(image source: CUP)
Recent works on France's informal projection of power have begun remapping French imperialism during the nineteenth century. More studies in this vein could broaden our understanding of informal empire as an analytical category by decentring it from its roots in British imperial studies. This article argues that between 1815 and 1830, French diplomats remoulded the Regency of Tunisia into an informal imperial periphery. Although they lacked the military and economic leverage of their British counterparts, French consuls coerced the Tunisian rulers into submission by wielding threats and treaties. This strategy unfolded in three stages. First, the consuls used rumours of a possible invasion in order to impose a new vision of international law and dismantle the corsair system in the Regency. Second, they claimed French territorial sovereignty over a part of the Tunisian coast by appealing to the international legal norms enshrined in the existing treaties. And, third, the Tunisian ruler accepted most consular demands following the French invasion of Algeria in 1830. Tunisia's entrance into the French imperial orbit in turn led French diplomats to seek the establishment of French economic ascendency in Tunisia during the early 1830s.