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A View of Algeria in 1830

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Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 radically altered the power dynamics throughout the Mediterranean and the Maghrib vis-à-vis Europe. The French invasion, and the inability of the Ottoman and Egyptian forces to repel it, demonstrated the weakness of the once powerful and feared Ottoman Empire. By 1830, the eve of the French invasion of Algeria found a much weakened North African polity due to European economic interventions in the Maghrib and the decline of Maghribian piracy, which weakened North African economies and made them more dependent on foreign interests.[1] Algeria’s necessary reliance on foreign economic interventions and increasingly heavier taxes levied against their own farmers in the interior further destabilized power relations.

At the same time, the Napoleonic Wars in Europe caused economic disruptions in both Europe and North Africa, wreaking havoc on Algerian international markets. When the continental blockade and the British counter-blockade in the first decade of the nineteenth century cut off Algerian interactions with its Italian, French, and Spanish trading partners, Europe found other suppliers, particularly from Russia, who could provide the desired grains. Algeria’s inability to profit from grain exports further upset its delicate political system.[2] While Algeria was unable to export grain to Europe, Napoleon still needed to feed his troops and took out loans from two Livorno Jewish families living in Algeria – Bakri and Bushnaq, whose interests were later represented by the dey (Ottoman governor of Algeria).[3] By then, the Algerian government had already lent France 1.25 million francs at no interest, in addition to shipments of horses and grain prior to the Napoleonic Wars. Following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, the French Restoration Monarchy refused to honor the debts he incurred.[4]

Napoleon’s exploits in Egypt held greater long-term significance for the relationship between France and Algeria than even the fiscal situation outlined above suggests. Napoleon’s recognition of the Ottoman Empire’s declining power, the correlation he saw between the Roman Empire and France as its seeming inheritor, and the allure of North Africa germinated and grew into the idea that a conquest of Algiers might be advisable in the near future.[5]

Since the year 1808 Emperor Napoleon had the conquest in mind and already in his ardent imagination the new African expedition recalled the glorious memories of the Egyptian campaign. After the peace of Tilsitt, the [military] engineer Boutin went to the Barbary coast on [Napoleon’s] order to conduct reconnaissance there in case of a future war with the dey, who for that matter had not observed/respected the rigorous prohibitions of the continental system with enough deference.[6]

These plans were largely forgotten until the diplomatic breakdown between Algiers and France in 1827 presented an opportunity to resurrect them and the French political situation made such an action appear advantageous.

Napoleon’s influence reverberated through North Africa throughout the first three decades of the nineteenth century. The disruptions of the Napoleonic Wars and the end of privateering in 1816 created enormous upheaval in Algerian power structures.[7]  Even after the Napoleonic Wars ended and the 1815 Congress of Vienna reopened trading opportunities for Algeria, Europe continued to buy its grain from its newfound suppliers rather than from across the Mediterranean. Profits acquired through privateering and international trade provided the financial backing that bolstered and stabilized the Algerian political system.[8] In the years leading up to the French invasion in 1830, European interventions in Algerian piracy, which the northern Mediterranean countries had helped to create centuries before, and the turmoil into which international business fell during the Napoleonic Wars eroded the revenue streams on which Algerian political stability relied.

Historians debate whether or not Algeria was in the process of developing a distinct and unified national identity on the eve of French invasion.[9] While Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria did not identify themselves as nation-states, each began to develop discrete and recognizable characteristics and systems of government over the course of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.[10] By creating more defined geographic boundaries and through their unique socio-political milieus, each acquired greater self-awareness of its separate identity.[11]  However, Algeria was not yet a fully formed, self-defined nation-state at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Then again, a number of European countries were still in the process of nation-state formation themselves.[12]

Prior to that fateful day when a flyswatter set in motion events that would eventually lead to the French conquest of Algiers, Algeria existed as an Ottoman Regency with a highly structured society, government, fiscal, judicial, and police institutions. Thus, arguments for Algeria as a nascent state, albeit a provincial one, begin to make greater sense.  Established as an Ottoman province in the early sixteenth century, an Ottoman ruler (dey) governed Algeria. The Sultan in Constantinople initially chose the man to fill this position, but within a century, the divan, a council comprised of leading members of the Ojaq, or the janissary military corps, took over this function.[13] The janissaries were recruited from the impoverished Anatolia province to become elite soldiers for the Ottoman Empire. Their democratically elected leaders governed according to the egalitarian set of rules the janissaries, themselves, drafted. Their council, or divan, was “responsible for defending its corporate interests [and] soon ceased to distinguish between these and those of the state.”[14] The divan was also responsible for debating and advising on matters of governance and the administration of justice. The dey selected his own officers to fill the following positions that comprised his inner circle or high officers within the divan: the treasury officer (khaznaji), the commander-in-chief of the army, the minister of the marine, his majordomo, the trustee of vacant successions, and the receiver of tribute, known as the ‘secretary of the horse’. His personal treasurer, secretaries, and bailiffs assisted the divan with daily administrative tasks.[15]  The dey administered justice and directly governed the province of Algiers (dar al-sultan) through the aghas (military commanders) and cavalries. Within the city,

Each ethnic group, except that of the Kabyles, and each trade guild was answerable to a headman (amin) with police powers and legal jurisdiction but under the control of a major (shaikh al-balad). Special officials looked after fountains, markets, streets, baths and brothels. The town was extremely well policed.[16] 

The rest of Algeria was divided into three provinces, known as beyliks: Oran in the west, whose capital city was Mazouna until 1710, then Mascara until the Spanish finally vacated the city of Oran in 1792; Titteri in the center, with its seat at Médéa; and Constantine, with its capital city of the same name, in the east. The head of each beylik, the bey, was an Ottoman Turk appointed by the dey, who generally made his decision based on which of the candidates was most generous. Each bey was largely autonomous, and the dey in Algiers often viewed the power the beys wielded with suspicion. Every three years, as a reminder of their dependence on the dey, he compelled the beys to bring taxes and customs duties to Algiers in person. These were dangerous and expensive trips, costing them wealth, perhaps their posts, and sometimes their very lives.[17] 

The three beyliks were comprised of many watans, or districts, that generally encompassed several tribes. Bey-appointed commissioners (qaids) were granted civil, military, and judicial powers to administer each watan and oversee the tribal chiefs (shaikhs), their assistants, and local headmen.[18] The qaids’ primary responsibility was the supervision of land divisions and ensuring that upon distribution, the land was cultivated. Both tasks were essential to accurately and appropriately assess, and then collect, taxes with the shaikhs’ assistance. The bey also relied on mahkzan tribes, who assisted with tax collection as well as policing the province and were themselves exempt from non-canonical taxes in return for their services.[19]

Figure 1: “Afrique française – Algérie”[20]

While Algeria may have had a “pre-capitalist” economy prior to 1830, the Regency was not as backward as the French painted it. When profits from exports and privateering declined at the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the organization of the makhzen tribes to collect taxes, the creation of local military forces, and foreign investments became increasingly important to the stability of the Regency.[21] Not only did they provide a firm foundation for the regency, but they also contributed to a slow revival of Algeria’s urban centers, reconstituting “organic ties between the state and society.”[22] 

Nevertheless, the disparity between the French and Algerian economies can hardly be disputed. Between the French Revolution and the French conquest of Algiers, the economies of the two governments experienced dramatically divergent trends:

In 1822, the United States General Consul in Algiers, William Shaler, evaluated Algerian external commerce at only 8 million francs, while at the same time, the total volume of French trade reached 950 million francs. During the period 1818 to 1828, French production of cast iron doubled; that of processed cotton tripled between 1812 and 1827; in less than fifteen years the silk industry of Lyon grew by 400 percent. Between 1825 and 1830, the quantity of money minted by France increased by 82 percent and that of gold by 156 percent. The Algerian state remained basically a military-theocratic pre-capitalist state whose organizational and institutional features were characterized by certain ‘archaic’ traits, which appear to have prevented the further development of the productive forces of the civil society.[23]

Even though international trade and profits from privateering declined in the first three decades of the nineteenth century, internal trade remained constant. “Algiers had active local industries which distributed their products in the provinces and were still in operation in 1830. Commerce and industry diminished as the population declined in numbers and wealth [though].”[24] Hard hit by plagues, pestilence, and the paucity of food, particularly wheat, the population of Algeria declined sharply between 1780 and 1830. 

Plagues, droughts, poor harvests, and famines wrought havoc on the population, prosperity, and political economy of Algeria. In 1787, for example, nearly 17,000 people died of the plague in Algiers. Twenty years later, in 1805, the grain harvest was insufficient to feed the population, and inhabitants of Constantine staged a massive revolt.[25]  Ten years after that, when Algeria might have begun exporting wheat to Europe following the end of the Napoleonic Wars, locusts devastated the harvest.

Wheat was in such short supply that in an attempt to prevent a repeat of the grain revolts of 1805, the dey prohibited Oran and Constantine from exporting it. The dey was then forced to import wheat into the capital and opened state storehouses to the populace to prevent social unrest as famine spread and shortages continued through 1816.[26] A series of poor harvests throughout the Maghrib caused widespread suffering due to malnutrition in these years. The following year, in 1817, the death toll rose to 500 people per day. By 1830, the population of Algiers was reduced to a mere 30,000 inhabitants, from a height of upwards of 100,000 people prior to 1780.[27]

Political upheaval and near anarchy ensued. Notables began competing with each other over the meager resources rather than cooperating to find a mutually beneficial solution to their financial problems. At the same time, the beys in the eastern and western provinces grew more powerful and controlled greater wealth relative to the dey. Growing jealous of both the financial and political capital of the beys, the dey threw eight out of office and executed sixteen others between 1790 and 1825. However, the position of the dey was equally unsafe, resulting in numerous coups between 1790 and 1816. From Mustafa Dey’s violent death in 1805, Algeria had six deys before Ali Khodja became dey in 1817.[28]

Given the influence peddling, subversion, and bloody overthrows of the previous two decades, the new dey, Ali Khodja Dey, sought to remove himself from the divan’s influence and potential overthrow. Upon his nomination to the position in 1817, he secretly moved his entire treasury and personal entourage away from the Janina Palace to the safety of the Casbah. Unfortunately, his reign was also a short one, as the plague carried him away just two years later.[29]  Before his death, he appointed his treasurer, Hussein Dey, to be his successor. Before the French conquest, Hussein Dey was able to reestablish much of the authority of the central government and made great strides toward stabilizing Algeria’s flagging economy in his twelve years of leadership.[30]

At the same time, European intervention also repeatedly challenged the stability of Algerian society, finally launching a successful assault on Algiers led by Lord Exmouth (Edward Pellew) of Great Britain in August 1816.  Under a flag of truce, a 50-ship fleet comprised of both Dutch and English vessels sailed into the harbor and proceeded to launch a brutal bombardment on the ramparts.[31] American consul to Algiers, William Shaler described Lord Exmouth’s bombardment of Algiers:[32]

The loss on the part of the Algerines is very great, certainly not less than 2000. Much has been done to suppress Algiers as a piratical power; all their ships are destroyed except the brig formerly an American prize, and a schooner, which was in the late war, the James Madison privateer. The ruin of the batteries is very extensive. They cannot yet know the greatness of their misfortune, but time will discover it to them. At present they are very anxious to appear undismayed, and they are actually fitting their two remaining vessels for sea with great activity.[33]

On August 28 after 2 days of intense shelling, the dey at last agreed to free all 1,642 currently enslaved Europeans and Americans, signing a truce, conceding,

in the event of future wars with any European power none of the prisoners should be consigned to slavery, but treated with all humanity as prisoners of war, until regularly exchanged, according to European practice in like cases, and that at the termination of hostilities they should be restored to their respective countries without ransom[34]

The agreement also terminated all Algerian privateering activities on the Mediterranean once and for all, striking a keenly felt blow to economic stability in the Maghribian territory.[35] The European victory and destruction of the Algerian fleet brought the Algerian Regency to its knees before the European powers.[36]

Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire was experiencing its own problems as several significant fissures in the Sublime Porte’s authority began to appear throughout the empire. In 1821, a nationalist uprising in Greece threatened to break off portions of the Balkans from the Ottoman Empire. Sultan Mahmud II’s troops were sent in but neither they nor the Greeks were able to win a convincing victory to settle the conflict.[37]  Desperate and with few options, the sultan called on the fractious, rebellious, and increasingly powerful governor of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, to send in his recently restructured military. The reconstituted Egyptian military had been drilled and disciplined in a style more closely resembling European, rather than Ottoman, armies, making it a highly effective fighting force. While the sultan offered Muhammad Ali governorship of the island of Crete in return for his military aid in Greece, Ali only agreed when the sultan granted Ali’s son and commander of the Egyptian forces, Ibrahim Ali, governorship over the Balkans.[38] 

Ibrahim’s efforts in Greece were successful and helped the Ottoman forces recapture Athens in 1827, but his victory brought unwanted European attention and intervention. Despite their squabbles over influence in the Ottoman Empire, Britain, France, and Russia came together and negotiated with Sultan Mahmud II for two years. The sultan’s refusal of their proposed armistice led to a united Western European and Russian blockade of the Balkans and a naval battle at Pylos that destroyed the Ottoman-Egyptian fleet in 1827, drastically reducing their ability to defend Algeria in 1830.[39] 

In 1831, Ibrahim Ali launched a land and naval attack on Syria to acquire raw materials essential to Egyptian industry, development, and shipbuilding. After successfully taking Lebanon and Syria, Ibrahim marched his army across the Taurus Mountains and into Anatolia, defeating the Ottoman forces there and pushed on to Konya. There he met the Ottoman army, led by Grand Vezir Resid Pasha, defeated them and pressed on, reaching Kuhtaya by January 1833. With the Egyptian army just 150 miles from Istanbul and within striking distance of Bursa, Sultan Mahmud II sought assistance from Britain and France, neither of which offered definite assurance of aid. He then turned to Russian Tsar Nicholas, whose forces “established a bridgehead up the Bosporus from Istanbul” and prevented Ibrahim’s forces from conquering the Ottoman capital. The military assistance Russia offered provided more leverage to extract concessions and further weakened the Ottoman Empire at the very moment its strength was needed to defend its North African possessions.[40]

While the Sublime Porte was preoccupied with both interior and exterior threats, France inaugurated first a naval blockade and then a military campaign on Algiers between 1827 and 1830.[41] At that Algeria represented the farthest reaches of the Ottoman Empire. Maps of its topography reveal a land of extremes – with a brow lined with mountain ranges leading into the Sahel, or high plains, sandwiched between two seas – the Mediterranean to the north and a sea of sand, the Sahara desert, to the south. The region that parallels the Mediterranean for 100-200 miles inland is known as the Tell and is the most inhabitable part of Algeria. However, oases dot the forbidding desert and provide a home for date-growers and a shelter for the nomadic tribes that crisscross the dunes.

Sailing toward the shore, the city of Algiers rises gracefully from the port and coastline up a mountainside. One newcomer’s description is representative of many others’ first impressions: “The houses rise gradually from the sea-shore up the ascent, in the form of an amphitheatre. The town appears beautiful at a distance when approaching from the water. The mosques, castles, and other public buildings have a striking effect.”[42] Crowned with the Casbah, a densely populated citadel, constructed during the first century of Ottoman rule, the buildings are almost all white.[43]  Thus, the city has variously been described as resembling the head of a white-veiled woman or even as a “ship’s topsail, spread out upon a green field.”[44] American consul-general William Shaler observed in 1816, “with its surrounding hilly and well cultivated territory, thickly studded with white buildings, several of which are magnificent edifices, develops, on approach, one of the most agreeable views on the shores of the Mediterranean.”[45]

The city’s massive defenses struck nineteenth-century visitors approaching from the sea. The port received greater attention in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, and construction projects were undertaken to ensure a (mostly) safe harbor, particularly for the privateers who called it home.[46]  As a target of many bombardments, especially during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, dozens of cannons bristle from the fortifications. Shaler observed, “All the approaches by sea to Algiers are defended by such formidable works, mounted with heavy cannon, as to render any direct attack by ships a desperate undertaking, if they were defended with ordinary skill and spirit.”[47]

Algiers was a busy port city prior to colonization. Dozens of ships docked in the harbor daily, and a flurry of activity enveloped disembarking travelers. Laborers – Arab and sub-Saharan Africans – hauled wheat and cotton for export to Italy and France. Dockworkers, mostly Biskris from oases in the eastern province of Constantine, joined their songs to the nearly deafening tumult. “Along the quays of the port of Algiers,” another traveler commented, “the beehive of the Biskris buzzes with activity. You should see these Auvergants of Algeria, an energetic and hard-working race, carrying the heaviest of loads… running from port to city.”[48] To organize and monitor the activity of the port, the Ottomans established “customs houses, a state port authority, and European consular offices to verify ship manifests, as well as passports and merchandise.”[49] 

The city is merely a mile and half in circumference at this time, but navigating the streets was a challenging enterprise.

The streets are very narrow, the tops of the houses closing so near together as to entirely shade them from the rays of the sun, so that, by means of its flat-terraced roofs, there might probably be established a communication throughout its different quarters. [The city] is surrounded by high walls, with bastions and a dry ditch, has no suburbs, and is entered by four gates. … its narrow summit is crowned by the Casauba, or citadel, which effectually commands the city, and the marine batteries.[50] 

In the hierarchical structure of Algerian society, most of the city’s inhabitants were identifiable by their clothing, trade and/or living quarters.

I have never seen anything like it. A prodigious mix of races, costumes, Arab, Kabyle, Moor, Negro, Mahonais… Each of these races, tossed together in a space much too tight to contain them, speaks its language, wears its attire, display different mores. The whole world moves about with an activity that seems feverish.[51]

In Ottoman territories, Jews were not allowed to wear particular colors or specific garments, so as to set them apart from their Arab and Moorish neighbors.[52] A Jewish man might wear a piece of cloth fashioned into a turban around his head, the tail of which extends down his neck and under the short collar of his embroidered jacket. Under his coat, a loose fitting shirt can be seen, which he tucked into voluminous pants that end in a gather at the knee above his slipper-covered toes.[53] A distinguished-looking man, a well-heeled Koulougli, the son of a Turkish administrator and Algerian woman, might wear a multi-colored turban with a deep blue habit; blue stockings cover over his calves and sharply contrasting red slippers, and an off-white bournous slung over his shoulder.[54]

More than any other Mediterranean port, Algiers surprised and astonished. It was crowded with all manner of people and with social and ethnic groups distinguishable from each other through dress, language, physical characteristics, and even hairstyle. … The population was often swamped and enlarged by waves of new arrivals. … Authors and witnesses couldn’t help being dazzled and confused by the diversity which pervaded every street, alley or stairway; they emerged charmed but a little breathless.[55]

Between this description of seventeenth-century Algiers and the end of the eighteenth century, the city grew in population and diversity until plagues took a toll on the citizens and natural disasters struck Algerian crops and the human population that depended on them.

The dramatic decline in the city’s population was in evidence by 1827, however. Not long before, it boasted more than 100,000 inhabitants.[56]  The Bubonic Plague ravaged the population for more than four decades, taking a frightening toll. Despite advances in medicine, there was a great deal of mistrust of the European methods in Algeria, and many people struggled to alter what they saw as the will of God. As a result, thousands suffered and died. The scourge hit Algeria particularly hard. In 1784, travelers brought it from Alexandria. The outbreak lasted for seven long years before it ran its course. By then, one out of every six people had died. There was only a two-year respite before it returned again, this time lasting six years – more in the west. Then again, it appeared in 1817, when famine had already weakened people and a strange disease struck the cattle. Annaba [Bône] saw two out of every three houses boarded up, and in 1822, the plague visited yet again.[57]  

In the decades leading up to the French invasion of Algiers, the Ottoman Regency experienced great social, economic, and political upheaval. Dating back to the sixteenth century, the Ottoman governance of Algeria organized political, as well as social, structures and hierarchies. Apart from the imposition of Ottoman governors – provincial beys and the dey who oversaw them from Algiers – and Janissaries to maintain order, Ottoman imperial governance placed few burdens on the Algerian people. The taxes were not onerous, and unlike Egypt, Algerians were never conscripted through the corvée system of forced labor.[58] However, as European nations were more easily able to exert power in the Mediterranean, Algerians endured greater economic hardship and political instability through the erosion of their revenue streams. At the same time that European navies successfully undermined Barbary privateering operations that stabilized Algerian politics, the Napoleonic Wars disrupted international trade. Moreover, the Bubonic Plague swept across North Africa every few years, decimating the population, even as it faced poor harvests and famine. By the time the French invaded in 1827, Algeria had lost much of its citizenry to disease and starvation.

[1] Laroui, 266-269, 295

[2] Laroui, 266-269; Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 40; Abdeljelil Temimi, Le Beylik de Constantine et Hadj Ahmed Bey, 1830-1837 (Tunis: Revue d’histoire maghrébine, 1978), chapter 1.

[3] Joshua Schreier, “From Mediterranean Merchant to French Civilizer: Jacob Lasry and the Economy of Conquest in Early Colonial Algeria,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 44, no. 4 (November 1, 2012): 635.

[4] Bennoune, 31. The “Restoration Monarchy” under Louis XVIII replaced Napoleon’s imperial government with a constitutional monarchy in 1814.

[5] Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 47.

[6] Aristide Matthieu Guilbert, De la colonisation du nord de l’Afrique; nécessité d’une association nationale pour l’exploitation agricole et industrielle de l’Algérie (Paris, Paulin, 1839), 5,“Dès l’année 1808, [L’empereur Napoléon] en méditait la conquête et déjà dans son ardente imagination la nouvelle expédition africaine se rattachait aux glorieux souvenirs de la campagne d’Égypte. Après la paix de Tilsitt, le colonel du génie Boutin se rendit par son ordre sur les côtes de la Barbarie, pour y faire des travaux de reconnaissance, dans la prévision d’une guerre prochaine avec le dey, qui d’ailleurs n’observait pas avec assez de déférence les rigoureuses prohibitions du système continental.” The continental system was Napoleon I’s foreign policy meant to paralyze Great Britain. Philip G. Dwyer and Alan I. Forrest, eds., Napoleon and His Empire: Europe, 1804-1814 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

[7] To bring an end to the British naval bombardment of the city in 1816, the Dey of Algiers, cOmar Pasha (1815-1817) signed a peace treaty that stated that Algeria would cease all privateering in the Mediterranean and return all of the European (Christian) slaves held in Algiers. See pages _____ of this volume for an account.

[8] The piracy for which the Algerians were infamous began in the fourteenth century in reaction to the European powers successfully shutting them out of the Mediterranean trade. Laroui writes, “While the Maghrib was destroying itself in futile struggles, Aragon, Castile, and Portugal, aided by the Italian city-states, gained in economic and military strength. The crusades in the east had ended in failure, but on the whole had been economically profitable, and above all they had struck a fatal blow at the Mediterranean trade of the Moslem countries.” (Laroui, 232). Attacking North African seaports in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Italo-Iberian fleets sought to dominate Mediterranean trade. Their efforts were ultimately successful, and the Maghribis lost the ability to ship goods around the sea, and their port cities shriveled like prunes during this period of stagnation (Laroui, 234). “Unable to defend their own commerce,” Laroui observes, they “resorted to piracy, just as the English did two centuries later in combating the Spaniards. This piracy, centering chiefly at Bougie was a form of warfare, the response of the Maghribis to the Christian monopolization of the Mediterranean trade.” (Laroui, 234). Piracy and trade from then on became the foundation of Algiers’ economy and contributed substantial sums to the dey’s private coffers through tribute money, prisoner ransoms, and a fifth of the pirates’ profits, but these revenue streams slowly dried up in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, as European navies focused more attention on shutting down Mediterranean piracy. (Laroui, 268).

[9] Mahfoud Bennone; John Ruedy, Modern Algeria; Laroui.

[10] Even earlier, in the sixteenth century, the Ottoman Sultan-appointed Beylerbeys began to create distinct borders between Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia where only ambiguous frontiers had previously existed. However, the names “Algeria” and “Tunisia” date only back to the French July Monarchy (1830-1848) and arose out of the French conquest and colonization of Algeria. (See Julien, 293).

[11] Laroui, 287.

[12] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983).

[13] Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 1–44; Naylor, North Africa, 89–152; Laroui, The History of the Maghrib, 234–305; Charles André Julien, History of North Africa: Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, from the Arab Conquest to 1830 (London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1970), 273–335; Ageron, Modern Algeria, 1–8; Valensi, On the Eve of Colonialism.

[14] Julien, 285.

[15] Julien, 321-322.

[16] Julien, 324.

[17] Julien, 324.

[18] The shaikhs were often chosen from the most important tribe in the watan, while the qaids were Turkish officers who were nominated by military commanders (aghas) or other high officials for the bey’s consideration and approval. Upon appointment, they received a seal and a red burnous to mark their position. (Julien, 325)

[19] Julien, 325.

[20] Alexandre Vuillemin, “Afrique française – Algérie,” 1877. Public Domain. (6 April 2013).

[21] “In the eighteenth century Algiers lost its former prosperity. The treaties with the [European] powers, the enemy expeditions and the growing scarcity of good corsair crews impaired the effectiveness of privateering attacks. In nine years out of a quarter of a century, between 1765 and 1792, the value of booty was less than 100,000 francs. The fleet, which in 1724 comprised twenty-four vessels, declined in the course of sixty years to eight barques and two galliots in 1788. The raïs Hamidu, who held the sea until 1815, restored the fleet again to thirty ships, owing to the European wars that followed the French Revolution. … In total the Algiers trade came to about 5,000,000 francs in 1830 – a rather undistinguished figure.” (Julien, 320, 321).

[22] Laroui, 284.

[23] Bennoune, 16-17.

[24] Julien, History of North Africa, 321; Valensi, On the Eve of Colonialism, 2.

[25] Valensi, 5.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Julien, 320

[28] Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 40.

[29] Abdeljelil Temimi, Le Beylik de Constantine et Hadj Ahmed Bey (1830-1837) (Tunis : Presses de la Société Tunisienne des Arts Graphiques), 31-32.

[30] Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 40–44.

[31] The rivalry between Great Britain and France was particularly significant to the decision-making processes of each government. Consequently, France refused to participate in Lord Exmouth’s campaign because the French preferred that Algerian privateering continued to check British naval power in the Mediterranean.

[32] William Shaler was the American Consul-General and chief commissioner to Algiers in 1815 after the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812. At that time, the United States was able to finally turn its attention to negotiating an end to the predations on American shipping and sailors on the Mediterranean and the high tribute payments the Algerian dey. Shaler and the American squadron arrived June 28, 1815 and concluded a treaty 30 days later. Shaler’s notes, observations, and letters did not go unnoticed by French colonial officials, and in his 1839 publication, De la Colonisation du nord de l’Afrique, nécessité d’une association nationale pour l’exploitation agricole et industrielle,Aristide Guilbert opens his work with a lengthy discussion of Shaler’s travels both in America and Europe and his complimentary observations about Algeria’s geography and potential.

[33] William Shaler to James Monroe, 13 September 1816, The Scourge of Christendom; annals of British relations with Algiers prior to the French conquest, ed. Sir R. Lambert Playfair (London: Smith, Elder & Co, 1884), 272.

[34] Shaler to Monroe, 13 September 1816 in Playfair, 274.

[35] It is easy to take European statements about their Maghribian policies at face value and believe that this (and previous) assault(s) were outraged reactions to Barbary piracy. However, as noted historian of North Africa, Charles-André Julien has observed, commercial interest and power politics carried far more weight in the decision-making of European governments.  It should be noted, however, that the United States could legitimately claim to have acted in response to Algerian piracy, which cost the government and American merchants small fortunes in the Mediterranean, where the privateers preyed on American vessels in particular, so as not to offend European trading partners.

[36] Temimi, 33-34.

[37] Sending troops to deal with the Qajar invasions from Iran into the Ottomans’ eastern provinces inhibited their ability to respond to the Greek uprising. With fewer troops available, it was necessary to call in auxiliaries, in this case, from Egypt. (Caroline Finkel, Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923 [New York: Basic Books, 2006], 432.)

[38] Finkel, Osman’s Dream, 432; William L. Cleveland and Martin Bunton, A History of the Modern Middle East, 4th Edition(Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2009), 71-73.

[39] Donald Quataert, The Ottoman Empire, 1700-1922, 2nd ed, New Approaches to European History (Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambrige University Press, 2005), 56–58; Caroline Finkel, Osman’s Dream: The Story of the Ottoman Empire, 1300-1923 (New York: Basic Books, 2006), 443–444; Guillaume de Bertier de Sauvigny and David H. Pinkney, History of France, Rev. and enl. ed (Arlington Heights, Ill: Forum Press, 1983), 263.

[40] Gordon Wright, France in Modern Times: From the Enlightenment to the Present, 5th ed. (New York: Norton, 1995), 186.

[41] Finkel, 444.

[42] Mathew Carey, A Short Account of Algiers, and of Its Several Wars against Spain, France, England, Holland, Venice, and Other Powers of Europe, from the Usurpation of Barbarossa and the Invasion of the Emperor Charles V. to the Present Time : With a Concise View of the Origin of the Rupture between Algiers and the United States : [Four Lines from Buchanan] : To Which Is Added, a Copious Appendix, Containing Letters from Captains Penrose, M’Shane, and Sundry Other American Captives, with a Description of the Treatment Those Prisoners Experience. (Philadelphia: no. 118 Market Street, 1794), 8.

[43] Ottoman governance began in 1516. Historically, this was where the local military force was garrisoned to protect the city, maintain order in its hinterland, and in the city itself, if need be. (Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 22).

[44] William Shaler, Sketches of Algiers, Political, Historical, and Civil : Containing an Account of the Geography, Population, Government, Revenues, Commerce, Agriculture, Arts, Civil Institutions, Tribes, Manners, Languages, and Recent Political History of That Country (Boston : Cummings, Hilliard and company, 1826), 47–48,

[45] Shaler, 47-48.

[46] The harbor provided protection from all but the northerly winter winds.

[47] Shaler, 46.

[48] Antoine Rozet, Algérie (Paris: Firmin Didot, 1850), 38 in Julia Clancy-Smith, “Exoticism, Erasures, and Absence: The Peopling of Algiers, 1830-1900,” in Zeynep Çelik, Julia Ann Clancy-Smith, and Frances Terpak, eds., Walls of Algiers: Narratives of the City Through Text and Image (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2009), 42 Auvergants refers to inhabitants of French Auvergne. Rozet’s use of this parallel would have resonated with French readers in his day, who understood Auvergne as “a region of limited agricultural resources [that] exported its surplus workers to cities like Paris where they monopolized certain trades and professions” (Clancy-Smith, “Exoticism, Erasures, and Absence,” 42).

[49] Clancy-Smith, Walls of Algiers, 28.

[50] Shaler, 47.

[51] Alexis de Tocqueville, “Notes on the Voyage to Algeria,” 1841, 36. The much discussed (and later photographed) Moors were descendants of the Andalusians who fled Granada and what is now southern Spain after the Spanish under Ferdinand and Isabella defeated the Muslims there in 1492. Ferdinand and Isabella extended the Inquisitor’s reach into those lands when they fell into their hands. Fearing persecution, torture, and death, the Moors gathered their families and traveled across the straights of Gibraltar into Morocco, and many continued moving along the coast to Algiers. (Cf. Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Volume 2 [Los Angeles: University of California Press, (1949 in French) 1995], 785-797.)

[52] Julien, History of North Africa, 291.

[53] “In Laugier de Tassy’s Histoire du royaume d’Alger, first published in 1725, he noted the number of Italian, Spanish, and French Jews trading and residing in Algiers, most of whom enjoyed the protection of foreign consuls. Moreover, these Jews could live anywhere in the city, although they preferred to reside in quarters where other European merchants did. However, Algerian Arab Jews were subject to residential restrictions and rarely, if ever, intermarried with those from Europe. In accordance with Islamic law and local custom, their inferior sociolegal status vis-à-vis the Muslims was manifest in sumptuary laws governing clothing and in special taxes. Under the Turks, dress had served as one of the principal indicators of difference; clothing laws remained in force until 1834, when they were abolished by French decree. Nevertheless, since clothing was a fundamental element in collective identity, the Jews and many other groups persisted in their older practices for years after the decree.” Clancy-Smith, The Walls of Algiers, 39.

[54] Robert Junmann, “Kulughli in Winter Dress,” colored lithograph, Costumes, Moeurs et Usages des Algériens [Strasbourg: J. Bernard, 1837], pl. 7) in Julia Clancy-Smith, “Exoticism, Erasures, and Absence,” in Çelik, Clancy-Smith, and Terpak, Walls of Algiers, 35.

[55] Jacques Heers, The Barbary Corsairs: Warfare in the Mediterranean, 1480-1580 (London: Greenhill, 2003), 146.

[56] By 1830, the population of Algiers had shrunk to about 30,000 due to disease, the disruptions the Napoleonic wars brought to European trade, and to the increasing European domination of the Mediterranean that virtually brought an end to privateering. At the time of French occupation, Oran’s population had declined to 9,000; Bône, particularly hard-hit by the plague, only counted 5,000 inhabitants; Tlemcen, “traditional commercial hub and cultural center of western Algeria had contracted to around 10,000.” Only Constantine with its connections to both Saharan and Tunisian trade and its fertile agricultural lands seemed to withstand the years of urban population decline and maintained about 30,000 residents. (Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 23).

[57] Valensi, On the Eve of Colonialism; Ruedy, Modern Algeria, 1–44; Ageron, Modern Algeria, 1–8; Julien, History of North Africa, 324–328; Bennoune, The Making of Contemporary Algeria, 1830-1987, 1988, 15–31.

[58] Nathan J. Brown, “Who Abolished Corvée Labour in Egypt and Why?,” Past & Present, no. 144 (August 1994): 116.

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