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So Near and Yet So Far: British Tourism in Algiers, 1860–1914

  • Kenneth J. Perkins
Chapter
Part of the Britain and the World book series (BAW)

Abstract

In 1849, the Algiers Municipal Council cited the city’s climate and striking venue as reasons to believe that two recent projects — a theatre and a walking path through the hills above the city — would provide recreational and cultural opportunities not only for local citizens but also for a growing number of visitors, many of them refugees from the inclement winters of Northern Europe. The relatively mild climate which British travellers associated with Algiers is reflected in the titles that seasonal residents gave to their accounts of sojourns in the city: A Winter with the Swallows (1867); The New Playground, or Wanderings in Algeria (1887); and, perhaps most pointedly, Searches for Summer: Showing the Anti-winter Tactics of an Invalid (1874). These transients provided the initial stimulus for the emergence of a tourist infrastructure in the city, with several British physicians singing its praises from a medical and curative point of view as early as 1837. William Wilde, an Irish doctor (and father of Oscar), for example, envisioned ‘a promising future for Algiers as a health resort’.1 A handful of British subjects had begun wintering there in the 1840s and their numbers grew slowly but steadily in the 1850s and 1860s, eventually creating a sizeable winter colony. 2 By the last quarter of the century, the city was increasingly mentioned as an alternative to Italy, Spain or the Riviera. Over those decades, Algeria grew ‘closer’ to Britain as improved technology shortened the transit time from London to Algiers.

Keywords

Medical Tourism Health Resort Billiard Table British Subject British Community 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Quoted in J. Pemble (1987) The Mediterranean Passion (Oxford: Clarendon), p. 86.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    D. Cherry (2002) ‘Earth into World, Land into Landscape: The “Worlding” of Algeria in Nineteenth Century British Feminism,’ in J. Beaulieu and M. Roberts (eds.) Orientalism’s Interlocutors (Durham: Duke University Press), pp. 103–30. This is one of several recent studies to take the experiences of British travellers in North Africa as illustrative of research questions in topics only loosely connected to the geographical region. Two disciplines which, on examination, reveal considerable commonalities in this respect are feminist studies and art history. See M. Roberts (2002) ‘Contested Terrains: Women Orientalists and the Colonial Harem’, in Beaulieu and Roberts, Orientalism’s Interlocutors, pp. 179–204. Elsewhere, see M. Roberts (2007) Intimate Outsiders: The Harem in Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Travel Literature (Durham: Duke University Press). The study of Orientalist art has a well-developed literature in which North Africa often provides the setting. Many works deal primarily with the French artists who were, of course, the most numerous and prolific European practitioners in the region. Among the better studies are R. Benjamin (2003) Orientalist Aesthet-ics: Arts, Colonialism and French North Africa (Berkeley: University of California Press) and M.V. Bué (2000) Alger et ses peintres, 1830–1960 (Paris: Méditérranéé). A nineteenth-century source that sometimes brought the strands of art history and feminism together was The English Woman’s Journal, a magazine that occasionally published essays written by female British visitors to North Africa, some of whom were themselves artists. For specific instances, see Cherry, ‘Earth into World,’ fns 3, 21, 24, and 45.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    The notion of climatotherapy or medical climatology was popular in Victorian Britain, as discussed in Pemble, Mediterranean Passions, pp. 84–99. Typical of many nineteenth-century works was R.E. Scoresby-Jackson (1862) Medical Climatology or a Topographical and Meteorological Description of the Localities Resorted to in Winter and Summer by Invalids of Various Classes, Both at Home and Abroad (London: John Churchill), with chapters on Algiers and Algeria.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    G. Morgan (1891) ‘A New Pool of Bethesda,’ in The Gentleman’s Magazine, 276, 16–17.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    George W. Harris (1903) Cook’s Practical Guide to Algiers, Algeria and Tunisia (London: Thomas Cook), p. 117.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    J. Buzard (1993) The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature, and Ways to Culture, 1800–1918 (Oxford: Clarendon Press) opens with a quip of Evelyn Waugh’s that ‘every Englishman abroad, until it is proved to the contrary, likes to consider himself a traveller and not a tourist’. Distinctions between the two run through much of the remainder of the work. For an overview of this definitional question, see L. Withey (1997) A History of Leisure Travel, 1750–1915 (New York: William Morrow), pp. 8–11. Other explorations of this issue include J. Urry (1990) The Tourist Gaze: Leisure and Travel in Contemporary Societies (London: Sage); D. MacCannell (1976) The Tourist: A New Theory of the Leisure Class (New York: Schocken); D. MacCannell (1992) Empty Meeting Grounds: The Tourist Papers Google Scholar
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  8. 8.
    H. Blackburn (1868) Artists and Arabs, or Sketching in Sunshine (London: Sampson Low), pp. 151–2.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    W.G. Windham (1862) Notes in North Africa: Being a Guide to the Sportsman and Tourist in Algeria and Tunisia (London: Ward and Lock), p. 14.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    M.B. Edwards (1867) A Winter with the Swallows (London: Hurst and Blackett), p. 50.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    R.L. Playfair (1877) Travels in the Footsteps of Bruce in Algeria and Tunis (London: C. Kegan Paul), p. 29.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    On the history of the museum, see N. Oulebsir (2004) Les usages du patrimoine. Monuments, musées et politique coloniale en Algérie (Paris: Editions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme), pp. 184–95 and Benjamin, Orientalist Aesthetics, pp. 249–75.Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    C.T. Stanford (n.d., c. 1911) About Algeria (London: John Lane), pp. 112–14.Google Scholar
  14. 15.
    L.G. Seguin [Elizabeth Gooch Strahan] (1878) Walks in Algiers and its Surroundings (London: Daldy, Isbister and Company), pp. 37–8. For a similar account of the chaos of arriving in Algiers, see, for example, Scoresby-Jackson, Medical Climatology, p. 121.Google Scholar
  15. 17.
    C.H. Douglas (1874) Searches for Summer: Showing the Anti-Winter Tactics of an Invalid (Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood), pp. 77–9.Google Scholar
  16. 20.
    C.R. Black (1891) Algiers in Good Words (London: Isbister), p. 752.Google Scholar
  17. 21.
    M.S. Crawford (1863) Through Algeria (London: Richard Bentley), p. 80.Google Scholar
  18. 27.
    H.L. Evans (1868) Last Winter in Algeria (London: Chapman and Hall), p. 25. Visiting cemeteries was one of the few opportunities for Muslim women to leave their homes, and such outings took on the festive air of picnics (which they often were, as noted by many European observers, to whom the behaviour seemed incongruous, if not scandalous).Google Scholar
  19. 28.
    E.W.L. Davies (1858) Algiers in 1857 (London: Longman), p. 76.Google Scholar
  20. 30.
    All across the Maghrib, visitors expressed similar concerns. The French practice of constructing a nouvelle ville adjacent to, but outside the walls of, the traditional medina created boundaries that were both psychological and physical. Just as Western visitors often felt ill at ease in the narrow warren-like streets of the old cities, the reverse was also true. Arabs and Berbers regarded the new cities as alien and culturally incomprehensible worlds where they were not only uncomfortable but also unwanted and often entered only in fear for their safety.Google Scholar
  21. 31.
    R.L. Playfair (1890) Handbook to the Mediterranean: Its Cities, Coasts, and Islands for the Use of General Travellers and Yachtsmen, 3rd edn. (London: John Murray), p. 19.Google Scholar
  22. 32.
    C. Dibdin (1875) ‘To Algiers and Back in a Month’ in All the World Over (London: T. Cook), p. 61.Google Scholar
  23. 34.
    J.C. Hyam (1899) The Illustrated Guide to Algiers: A Practical Handbook for Travellers (Algiers: Anglo-French Press Association), p. 59.Google Scholar
  24. 38.
    A.A. Knox (1881), The New Playground, or Wanderings in Algeria (London: C. Kegan Paul), p. 71.Google Scholar
  25. 42.
    Edwards, Winter. See also Seguin, Walks, p. 43; and Hyam, Illustrated Guide, pp. 50–1.Google Scholar
  26. 43.
    See, for example, J. Barbier (1855) Itinéraire Historique et Descriptif de l’Algérie (Paris: Hachette); V. Bérard (1871) Indicateur Générale de l’Algérie (Algiers: Bastide); and E. Dalles (1879) Alger, Bou-Farik, Blidah et leurs environs (Algiers: A. Jourdan).Google Scholar
  27. 46.
    Among Playfair’s other works are The Scourge of Christendom: Annals of British Relations with Algiers Prior to the French Conquest (London: Smith, Elder 1884); A Bibliography of Algeria from the Expedition of Charles V in 1541 to 1887 (London: J. Murray, 1889); and two other regularly updated bibliographies, one of the Barbary states and the other of Morocco.Google Scholar
  28. 56.
    George W. Harris (1894) The Practical Guide to Algiers (London: George Philip), p. 5.Google Scholar
  29. 57.
    Ibid., p. 3.Google Scholar
  30. 58.
    Ibid., p. 4. Until the eve of the First World War, differentiating between tourists and other visitors arriving at the port of Algiers (businessmen, French officials, military personnel and French settlers) is difficult. In 1913, according to one source, 203,419 tourists passed through the port with over 80 per cent arriving on French vessels. This figure seems high for tourists and may, in fact, represent arriving passengers of all kinds. C.L. Delvert (1923) Le Port d’Alger (Paris: Dunod Editeur), pp. 91–2.Google Scholar
  31. 61.
    Delvert, Le Port, p. 91 mentions among the non-French steamship lines that regularly called at Algiers as a tourist stop the North German Lloyd, the Hamburg-American, White Star, Cunard, the Royal Netherlands and the Austrian-American. Five English and German ships specialising in the tourist trade included Algiers on their regular itineraries, and the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique was collaborating with Algiers hotels to create packages for travellers on its fleet — a venture that would pay handsome dividends in later years. For a discussion of the numbers of visitors arriving in Algeria, see M. Salinas (1989) Voyages et voyageurs en Algérie (Toulouse: Privat), pp. 41–4.Google Scholar
  32. 63.
    F. Miltoun (1908) In the Land of Mosques and Minarets (Boston: L.C. Page), p. 70.Google Scholar

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© Kenneth J. Perkins 2013

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