Tu'nis, a French protectorate of North Africa, extending 550 miles along the Mediterranean, between Algeria and Tripoli. Area, 45,000 sq. m.: pop., mostly Bedouin Arabs and Kabyles, 1,900,000, including (1906) 40,000 Frenchmen, 14,600 of them troops. Much of the surface is occupied by hills and, towards the south, desert steppes; in the east the land is low and sandy. None of the rivers are navigable, most of them disappearing in the sand before reaching the coast. There is one considerable lake in the north. The soil is largely fertile, producing fine grain-crops; and oranges, dates, figs, olives, grapes, pomegranates, and almonds are raised. The pasturage is good and abundant, except in the height of the dry season, supporting numerous flocks of cattle and sheep. Tunis is rich in all minerals except gold, and very beautiful marble is worked. The annual rainfall varies from 10 to 50 inches. The heaviest rains occur in December and January. Snow falls on the higher altitudes, and the greater mountain-peaks are always snow-clad. Although often trying for Europeans, the* climate is not exceptionally unhealthy. The trade of Tunis, mainly with France, Algeria, and Italy, is gradually increasing; the value of the imports (about £2,580,000 per annum) is considerably above that of the exports. The chief imports are cottons and textile goods, flour, cereals, colonial wares, and wines; the exports, olive-oil, wheat, tan, esparto, barley, fruits, wool, sponges, and tunny-fish. There are 460 miles of railways, with over 2000 miles of telegraphs.
Long identified with the fortunes of Carthage, Tunis was in 1270 invaded by Louis IX. of France, and in 1575 brought thoroughly under the Ottoman power. The Turkish pasha, however, was after 1631 superseded by a native Bey, practically independent, whose successors prospered by piracy, directed against the Christian powers. In the 18th c. Tunis became tributary to Algeria; but in the 19th was again virtually independent. In 1881 a French invasion resulted in a treaty placing Tunis under French protection. This occupation has benefited Tunis and greatly increased the power of France in the Mediterranean, securing many safe harbours, and lessening the strategic importance of Gibraltar and Malta. See works by Broadley (1882), Graham and Ashbee (1887), and Sir H. Vivian (1899), and French works by Lanessan (1887) and Poire (1892).
Tunis, the capital, is situated on a small lagoon (El Bahira), near the south-west extremity of the Lake of Tunis, and about 3 miles from the ruins of Carthage (q.v.). Several of the mosques are magnificently decorated, as is the bey's palace. The citadel contains a fine collection of antiquities. A channel 81 feet broad and 11 1/2 deep has been dredged in the lagoon from Goletta to Tunis, which in 1893 became a seaport. Good modern barracks are occupied by the French troops. Pop. 170,000. See Lallemand, Tunis et ses Environs (1889).