Making a living in pre-colonial Tunisia: The sea, contraband and other illicit activities, c. 1830-81

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Employing pre-colonial Tunisia as a site, this article investigates ways of making a living in an age of migrations. It studies occupations linked to the sea, such as fishing or coastal trading, that integrated North Africa and the nearby islands into trans-Mediterranean and larger exchange systems. It argues that subsistence migration increased the volume of extra-legal transactions whose nodal points were the Tunis region, the Cap Bon, Bizerte, Algeria and nearby islands. Estimates of the trade's volume or value, impossible to determine given the sources, are less important than charting dense flows of labour, goods, services and capital under-girding the political economy of contraband in relationship to labour migration. That the actors involved hailed from different religions, ethnic groups and classes renders this a perfect vantage point for probing inter-communal and intra-confessional relationships as well as the declining political fortunes of the Tunisian state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-112
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Review of History
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2012



  • Mediterranean
  • North Africa
  • Tunisia
  • colonialism
  • contraband trade
  • gender
  • labor migration
  • legal pluralism
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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