On July 25, 1957, the Kingdon of Tunisia, which had long been ruled by the Bey descendents of the Turkish Hussein dynasty, ended with the deposition of the last of the Beys and the formation of a republican government under former nationalist leader Habib Bourguiba. President Bourguiba initiated a program of modernization for Tunisia, which is the northernmost country in Africa and an area which possesses a long and rich history. Bordered by Algeria, Libya, and the Mediterranean Sea, the country has a varied geography consisting of desert and mountain regions and highly productive agricultural zones.
The area now occupied by Tunisia was once home to the Phoenician city of Carthage. It became an important part of the Roman Empire, fell to Vandal rule during the fifth century, the Byzantines in the sixth century, then the Arab Muslims in the seventh. It remained part of the Berber and then the Ottoman Empires for centuries before becoming a French protectorate in 1881. French oversight of the country continued until 1956, when the newly-named “Kingdom of Tunis” was formed under Lamine Bey.
Tunisia was the site of a major Allied victory during World War II. Following initially disastrous engagements, the Allied forces led by British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery defeated the Axis powers in northern Africa under Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, forcing the surrender of the German-Italian army.
Image Credit: Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection/University of Texas Libraries, UT Austin