Tunis is probably pre-Carthaginian. Surviving from the Middle Ages are walls, an aqueduct, and a mosque. Tunis became the capital of Tunisia under the powerful Hafsid dynasty (13th–16th cent.) and was a leading center of trade with Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean. Turks under Barbarossa took it in 1534 but were temporarily (1535–69, 1573–74) dislodged by the Spanish. After 1591, the Turkish governors (the beys) were practically independent, and the city prospered as a center of piracy and trade. Under the French occupation (1881–1956), a modern European quarter was built and the port was improved. In World War II, Tunis was held by Axis forces from Nov., 1942, to May 7, 1943, and was the base for their final stand in Africa. The Arab League was headquartered in Tunis from 1979 to 1990.
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