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The inconsequential possession

Cyprus' importance was always more imagined than real and was enmeshed within widely held cultural signifiers and myths. This book explores the tensions underlying British imperialism in Cyprus. It presents a study that follows Cyprus' progress from a perceived imperial asset to an expendable backwater. The book explains how the Union Jack came to fly over the island and why after thirty-five years the British wanted it lowered. It fills a gap in the existing literature on the early British period in Cyprus and challenges the received and monolithic view that British imperial policy was based primarily or exclusively on strategic-military considerations. The book traces the links between England/Britain and Cyprus since Richard Coeur de Lion and situates these links within a tradition of Romantic adventure, strategic advantage, spiritual imperialism and a sense of possession. The British wanted to revitalise western Asia by establishing informal control over it through the establishment of Cyprus as a place d'armes. Because the British did not find Cyprus an 'Eldorado' of boundless wealth, they did not invest the energy or funds to 'renew' it. British economic policy in Cyprus was contradictory; it rendered Cyprus economically unviable. Hellenic nationalism, propelled by the failure of British social and economic policies, upturned the multicultural system and challenged the viability of British rule. Situating Cyprus within British imperial strategy shows that the island was useless and a liability.

The Cypriot Mule corps, imperial loyalty and silenced memory

Most Cypriots and British today do not know that Cypriots even served in the Great War. This book contributes to the growing literature on the role of the British non-settler empire in the Great War by exploring the service of the Cypriot Mule Corps on the Salonica Front, and after the war in Constantinople. This book speaks to a number of interlocking historiographies, contributing to various debates especially around enlistment/volunteerism, imperial loyalty and veterans' issues. At the most basic level, it reconstructs the story of Cypriot Mule Corps' contribution, of transporting wounded men and supplies to the front, across steep mountains, with dangerous ravines and in extreme climates. The book argues that Cypriot mules and mule drivers played a pivotal role in British logistics in Salonica and Constantinople, especially the former. It explores the impact of the war on Cypriot socio-economic conditions, particularly of so many men serving abroad on the local economy and society. The issues that arose for the British in relation to the contracts they offered the Cypriots, contracts offered to the muleteers, and problems of implementing the promise of an allotment scheme are also discussed. Behavioural problems one finds with military corps, such as desertion and crime, were not prevalent in the Cypriot Mule Corps. The book also explores the impact of death and incapacity on veterans and dependants, looking at issues that veterans faced after returning and resettling into Cypriot life.

El Dorados, utopias and dystopias

Modern imperialism was a phenomenon which had highly complex motivations arousing intense emotional desires. This book explores how imperial powers established and expanded their empires through decisions that were often based on exaggerated expectations and wishful thinking, rather than on reasoned and scientific policies. It examines a variety of El Dorados, utopias and dystopias - undertakings that are based on irrational perceived values. By exploring various cases, the book seeks to show how El Dorados arose in Europe across imperial traditions, colonial projects and periods in time. The Darien project was an aborted Scottish colony, which pointed out that women in Scotland might not have possessed any special immunity from the financial mania and risk-taking in markets. While modern industrial methods made Bambuk gold extraction productive and profitable, for the people, the industrialized extraction of gold is more a curse than a blessing. By the early twentieth century Indochina was arguably France's most prosperous colonial possession; however a closer investigation reveals Indochina's repeated failure to live up to its rulers' expectations. The Swan River Colony remained an 'inconsequential possession' of the British Empire until the discovery of gold in the 1890s. Included in the discussions are cases related to Patagonia, the land of broken Welsh promise; the German Templer colonies in Palestine; and the British Mesopotamian El Dorado. The book offers new insights into the nature of imperialism and colonial settlement, but recognized that imperial causality consists of interlocking motivations.

Abstract only
Andrekos Varnava

During the Anglo-Turkish Convention of June 1878, Lord Beaconsfield's Conservative government demanded and got from the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II the right to administer and occupy Cyprus. This introduction presents an overview of key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book explores the English/British imperial imagination relating to Cyprus from the time of Richard Coeur de Lion to Benjamin Disraeli, with a focus on the strategic perceptions and cultural aspects of imperialism. It examines the occupation of Cyprus from a more conventional approach, the aims, interests and decision-making processes of Lord Beaconsfield's government. The book investigates the policy in practice from its reception to the realities in Cyprus. It reveals the difficulties encountered and London's reaction. The book also explores the finance/economy, governance and identity, strategic value and international position.

in British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915
The contexts
Andrekos Varnava

Historians of Cyprus have taken for granted the island's strategic role to Britain because of its central location and subsequent role in Middle East defence policy after the Second World War. Cyprus became a military base in 1878, while Stavros Panteli claimed that it was Britain's turn to exploit its strategic advantage. The British economist, John Hobson, writing when the Empire was a hot issue during the Boer War, argued that after the 1870s, industrialised Europe needed new markets. The debates on the Eastern Question focus on whether the crises were imposed on the region from outside, from the European powers or whether the Ottoman system was at fault. Abdul Hamid consented to the British occupying Cyprus as a defence measure. By the mid-nineteenth century, Europe had significant commercial, financial, spiritual and political interests in the Ottoman Empire.

in British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915
The imperial imagination
Andrekos Varnava

Europeans, in driving towards Jerusalem during the Crusader centuries, construed the Mediterranean as part of their space and the Enlightenment and Romantic movements reinforced this conviction. This chapter traces the links between England/Britain and Cyprus since Richard Coeur de Lion and situates these links within a tradition of Romantic adventure, strategic advantage, spiritual imperialism and a sense of possession. Cyprus occupied a romantic and strategic place within this English and later British imagined imperial space. Cyprus' appeal for the West remained when, in the mid-eighteenth century, Ottoman stagnation provided European powers with the opportunity to partition it. The British situated Cyprus within this classical Greek imagination. The Holy Land suddenly had a new place within a British imperial vision. Converting Jews to Christianity and relocating them to the Holy Land were the vital elements in this apocalyptic design.

in British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915
‘The key of Western Asia’
Andrekos Varnava

When Viscount Palmerston's Liberal government ceded the Ionian Islands to Greece, Benjamin Disraeli protested that it weakened the British Empire. The British occupied Malta and the Ionian Islands during the Napoleonic wars and they were both perceived as strategic prizes. After the Napoleonic Wars, Europe increased trade with the Ottoman Empire. Disraeli's policy was undermined, however, when Circassian irregulars quashed another Balkan revolt. Traditionally Russia threatened an advance over sea or over land (through the Balkans). By May 1878 the Cabinet had undergone great upheaval to unite behind a forward policy, which at its heart was the acquisition of Cyprus. Cyprus' attraction was clearly within Tancred's Oriental reality. Home's memorandum was an eloquent summary of the justifications for selecting Cyprus. John Simmons wrote in the margin that Colonel Robert Home gave it to him to take to Berlin and that it was the reason for selecting Cyprus.

in British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915
The Mediterranean ‘Eldorado’
Andrekos Varnava

Euphoric crowds greeted Lord Beaconsfield's declaration of 'peace with honour' as he and Salisbury arrived at Charing Cross. The Liberals lost no time in attacking the Beaconsfield government over its acquisition, which produced an apologia from the government. On 11 July, the leader of the Liberal peers, Lord Granville, a former colonial secretary, and in the Commons Sir Julian Goldsmid asked if Cyprus had a harbour. Entrepreneurs shared Beaconsfield's plans for Cyprus and Ottoman Asia. The crisis in Cyprus gave Gladstone the opportunity to launch a more general assault on the nature of imperial expansion and the taking of Cyprus in 'England's Mission'. The Tories selected Cyprus knowing that the government would have to develop Famagusta harbour which, as the sketch and photograph show, was capacious, but run down, with only a few light craft using it.

in British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915
The ‘mill-stone’
Andrekos Varnava

The first imperial funds were spent when Joseph Chamberlain became Colonial Secretary, but the projects did not aim to make Cyprus a strategic asset. In May 1880, Charles Dilke, the under-secretary at the Foreign Office, announced Cyprus's future transfer to the Colonial Office, where stringency was the norm. W. E. Gladstone also announced sweeping changes to local laws, including forced labour. In 1886 the short-lived Liberal government was asked about the tribute and the under-secretary of state at the Colonial Office, George Osborne Morgan, claimed that London retained the money because, once it was paid, it became Ottoman revenue. Edward Fairfield's trip to Cyprus aimed to produce a budget so Cyprus could pay the tribute with a minimal grant-in-aid. Fairfield endorsed Sir Robert Biddulph's proposal by claiming that Kyrenia was closer to 'civilisation' than Famagusta, which he claimed was too far from Nicosia and off the Egyptian route.

in British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915
The ‘European’ possession
Andrekos Varnava

This chapter reviews the received wisdom that all the Cypriot Eastern Orthodox Christians were as one in identifying with Greece and the Greek nation and that they welcomed the British in 1878 with demands to join Greece. The traditional leaders of the Cypriot Orthodox Christians wanted the British to co-opt them into the governing structures, as the Ottomans had. But despite this favourable space, the British faced a nationalist and inter-communal crisis by 1912. The Conservatives had been right about the Christian and Muslim inhabitants living harmoniously. The absence of an 'ethnic' identity had resulted in social and cultural integration during the Ottoman period. The new modernist structures created the space for Hellenic nationalists to spread the topological dream of Hellenism. Hellenic nationalism, propelled by the failure of British social and economic policies, upturned the multicultural system and challenged the viability of British rule.

in British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915