Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: The Security Pact (ʿAhd al-Amān) and the Bathou Sfez Affair: French Imperialism, Islamic Law, and the Jewish Community of Ottoman Tunisia in 1857
Authors: Picard, Joshua Efrem
Advisors: Rustow, Marina
Contributors: Near Eastern Studies Department
Keywords: Blasphemy
French Second Empire
Subjects: North African studies
Judaic studies
Modern history
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation is as study of the events leading to the promulgation of the ʿAhd al-Amān (Security Pact) on September 9, 1857. This law served as the basis of Tunisia’s 1861 constitution, the first constitution in the Arab world, before facilitating Tunisia’s steady descent into bankruptcy and foreign domination.The story begins with a Jewish coachman’s condemnation for blaspheming Islam in Tunis. The French Second Empire responded to his execution with military force, coercing the adoption of the ʿAhd al-Amān. The accepted narrative holds that judicial misconduct in the blasphemy trial precipitated a humanitarian intervention on the part of France, the ʿAhd al-Amān serving as redress to the injustices of the trial. I show instead that the trial was conducted in accordance with reigning Ottoman praxis and that it was not controversial in Tunis. French merchants advocating commercial reform published shocking, mostly fictitious accounts of the affair in French journals and called for a specific reform law to protect non-Muslims in Tunisia. Their cause célèbre sparked a moral panic in Europe. They lobbied the French government directly with specific demands: exemptions from local jurisdiction and the economic liberalization of Tunisia. French military intervention satisfied all the merchants’ demands, ending their media campaign, and cooled the passions of the French public by promoting superficial ameliorations to the status of Tunisia’s Jews. Crucially, it forestalled British or Ottoman intervention in Tunisia, which France saw as a grave threat to its rule of Algeria. This dissertation updates previous scholarship in three ways. First, where previous studies have relied only on consular records and chronicles, I supplement those sources with court records and legal literature to render a high-resolution image of legal practice in Ottoman Tunisia. Second, though this case has often been cited as evidence of Jewish persecution at the hands of Muslims, I show that that interpretation of the affair was manufactured for political ends. Lastly, I restore the promulgation of the ʿAhd al-Amān to its historical context: the pretext of humanitarian intervention served to disguise the pursuit of French economic and geostrategic interests. The story of the law’s coerced ratification is, above all, a blueprint for imperial exploitation in a liberal age.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Near Eastern Studies

Files in This Item:
This content is embargoed until 2025-02-01. For questions about theses and dissertations, please contact the Mudd Manuscript Library. For questions about research datasets, as well as other inquiries, please contact the DataSpace curators.

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.