International Journal Middle East Studies


Tal Shuval  1


By the late seventeenth century, Algeria and Tunisia had established regimes that were largely independent of Ottoman sovereignty in almost every regard, although the Porte continued, in strictly legal terms, to exert minimal rights of sovereignty.

Michel Le Gall1

But, let there be no mistake: the more a regency of Barbary has become fearsome to the Christian princes, the more the Sultan is its absolute master. He had only to utter a word to end an unjust war and fix even the terms for peace.

Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis2

Separated by two centuries, these two quotations describe the role of the Ottoman Empire in North Africa in very different—indeed, contradictory—terms. On the one hand, Ottoman North Africa is depicted as a region where independent political entities emerged out of a century of Ottoman rule, ready as it were for the eventual emergence of nation-states in the 20th century. Venture de Paradis's earlier description, however, is devoid of the hindsight gained by our knowledge of the “end of the story.” It tells us that by the end of the 18th century, contrary to the contemporary accepted view of the remoteness of the Maghribi “regencies” from the imperial center in Istanbul, the three Ottoman provinces of North Africa were indeed an integral part of the Ottoman Empire, and the rulers of these provinces were obedient subjects of the Sublime Porte.


1 Tal Shuval is a lecturer in the Department of Middle East Studies, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva 84105, Israel; e-mail: