Slave to Modernity? General Ḥusayn’s Journey from Tunis to Tuscany (1830s-1880s)

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient
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Following the career of General Ḥusayn b. ʿAbdallāh, a prominent Circassian slave who served the Ottoman governors of Tunis from his childhood in the 1830s until his death in Tuscany in 1887, this paper attempts to grasp more than the colonial dimension of the North African past and to assess other global and transnational dynamics that molded the histories of modernity in the Maghrib. His exile in Florence redirects our attention to Mediterranean spaces, such as Tuscany, which were neither imperial nor colonial and which have been erased from the main narrative of colonized North Africa.

Slave to Modernity? General Ḥusayn’s Journey from Tunis to Tuscany (1830s-1880s)

in Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient

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1

M.C. SahliDécoloniser l’histoire (Paris: François Maspero1965).

2

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4

I. Grangaud“Prouver par l’écriture: Propriétaires algérois, conquérants français et historiens ottomanistes.” Genèses 74 (March 2009): 25-45. In the Tunisian case the primary sources and the archives as an institution are the product of provincial Ottoman and French colonial reforms.

6

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7

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9

ḤusaynRasāʾil Ḥusayn ilā Khayr al-Dīn (Carthage: Bayt al-Ḥikma1991): 1:20. J. Ganiage Les origines du Protectorat français en Tunisie (1861-1881) (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France 1959): 83.

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27

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28

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32

L. Bercher“En marge du Pacte ‘fondamental.’ Un document inédit.” Revue Tunisienne (1939): 67-86.

36

M.F. Bin ʿAshūrArkān al-nahḍa al-adabiyya bi-Tūnis (Tunis: Markaz al-Najāḥ1961): 16 18; A. Vaḥḥah al-Ḥaraka al-iṣlāḥiyya al-zaytūniyya wa al-madrasiyya al-Tūnisiyya khilāla qarn. Al-Shaykh Sālim Bū Ḥājib wa-manhajihi al-iṣlāḥī anmūdhaj (Tunis: ʿAbd al-Qādir Fiḥḥa 2007); A.H. Green The Tunisian Ulama 1873-1915: Social Structure and Response to Ideological Currents (Leiden: Brill 1978): 87 246.

39

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53

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63

David Santillana Florence 1 July 1887doc. 8762 d. 113 c. 11 hstna.

71

In front of the French empress in 1860Ḥusayn was unable to speak French. In London in 1868 Ḥusayn aimed to learn English and Persian (Rasāʾil: 1:76 letter 24 August 1868/Jumādā i 1285). But he did use European words both French and Italian in letters he sent to Khayr al-Dīn such as kārṭa al-fīzīta (business card) būmāda (ointment from French pommade and Italian pomata) “Kūnsīl dī Ātā” (State Council from the French) camera and aviso (Rasāʾil: vol. 1 letters 1 17 21 34 79).

72

F. TrivellatoThe Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora Livorno and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period (New Haven: Yale University Press2009): 93. “By the time of the Napoleonic census of 1808 North African Jews made up 13 percent of the nation and controlled 42.64 percent of the Jewish commercial houses in Livorno.”

73

Visiting Livorno in July 1882Muḥammad al-Sanūsī assumes a population of more than 100000. According to him 10% were Jews. Those originating in Tunis used to meet in a café (qahwa) close to Telegraph Square (Markaz al-Talaghrāf). M. Ibn ʿUthmān al-Sanūsī al-Riḥla al-Ḥijāziya (Tunis: al-Sharika al-Tūnisiya lil-Tawzīʿ 1976): 226-7.

83

M. Gilsenan“Translating Colonial Fortunes: Dilemmas of Inheritance in Muslim and English Laws across a Nineteenth-Century Diaspora.” Comparative Studies of South Asia Africa and the Middle East 32/2 (2011): 355-71.

89

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94

A. Dirlik“Modernity as History: Post-Revolutionary China, Globalization and the Question of Modernity.” Social History 27/1 (2002): 25.

97

M.P. Guterl“The Futures of Transnational History.” American Historical Review 118/1 (2013): 309-10 312.

99

K.J. PerkinsHistorical Dictionary of Tunisia (London: Scarecrow Press1997): 30-1. ʿAlī Bāsh Ḥānba graduated from Ṣādiqī College and was trained as a lawyer in France. He advocated Islamic solidarity. Suspected of “having a part instigating the Jallaz Cemetery incident” and active in organizing “a boycott of the Tunis tram system that aimed at securing equal treatments for its Tunisian and European employees” he was exiled in 1912. In Istanbul he was involved in “Ottoman efforts to promote pan-Islamic ideas during World War I.”

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