North–South movements
A matter of land: Agricultural settlements in Tunisia
A coin with two faces: both big French land-owning companies and poor southern European landless peasants settled in Tunisia.
In colonial Africa, land was the main source of conflict between the colonisers and the colonised. On the Mediterranean coast, this was the case of Algeria, which was seized by France in 1830 and where European settlement resulted in the eviction of Arab peasants.

Tunisia (a protectorate and not a colony) did not experience comparable mass eviction of local peasants. After 1881, French authorities encouraged French settlements. Some big companies bought large tracts of land, but few French peasants settled in Tunisia, because they were better off in France. By contrast, many landless peasants from Italy and Malta settled in Tunisia, often as labourers or sharecroppers. In 1892, 400 French landowners had a total of 404,200ha. None of them lived there. The other 1,000 Europeans (mostly Italians) who owned land had a total of 27,350ha, and they all lived on their farms, working as peasants.
Italian peasants in Tunisia

First years of the 20th century

Italian Geographical Society (SGI), Rome, Italy

Thousands of Italian immigrants in Tunisia initially worked as agricultural labourers. Over time, many were able to become sharecroppers and, after decades of saving, were able to buy land. The entire family participated in agricultural work, contributing to household welfare.

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In this Exhibition
About the Exhibition
Privateering and captivity in the Mediterranean
Migrations within the Ottoman Empire
North–South movements
The life of European immigrant communities: Egypt and Tunisia