Status: Presidential Republic
Population: 11,896,972 (2022 estimate)
Area: 63,170 sq miles
Currency: 1 Tunisian Dinar = US $0.32
Tunisia is a republic, about the size of Washington state, on the Mediterranean coast of Africa about 90 miles from Sicily. Legend says that around 814 BC, a Phoenician queen fleeing her brother founded the city of Carthage, near modern Tunis, which later became the dominant maritime power in the Mediterranean. In 146 BC, after three wars with Rome, the Romans razed the city and annexed its territory.
Later, Julius Caesar, recognizing the value of the fertile Tunisian lands, began to resettle the area with retired soldiers. Carthage became the capital of the new Roman province of Africa and the bread basket of the empire, a city second only to Rome in importance in the Western Empire.
When the Vandals overran the area in 459 AD, the harbors became havens for pirates. In the mid-7th century, Arabs overran Tunisia and converted the people to Islam. The Ottomans took Tunisia in 1574 and appointed a bey (a provincial governor) to govern the country. As Ottoman power waned, the Tunisian beys gained considerable autonomy.
Tunisia Scott 246,319, and 390
At the 1878 Berlin Conference, at Bismarck’s suggestion, Great Britain secretly offered the French control of Tunisia to counterbalance the British acquisition of Cyprus. While occupying Tunisia was intended to help France protect its interests in Algeria, the French failed to act on British concession. This inaction was embarrassing to the hawks in the Quai d’Orsay who thought it made France look weak. Meanwhile, the Italians were increasing their activities in Tunisia. The Quai devised a plan for French forces to enter Tunisia under the guise of suppressing an uprising by a troublesome border tribe. In March 1881, the French political leaders agreed to the plan.
The Scramble for Africa, by Thomas Pakenham, has the most detailed account of the bey's submission of any source that I found. It reads, in part, as follows:
“On April 4, a border incident occurred and two weeks later, a French force marched across the border. The French … arrived at the bey’s palace in Tunis on May 12. Accompanied by the ambassador, the French general handed the bey a treaty in French which would effectively make Tunisia a French protectorate. The bey’s request for a translation was denied. Instead the ambassador summarized the main points ... Failing to gain political support and learning that his brother would be made bey if he failed to accept, the bey broke down and signed the treaty.”
A Tunisian independence movement began after World War I but did not have much impact until the 1930s when it came under the leadership of Habib Bourguiba. In the 1950s, France began to withdraw its troops at Tunisia’s insistence and in 1955, Tunisia became autonomous. In March 1956, it became an independent monarchy under Bey Mohammed al-Amin. On July 25, 1957 it became a republic with Bourguiba as the first president.
Tunisia Scott 793 and 1179
Italy operated a post office in Tunis after 1853 using Sardinian stamp until Italian stamps appeared in 1862. Italy added offices in Goulette in 1879 and Sousse in 1880. These offices were closed in 1897.
After 1881, the French opened post offices in nine towns using French stamps. In 1883, Tunisia became a French protectorate. A set of eight stamps were released for Tunisia on July 1, 1888 denominated in French currency. On November 1, 1957, Tunisia converted to dinars (1,000 millimes = 1 dinar).