In the 1880s, France forced European consular courts to close. To secure this reform, however, France granted concessions to the same governments whose influence it sought to diminish, perpetuating the Capitulations, whereby foreign subjects could be judged by the laws of their native countries and the extraterritorial rights they guaranteed. A single French court now replaced consular courts, but it still adjudicated multiple and sometimes conflicting laws. Seizing the opportunity provided by France’s honoring of preexisting treaties, residents of Tunisia played the protectorate’s multiple jurisdictions off each other. Maintaining legal pluralism obstructed France’s efforts to establish dominance over Tunisia, because law was the means by which many quotidian social conflicts were worked out among Tunisians of all backgrounds, such that recognition of the bey’s sovereignty perpetuated, rather than resolved, conflict between France and other European powers active in Tunisia.
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