treaty of al-Qaṣr as-Sa‛īd or of the Bardo (12 May 1881), completed by the so-called convention of the Marsà (8 June 1883), accepted the French protectorate.
Having settled in Tunisia, France notified the Porte that it did not recognize any right of Turkey in Tunisia and expected to reorganize the protectorate on the basis of the aforementioned treaty and convention; the foreign consular jurisdictions were subsequently suspended with agreements (France-Italy, 1884), and the situation of foreigners was again regulated later by conventions stipulated between the capitular states and the protective power (Franco-Italian conventions of 1896).
The Italians were (according to French statistics) 84,799 in 1921 against 54,476 French. 13,520 Maltese and 2730 of other nationalities. After 1921, through the naturalizations of Maltese, Tunisian Israelites and also Italians and a few Muslims, the French of origin or naturalized have equaled in number the Italians (about 91,000 Italians and as many French in 1931, again according to French statistics). From the 1936 census it would appear a majority of French.
The indigenous nationalist movement dates back to the beginning of the 20th century; among its initiators are el-Aṣṙam, author of a book Questions tunisiennes, Paris 1907, ‛Alī Bāsh-Ḥanbah, founder of the newspaper Le Tunisien, which began to be published in 1907, the sheikh‛ Abd el-‛Azīz ath-Tha ‛ ālibī (in French Téalbi), organizer of the constitutional liberal party (al – ḥ izb al – ḥ urr ad – dust ū r ī), founded in 1920. The sheikh eth-Tha‛ālibī was expelled from Tunisia in 1923. The party from he organized, commonly called the Dest ū r, calls for a freely elected assembly, composed with equal rights of French and indigenous people, capable of legislating and before which the government is responsible, freedom of the press, etc. It has increasingly weakened in recent years also as a result of the energetic measures of the French political authorities and seemed to have been liquidated at the end of 1935, but it regained strength in 1936, taking advantage of the internal politics of France. The country’s economic appreciation has increased enormously; however the crisis did not spare the regency and especially olive growing, viticulture and the mining industry have suffered.