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History, An End to Piracy

French protectorate, Mediterranean shipping, Congress of Berlin, beys, American colonies

Piracy, long a major Tunisian enterprise, continued to flourish under Husaynid auspices. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries a number of maritime nations, among which were the American colonies, paid regular bribes to the Tunisian government as insurance against raids on their Mediterranean shipping. Between 1801 and 1805 and in 1815 the U.S. Navy curbed Mediterranean piracy by attacking Tunis and other corsair bases along the so-called Barbary Coast of northern Africa.

As a result of the loss of its revenues from piracy the Tunisian government was plunged deeply into debt. The financial crisis was made especially acute by the unrestrained personal extravagances of the beys and by the necessity for frequent, costly government reprisals against rebel uprisings. The chief creditors of Tunisia were France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, all of which had imperialistic ambitions in northern Africa. In 1834 France annexed Algeria. At the Congress of Berlin in 1878, France agreed to abandon any claim to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus in return for a similar assurance by Britain in regard to Tunisia. A French army entered Tunisia from Algeria in 1881, ostensibly to subdue unruly tribesmen. In a series of sharp conflicts the French crushed native Tunisian opposition. On May 12, 1881, the reigning bey signed the Treaty of Kasser Said, known also as the Bardo Treaty, which acknowledged Tunisia to be a French protectorate. The two countries signed the supplemental Convention of Marsa in 1883.

Article key phrases:

French protectorate, Mediterranean shipping, Congress of Berlin, beys, American colonies, French army, raids, northern Africa, piracy, Navy, financial crisis, centuries, necessity, Britain, Italy, insurance, claim, loss, revenues, countries, regard, result, debt, United Kingdom, return


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