In 1864 as the Civil War raged in the United States, a Circassian manumitted slave and Tunisian official named Husayn advocated for the abolition of slavery in the US. In response to a query from the American consul in Tunis wondering about the effect of slavery in Tunisia, Husayn replied that he truly believed that "universal liberty and the non-existence of slavery have a deep effect on refining a man’s manners as well as on the development of culture." Through this specific case, we will look at the roots of Husayn's abolitionist thinking and what Husayn’s story might tell us about slavery in Ottoman Tunisia and the historiography of modern North Africa.
M’hamed Oualdi is professor of history at Sciences Po-Paris. He is a historian of Early Modern and Modern North Africa. Prior to joining the faculty at Sciences Po, he was assistant and then associate professor at Princeton University (2013-2019). His current project, funded by a European Research Council consolidator grant, will deal with the narratives and ego-documents written by European, African and Asian slaves and their offspring in 19th-century North Africa/Western Mediterranean when European and Ottoman states implemented the abolition of slavery across the Mediterranean.
Adam Mestyan is a historian of the modern Arab world. He is assistant professor in the History Department of Duke University and a graduate of CEU and ELTE (Budapest). He taught at Oxford University and subsequently was a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows. He is working on his second monograph, Modern Arab Kingship, a history of constituent acts in Western composite imperialism in the former Ottoman territories between the 1910s and 1940s. His most recent monograph is Arab Patriotism: The Ideology and Culture of Power in Late Ottoman Egypt (Princeton University Press, 2017).
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