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Divided Rule

Divided Rule: Sovereignty and Empire in French Tunisia, 1881–1938

Mary Dewhurst Lewis
Copyright Date: 2014
Edition: 1
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Divided Rule
    Book Description:

    After invading Tunisia in 1881, the French installed a protectorate in which they shared power with the Tunisian ruling dynasty and, due to the dynasty's treaties with other European powers, with some of their imperial rivals. This "indirect" form of colonization was intended to prevent the violent clashes marking France's outright annexation of neighboring Algeria. But as Mary Dewhurst Lewis shows in Divided Rule, France's method of governance in Tunisia actually created a whole new set of conflicts. In one of the most dynamic crossroads of the Mediterranean world, residents of Tunisia- whether Muslim, Jewish, or Christian-navigated through the competing power structures to further their civil rights and individual interests and often thwarted the aims of the French state in the process. Over time, these everyday challenges to colonial authority led France to institute reforms that slowly undermined Tunisian sovereignty and replaced it with a more heavy-handed form of rule-a move also intended to ward off France's European rivals, who still sought influence in Tunisia. In so doing, the French inadvertently encouraged a powerful backlash with major historical consequences, as Tunisians developed one of the earliest and most successful nationalist movements in the French empire. Based on archival research in four countries, Lewis uncovers important links between international power politics and everyday matters of rights, identity, and resistance to colonial authority, while re-interpreting the whole arc of French rule in Tunisia from the 1880s to the mid-20th century. Scholars, students, and anyone interested in the history of politics and rights in North Africa, or in the nature of imperialism more generally, will gain a deeper understanding of these issues from this sophisticated study of colonial Tunisia.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95714-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-13)

    On 24 april 1881, French military forces entered Tunisia, ostensibly to quell the Khmir tribe’s incursions across the Tunisian border into Algeria, France’s most cherished colony.¹ Th is task momentarily achieved, the thirty thousand troops did not withdraw; instead, over the course of the next three weeks, their presence solidified into an occupation.² From this position of strength, French authorities issued an ultimatum to the bey of Tunis, Muhammad al-Sadiq, and on 12 May, both sides signed the Treaty of Ksar Said (Bardo Treaty), an armistice agreement that abruptly established what amounted to a French protectorate over Tunisia—a country...

  6. ONE Tunisia in the Imperial Mediterranean
    (pp. 14-27)

    There was never supposed to be a protectorate. Or at least the bey of Tunis did not think so. After all, he already had a protector in the Ottoman sultan—albeit one from whom he had long asserted his independence and whose ability to protect any of his regents had been compromised by the Crimean War and its aftermath. In part because of that war (and the cost of raising a Tunisian army in defense of the Ottomans), Muhammad al-Sadiq Bey had found his finances under international receivership for over a decade.¹ Nonetheless, he clung to what remained of his...

  7. TWO Ending Extraterritoriality?
    (pp. 28-60)

    The french protectorate over Tunisia was supposed to guarantee that no border skirmishes by so-called barbaric tribes such as the Khmirs would again threaten Algeria. But the activity of the Khmirs faded from view as quickly as it had been summoned as a casus belli, and then France faced a boundary problem of a different sort: the extraterritorial jurisdiction of other Europe an states.¹ It turned out that conquering Tunisia militarily and putting down the local rebellions that ensued had not ensured complete French authority over the country. True control would require that the French prove themselves masters not only...

  8. THREE The Politics of Protection
    (pp. 61-97)

    Paul cambon had two goals in establishing French courts in Tunisia. The first was to diminish the influence of the French military, which, since the invasion, had assumed much of the responsibility for the rule of law. The second was to end extraterritoriality, which in turn he hoped would root out the influence of foreign governments. As we have seen, he succeeded only in the first goal, because his effort to achieve the second—by closing the consular courts—led the Quai-d’Orsay to grant concessions to the very powers whose influence it sought to limit. Europe an consuls did lose...

    (pp. 98-130)

    With the dawn of the twentieth century came the last wave of the Scramble for Africa, as agreements between the Great Powers recognized Europe an spheres of influence from the Red Sea to the Strait of Gibraltar. The Franco-Italian Accord of 1902, for one, formalized various diplomatic exchanges that had aimed, since 1900, to lessen the discord between the two countries that had festered since Italy’s entry into the Triple Alliance in 1882. While the Accord did not end Italy’s agreements with Germany and Austria-Hungary, it did alter their impact by including a clause that required France or Italy to...

    (pp. 131-164)

    France had “lost” its case at The Hague, but the law that settled the dispute with Great Britain relied on the same logic that Lapradelle had developed before the court: Tunisia was France, at least as far as those who fell under European jurisdiction were concerned. The December 1923 nationality law, as one jurist later put it, “enshrined the principle of France’s co-sovereignty in Tunisia.”¹ What French leaders read as a clear victory vis-à-vis other European powers, however, triggered new frustrations within Tunisia’s burgeoning nationalist movement. Destour, which had taken The Hague decision as a chastisement of the Quai-d’Orsay’s overreach,...

    (pp. 165-178)

    What sort of sovereignty tunisia already had, and what sort it should possess, became the main preoccupation of nationalists and French officials alike from the emergence of Neo-Destour in 1934 to the final achievement of in dependence in 1956. By the late 1930s, the Neo-Destour movement had succeeded in making the sovereignty question in Tunisia as much about domestic governance as it was about international power politics. Adopting the notion of “cosovereignty” as its own but giving it a different interpretation, Neo-Destour insisted that the Treaty of Bardo itself had recognized the coexistence of two sovereignties: that of the bey,...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 179-268)
    (pp. 269-290)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 291-304)