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HUSAYNID DYNASTY. Husayn ibn ‘Ali, founder of the Husaynid dynasty (1705-1957), and his descendants ruledTunisiaduring an era of increasing external pressures. Civil wars that provoked Algerian intervention plagued the early years of the dynasty and persuaded the Husaynid beys, who were part of an Ottoman ruling elite only loosely integrated into Tunisian society, of the need to develop a broad base of support in the country. The beys began to integrate tribal warriors into their army and to elevate members of the urban bourgeoisie, especially the `ulama’, to positions of responsibility in the government.

A dramatic upturn in the economy owing to the revival of corsair activity during the Napoleonic Wars solidified the relationship between the beys and their subjects, but the absence of effective Husaynid leadership following the death of Hamudah Bey (r. 1’782-1814) in 1814 left the country weak and vulnerable. A series of disastrous harvests and a widespread commercial slump in the following years gave European merchants an opportunity to insinuate themselves into the center of the Tunisian economy by lending money to Tunisians on the verge of financial ruin. The French occupation ofAlgeriain 183o heightened the dangers of this European economic penetration by placing a major creditor onTunisia’s borders. An Ottoman effort to reassert direct control overTripolitaniain 1835 similarly jeopardized the bey’s autonomy.

Determined to avert both French and Ottoman encroachment, Ahmad Bey (r. 1837-1855) launched a campaign to strengthen the central government and make the country more self-sufficient, but the tax increases needed to implement these policies further undermined the economy. More important, Ahmad’s unchecked spending left his successors with no choice but to borrow money abroad. The highly unfavorable terms of these loans set off a spiral of indebtedness that placedTunisiafirmly in the grasp of its European creditors.

An intense competition betweenFranceandGreat Britainfor the economic and political domination of the country marked the quarter century between Ahmad’s death and the imposition of the French protectorate, with the Husaynids trying in vain to maintain their autonomy. The eagerness of many Tunisian officials to enrich themselves by collaborating with foreign governments and business interests produced a debilitating atmosphere of graft and corruption. In the hope of appeasing the powers, the Husaynids consented to demands for such “reforms” as the `ahd al-amdn and the constitution of 1861, but this agenda served primarily the Europeans’ purposes and failed to promote either political or economic stability. When the European powers reached an agreement on the disposition ofTunisiaat the Congress of Berlin (1878), a French occupation became inevitable.

The Bardo Treaty, signed afterFranceinvadedTunisiain 1881, left Muhammad al-Sadiq (r. 1859-1882) on the throne, but without real authority. For the next seventy-five years, the Husaynids reigned but did not rule, their powers circumscribed by the protectorate bureaucracy. This long period of political impotence, the lack of interest in, or sympathy for, the nationalist movement on the part of the beys (with the possible exception of Munsif [r. 1942-1943]) and the enormous popularity of the nationalist leader, Habib Bourguiba, all contributed to the ease with which al-Amin Bey (r. 1943-1957) was deposed and the monarchy abolished in 1957.

[See alsoTunisia.]


Brown, L. Carl. TheTunisiaof Ahmad Bey, 1837-1855.Princeton, 1974. This superb study of a modernizing ruler also contains valuable background information on Tunisian society in the middle of the Husaynid era.

Chater, Khalifa. Dependance et mutations pricoloniales: La Rigence de Tunis de 1815 a 7857.Tunis, 1984. Study in socioeconomic history illustrating the problems occasioned by the increase of European influence inTunisia.

Cherif, Mohamed-Hedi. Pouvoir et societe dans la Tunisie de Husayn Bin Ali, 1705-1740. 2 vols.Tunis, 1986. The best account of the rise and early years of the dynasty.

Valensi, Lucette. Tunisian Peasants in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.Cambridge, 1985. Abridged translation of Fellahs tunisiens: L’Economie rurale et la vie des campagnes aux 18e et 19` siecles. Surveys economic, cultural, and social practices among both

sedentary and nomadic peoples in ruralTunisiain the Husaynid era.


Azhar Niaz Article's Source: http://islamicus.org/husaynid-dynasty/

  • writerPosted On: April 4, 2014
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