This article traces the evolution of the city of Tunis from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries. It argues that, relative to other North African cities in the same period, a unique manifestation of 'cosmopolitanism' emerged in Tunis from the reign of the Muradid Beys (1631-1702) on. Characterised by ethno-religious diversity and pluralism, the capital region replenished its population and institutions via the corsair/privateering economy, principally through its ability to integrate Christian renegades into urban social relations and structures. For most of the eighteenth century, the Regency of Tunis experienced a sort of urban golden age due to its rapidly expanding population, its intense participation in the Mediterranean exchange system and the absence of war, disease and famine. In this period too the capital of the Husainid dynasty (1705-1957) welcomed ever more diverse peoples from around the Sea, although as was the case in other Ottoman cities, these immigrant groups tended to cluster into autonomous communities. From the late eighteenth century on, however, the city entered into a series of demographic and socio-economic crises, reflecting the larger forces at work in the country. Despite, or because of, increased trans-Mediterranean immigration and settlement in the Tunis region from the mid-nineteenth century on, the nature of the capital's cosmopolitanism was utterly undetermined and transformed even before 1881.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Political Science and International Relations