North–South movements
A little-known story: Italian workers in Tunisia
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, thousands of Italians preferred immigrating to North Africa rather than going all the way to America.
Many Italians immigrated to Tunisia in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first migratory wave comprised many professionals and traders, often Jews from Livorno in Tuscany. Mass migration of poor peasants and workers from Sicily began in the second half of the 19th century, alongside the to-and-fro movement of seasonal workers such as miners from Sardinia. In 1881, the number of Italians in Tunisia was just over 11,000 (72 per cent from Sicily); they formed more than half of the European population in Tunisia, a proportion significantly higher than that of the French community, which counted only 708 individuals. In 1921, a French census registered almost 85,000 Italians in Tunisia, a figure many historians believe to lie below the actual total of around 90,000–100,000.
View Document Files Register listing 'all of the subjects of the Grand Duke of Tuscany [Italy] residing in Tunisia'


State Archives of Livorno, Livorno, Italy

Tuscan subjects residing in Tunisia were officially recorded by the Consulate. The register included age, place of birth, place of residence, conjugal status and profession. Such registration was necessary in order for the Tuscan immigrants to remain under the jurisdiction and protection of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

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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