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

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


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.


Medical Tourism Health Resort Billiard Table British Subject British Community 
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© Kenneth J. Perkins 2013

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