British Imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915

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.

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Very well-written, conceptually and methodologically sophisticated, this is by far the best book on the early years of the history of the British in Cyprus. It rightfully deserves a central place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Cypriot, Ottoman, Greek, British or imperial histories.'
Thomas W. Gallant,
June 2012

‘With his subtle, yet well-researched and well-argued study, Varnava has made a significant contribution to Cypriot history, as well as the histories of the Ottoman and British empires, particularly in our understandings of how images and reality may wildly differ in the context of imperial ventures.
The American Historical Review

‘It is highly commendable that the author adopts an open and fresh approach to Cyprus’ history, in particular in the way how he looked in retrospect at the Ottoman period and its ramifications until British rule.
Journal of Mediterranean Studies

‘this is a fascinating and compelling tale. Very well-written, conceptually and methodologically sophisticated, this is by far the best book on the early years of the history of the British in Cyprus. It rightfully deserves a central place on the bookshelf of anyone interested in Cypriot, Ottoman, Greek, British or imperial histories
A Review of the Past and other Stories

‘British Imperialism in Cyprus deserves significant consideration for two reasons. Varnava's adroit use of the ‘Eldorado’ argument adds important nuance to analyses of the acquisitive propensities of the British imperial state. The cultural is subtly woven into the political in a manner that historians of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century European imperialism will find illuminating.
European Review of History

‘Varnava's book should open the way for more studies that will increase our understanding and knowledge of this most interesting and important period of British colonial rule in Cyprus.
The Round Table

‘Varnava’s book is a wonderful addition to our knowledge and understanding of a crucial period in Cyprus’ history, namely that of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. […] a well-written and well-documented account of the first four decades ofBritish rule in Cyprus. It heightens our knowledge and exposes the problems surrounding some ofthe accepted ‘truths’ regarding this period. […] This book would be an excellent addition to student reading lists as well as providing new material for seasoned researchers in the history, colonial studies, sociology, and political science of Cyprus.
The Cyprus Review

‘British Imperialism in Cyprus is definitely an illuminating research piece on the ‘tensions underlying British imperialism in Cyprus’.
Anglophone Studies

‘This thoroughly researched and very well written study will remain essential for any modern historian of Cyprus. Intellectually stimulating, in a well substantiated way provocative and full of new insights, one can only wish that its main theses enter the public discourse of Cyprus, which is so ignorant of many of the findings of this book.
Reviews in History

‘Varnava's work is an overdue reassessment of common wisdom in the history of Cyprus which will also appeal to students of Cypriot history as well as the reader interested in international relations and politics in the Near East at the beginning of the twentieth century.
Journal of Modern Greek Studies

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