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date: 06 May 2021

The Ottoman Maghrib, 1505–1830locked

  • Stephen CoryStephen CoryHistory and Comparative Religion, Cleveland State University Ohio

Summary

Between 1505 and 1830, the foundations were laid for the modern nation-states of Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Of these three countries, only Tunisia had established a clear independent identity prior to the 16th century. Early in that century, all three regions came under the control of the Ottoman Empire, mostly in response to attempts by European powers to create strongholds along the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. By the end of the 16th century, the Ottomans had implanted their traditional provincial governments in the regions of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, complete with governors (pashas), who ruled with the assistance of administrative officials known as beys, and a cohort of Janissary troops. Thus, governance was carried out by a foreign military caste with limited connections to the local population. These governments derived much of their income from corsair enterprises launched against European ships under the leadership of captains known as raises, many of whom were European converts to Islam.

During these three centuries, Tunis and Tripoli would develop nominally independent hereditary dynasties that were initially founded by Ottoman officials who ruled in cooperation with local religious, political, and tribal elites. In Algiers, power remained in the hands of military officers known as deys. This situation became increasingly unstable throughout the 18th century, eventually resulting in the French conquest of Algeria in 1830. Over the course of the 19th century, rising European influence would enable the French to take power in Tunisia in 1881 and the Italians to occupy Libya in 1911. Thus Ottoman rule ended in the Maghrib, but the local identities developed in these states under Ottoman sovereignty eventually led to the rise of nationalist movements in all three countries and the achievement of independence by the mid-20th century.

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