Sweet and Bitter Island: A History of the British in Cyprus

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For Cyprus, the long-term implications of this policy — when combined with the demands of the Tribute — were crippling. It meant that the island was never able to afford top-quality officials, who, naturally, chose postings elsewhere with better terms and prospects. Technical and scientific appointments, in particular, often remained vacant for several years because Cyprus could not afford to pay the salaries such posts commanded in other imperial territories.

In , after the colony had been without a government doctor for several months, Book 1. But the long-term effects on Anglo-Cypriot relations were profound.

Sweet and Bitter Island

From the start of the British occupation, revenue from the regiments stationed on the island had helped to compensate for the demands of the Tribute. In November, following three weeks of constant rains, a third of Limassol was destroyed in a flash flood. Unknown numbers were killed and hundreds were left destitute and homeless, their livestock washed away. Even in good weather it could take up to 10 days to travel overland from Nicosia to Limassol, a mere 60 miles.

In an attempt to reach the flooded town faster, James Cunningham, the director of the Public Works Department PWD , and Dr Heidenstam, the long-awaited government doctor, prepared to sail to Limassol by steam ship from Larnaca. Like most imperial administrators, particularly those working in such a small and under-funded territory, Cunningham found that his professional responsibilities at the PWD were broad and varied.

Dealing with natural disasters, travelling on impassable roads, even arranging public hangings, were all part of daily life for the Britons governing Cyprus in the early years of the occupation. They were challenges that many would have relished, conforming to popular perceptions of what a bracing life in the colonial civil service involved. Less well documented in public accounts of colonial life was the demoralising daily routine of administering a forgotten territory with insufficient funds on meagre salaries.

For many of these underpaid civil servants, often in remote towns with only a few other British families within riding distance, life in Cyprus was only made bearable by the annual expedition to Troodos. It was usual practice throughout the empire for the British government to decamp to a cooler hill station during the summer months.

In Cyprus, anxieties about the health of the troops and their susceptibility to disease made the establishment of healthier summer quarters a matter of urgency. The uninhabited summit of Mount Troodos, 6, feet above sea level and covered in pines, was selected for the purpose. By the summer of , the Royal Engineers, along with an unrecorded number of Cypriot men, women and children who laboured alongside them, had constructed a mile road connecting Limassol to Troodos, linking up with the economically valuable wine regions that lay between. This remote spot, managed today by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, is some distance outside Troodos village and, like the rest of the mountain range, is submerged in snow for several months every year.

Every June, throughout the British occupation, the start of the summer season was marked by the regiments of the Polemidia garrison marching up the Book 1. Since the military were responsible for maintaining the water supply to the government camp, they and their families were always the first to arrive and the last to leave. The process of moving civilian officials, their wives, children and domestic staff, not to mention all the government paraphernalia — the stationery, typewriters and files — was a laborious one.

As many as 20 camels were needed to carry the files and office furniture of the Nicosia Secretariat to the summer hill station. Some domestic servants also travelled by camel, but the British themselves and their administrative staff generally chose to hire mules, or occasionally horses, from an animal trainer, or keradji. Not only did these animals provide a more comfortable seat than a camel, they were also specifically trained to walk with a gliding motion, moving fore and hind legs together, so that goods or people could be carried over uneven mountain roads without being shaken.

The cavalcade of vehicles required to transport Governor William Battershill, his household and his extensive menagerie up to the summer hill station could hardly have travelled at great speed. First the Book 1. The last two cars contained the governor himself and his wife and children, plus their three pet cats, their governess and the family dog.

On arrival, the summer visitors were confronted by clusters of creamcoloured bell tents dotted amongst the pines, linked by rocky pathways marked out with lines of painted white stones. Improvised wooden signs distinguished the tent allocated to the Roman Catholic Church from that of the post office, and if first-timers found the accommodation a little basic, they soon realised this was part of its charm. It was literally a camp, where everything, from government business to dinner parties, took place under canvas.

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Even this had a romantic twist, and its occupants delighted in telling visitors that the poet Arthur Rimbaud had supervised its construction. Since when it has been largely re-built by the Public Works Department. Here, accommodation was allocated according to rank.

While senior government officials could expect a suite of large interconnected bell tents with wooden floors, including reception and dining areas in which to entertain guests, government clerks had to share a basic ridge tent with their colleagues. By all this had changed and even junior office workers could boast of stone-built summer quarters, which included private bedrooms, a mess and a shared recreation room. Summer accommodation in Troodos remained largely under canvas until the Second World War — possibly through choice.

Until the British arrived, there was no Troodos village, no indigenous community Book 1. The rocky outcrop was an empty slate on which they could inscribe a self-contained colonial experience and enact a shared fantasy of how Cyprus ought to be. Biddulph presented the Cypriot scenery not as an exoticised Oriental landscape, but as an Arcadian classical one, with a note of reassuring Anglo-Saxon familiarity thrown in. By the time he left Cyprus in , the colony produced several daily newspapers in English, Turkish and Greek, there was at least one telephone link on the island, and the Secretariat had begun discussions on the development of a Cyprus railway.

It derived instead from a vague and persistent idea that vestigial traces of the classical roots of European civilisation still lingered on the island itself. This highly romanticised vision of Cyprus exerted a powerful hold over the collective imagination of the British colonists and could be expressed most freely through their relationship with the Troodos summer camp. Accounts of life on the mountain frequently allude to the privileged life of Olympian deities, elevated above the cares of daily life on the plains below.

Unlike the majority of imperial postings, a station in Cyprus enabled colonial officials to see their children at least once a year. The select group of Cypriot traders and shopkeepers awarded contacts to supply the British with provisions during the summer season had to rent their premises from the government. Unlicensed private trade was prohibited and only the administration was allowed to build.

The small number of British settlers in Cyprus involved Book 1. Even today there is a strange transient feeling about Troodos, as if the utilitarian stone cottages — still allocated according to seniority to government civil servants for their two-week holiday in August — were part of a film set, which might disappear by the next morning. No one lives in the village, and the traders in the central square, the coffee shop owners, the man offering horse rides through the forest and the stall-holders selling leather belts and Cyprus honey, all disappear after dark.

Whatever the novelty of out-door tea parties and life under canvas, the principal function of the Troodos encampment was that of the official summer seat of the British administration. The summer camp provided the colonists with an opportunity to carry out village inspections in the surrounding area. Each visit followed roughly the A tea party on Mount Troodos. The governor or district commissioner and his entourage would arrive at a designated village where they would be received by the mukhtar the headman or mayor and a number of hand-picked local dignitaries. The visitors would generally be escorted to the village coffee shop where they would make polite conversation through an interpreter over Cypriot coffee and preserved fruit.

Highly drilled schoolchildren might be produced to sing the British national anthem and proclaim their loyalty to the crown, after which the mukhtar would submit his requests for a new road, a regular mail service or a better irrigation system. The government party would then shake hands, promise to consider the request and leave.

See a Problem?

The budgetary constraints that would inevitably lead to a red line through so many of the submissions were temporarily forgotten. When we arrived at our camping-places in the late afternoon, there was the camp ready for us. Hot hip-baths in our bedroom tents and a hot dinner in preparation, Anton Bertram, at work on Mount Troodos, The picnics, band concerts, parties and amateur theatricals contained faint echoes of the social gatherings of the London season, as provincial families converged on the summer hill station to exchange news of the latest overseas postings, negotiate professional alliances and, occasionally, arrange good marriages.

The colonial marriage market in a territory the size of Cyprus was minuscule. As they stomp downstage a cardboard palm tree concealing the orchestra shimmies. There is loud applause as the song draws to a close. Pupils at the back of the hall stamp their feet. This could be any school musical, at any school or village hall in Britain, but here the audience is chatting together in Greek.

Outside, the towered entrances and cloistered inner quadrangle echo the standard design of countless British public schools. It is surprising that such a potent symbol of colonialism should have survived the violence and anti-British feeling of the s with its name and so many of its founding principles intact. The English School provides an interesting prism through which to view the colonial era. Many of the contradictions it has struggled to reconcile throughout its history have reflected in miniature the deep-seated confusion which underpinned British Book 1.

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This confusion extended beyond the classroom to include the cultural assumptions that the British made about their Cypriot subjects, about their role as colonists and even in some cases about their own children. Today the English School is an elite fee-paying establishment. Pupils follow a British curriculum and 95 per cent of them go on to university in the United Kingdom. The head teacher has always been British, usually an Oxbridge graduate, nowadays answerable to a Cypriot board of governors. Major issues of school policy are decided in the boardroom.

Brown and flaking with rust now, it was used in to transport the private library of a young idealistic curate from a small Kent village, Frank Darvall Newham. Once English became the official language of government in Cyprus, virtually all public interaction with Cypriots themselves — the business of administering justice, implementing legislation and receiving petitions — required the efforts of large numbers of translators fluent in English, Greek and Turkish. For ambitious young Cypriot men looking for jobs within the colonial administration fluency in English was a prerequisite. The binding has disintegrated and the brittle, brown-edged pages flake off in the hand.

Canon Newham, back row, second from left. In its early years, the school intake appeared to cut across economic as well as ethnic distinctions. The solemn faces staring out from posed school photographs belonged to the sons of Lebanese merchants; Greek Cypriot tinsmiths, doctors and shoemakers; Turkish Cypriot judges and labourers; Armenian clerks and translators; English police chiefs and Maltese hoteliers. This social and ethnic mixture appears to have been deliberately encouraged and played an important part in defining the early character of the school.

But the school was more than just a language crammer. Newham also strove to foster the ideals of the Victorian public school amongst the Greek-speaking Levantine boys in his care. Pupils were encouraged to take part in competitive sports, activities intended to foster a sense of team spirit and fair play,6 as well as in public speaking competitions, in drama and music contests.

The curriculum reflected nineteenth-century ideas of what constituted a liberal education, ideas which were themselves based largely on a highly selective reading of Ancient Greek history. To that extent the English School presented a Levantine but predominantly Greek-speaking community with an Anglicised, specifically imperial, vision of the educational practices of Ancient Greece. He is remembered as a stocky, gregarious man with a drooping walrus moustache, who regularly appeared at the English Club in the early evening ready to stand a round of sundowners.

He endorsed the English School wholeheartedly, not only because of its language policy but also because of the values and traditions it embodied. Biddulph reminded his audience that the importance of education lay not just in winning Book 1. The English School Cricket Team, Reproduced courtesy of the English School, Nicosia. As long as it continued to be the principal source of Englishspeaking Cypriot civil servants it would be essential to the smooth running of the colonial administration.

Cyprus differed from other colonies in that education in Cypriot schools was never conducted through the medium of English, a policy which severely restricted the pool from which more junior-level clerical staff could potentially be drawn. Most British colonial officials arrived armed with experience gained from administering other crown possessions. But Cyprus, they discovered, was a case apart. The Book 1. It is tempting to speculate that had these issues been resolved differently the course of Cypriot history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries might have been changed.

Kimberley had graduated from Oxford University with a first-class degree in Classics and would have been more familiar than most men of his class with the rich and varied literature he referred to in his landmark policy statement.


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But while the secretary of state was an exceptional Classicist, all young men who passed through British public schools during the second part of the nineteenth century were required to have a thorough knowledge of the literature and languages of ancient Greece and Rome. For Paul Griffin, headmaster of the English School in Nicosia in —60, to be an English gentleman meant, in ideological terms, to be a Hellene. Some schools chose to dilute this mixture with a little more Latin, but this curriculum formed the basis of the education that all university-educated governors and high commissioners of Cyprus received, along with most of their senior administrative staff, until the mid-twentieth century.

So, when, in , classical antiquities unearthed at Salamis on the east coast of Cyprus were shipped back to Britain, they found their way not only to the British Museum in London but also to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, specifically to the public schools of Eton, Harrow, Winchester, Rugby, Charterhouse, Westminster and Marlborough.

If a major function of the mastery of Classical languages was to reinforce the exclusivity of the governing elite, it must have been disconcerting for the colonists to administer a territory where large numbers of their new subjects, by virtue of being native Greek speakers, also appeared to have access to the same secret knowledge, albeit of the modern, not the Classical, language. For example, Governor Ronald Storrs saw the Cypriots as a lost people who had effectively lived in the wilderness since the decline of Ancient Greece and needed to be re-connected to their illustrious past.

Many of the original 4, volumes acquired in are still there, in dark dusty stacks at the back of the periodicals room. As the governor of a tiny, impoverished colony, with no cash to spare, Storrs launched a personal appeal for contributions amongst his friends and contacts. As a result, the collection covered almost exclusively the arts and humanities and displayed a particular bias towards those ancient writers taught at Oxbridge and the older public schools.

When the library fi nally opened, the more prosperous members of the literate Nicosia bourgeoisie — the merchants, lawyers and government clerks — were invited to pay between two and twenty shillings, no small sum, to borrow the works of Plato, Homer, Aeschylus and Sophocles, all in Classical Greek. The pristine condition of these books and the absence of borrowing stamps suggest that none was ever removed from the shelves. On the same shelf are three wellthumbed and dog-eared paperbacks dating from roughly the same time and apparently more widely read: Practical Methods to Insure Success; The Cause of In-harmony in Marriage; and Control of the Mind.


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  • For Storrs, the library project afforded the opportunity to guide what he regarded as his debased and neglected subjects towards a particularly British interpretation of their ancient civilisation. Knowledge of Ancient Greece was, therefore, to be gleaned from the Marquis of Bute and his English translation, rather than the original sources.

    Years after leaving the island Luke attempted to write a brief account of the armed struggle for union or enosis with Greece. This was a violent and frightening time that affected all aspects of life on the island between and and irrevocably damaged Anglo-Cypriot relations. But Luke was only able to explain the phenomenon in the entirely apolitical terminology of the linguist. Their classicism was a product of their own Northern European culture.

    But perhaps the most damaging consequence of viewing Cyprus from the perspective of Ancient Greece was a tendency that emerges in the writings of both Storrs and Luke, to find Greek Cypriots a constant source of disappointment. They were neither exotically Oriental nor did they corresponded to Western ideas about classical nobility and as such always fell slightly short of the mark.

    It was a disappointment that led to a particular kind of intolerance bordering on contempt. But a residual sense remains in his writing, that he too saw his Greek Cypriot subjects as occupying a half-way house. Instead, the maid was encouraged to adopt the dress conventions of the Western European servant, by coiling up her hair and putting on a cap, collar and cuffs, in order to be considered presentable. The maid, not orientalised like the Turkish Cypriot manservant, was expected to assimilate British dress conventions and social norms.

    The majority of the Cypriot population was illiterate at the time of the British arrival in Cyprus. Few communities had schools and most families were too poor to finance the education of a child who would remain economically unproductive as long as he was in the classroom. The 76 Christian schools, however, were financed entirely by voluntary subscriptions and donations from church funds and monasteries.

    Virtually all educated professional Greek Cypriots of the nineteenth century, therefore, felt they owed a deep debt of gratitude to the church. During the centuries of Ottoman rule in Cyprus and Greece, the Orthodox Church had come to view education as its principal, in many instances its only, weapon in the battle for the survival of Hellenism. With no common territorial or political base, the only way to achieve this was by developing a shared linguistic heritage.

    Greek Cypriots were — and would again be — Greek because they spoke and understood the language of aristocratic Athenians of the fourth century BC. To surrender control of the educational mechanism which delivered this doctrine of patriotism was tantamount to relinquishing all hope that the dream would ever be realised. The arrival of the British in the nineteenth century and the introduction of another foreign administration had no impact on these deeply held convictions. Formulating one that would be appropriate for what was admittedly an unusually complex colony involved engaging decisively with the issue Book 1.

    Were the islanders essentially Oriental hybrids, who should be ruled in an authoritarian manner appropriate to their status, educated according to practical, utilitarian principles and assimilated into the British Empire? Or did the linguistic and cultural Greekness of the majority afford them a special status by virtue of their connection with the classical world? But his muchcited Philhellenism may just have been a convenient justification for a decision that was actually made on financial grounds. It was cheaper to leave things as they were.

    One result of this was that Greek Cypriot schoolboys in the second half of the nineteenth century spent much of their time reciting the same ancient Greek texts as their counterparts at Rugby and Eton. But when Aristotle, Plato and Thucydides were read aloud in Cypriot village schools they were intended to instil a sense of Hellenic patriotism, specifically of Greek national pride. During the course of one college inspection he was intrigued by a locked bookcase at the back of a classroom that appeared to contain a set of Greek classics.

    When at last the key to the bookcase was found, Storrs was disgusted to find the books had never been opened and the pages inside remained uncut. After centuries of foreign domination when the principal custodian of scholarship and learning was the deeply conservative church, Greek intellectual life was hardly at its most vibrant. But for the schoolmasters in charge of the locked bookcase of Classics it was perhaps unnecessary for their pupils to be able to read or understand its contents.

    Its very existence — as a physical presence, a talisman in the classroom — was enough to remind students of their ancient Classical roots. Storrs, who at one level seems never to have reconciled himself Book 1. Policy see-sawed, depending often on the personal inclination and educational background of whoever happened to be in Government House at the time.

    William Haynes-Smith, for example, who governed the island for seven years from , persistently attempted to bring elementary school curricula under government control. Six years later it was stipulated that a map of Cyprus in Greek was to be hung on the walls of every classroom. The educational mechanism established under Lord Kimberely and maintained by other public school classicists such as Storrs, Luke, Bertram and their ilk nurtured the nationalist aspirations of Greek Cypriots and laid the ground for many of the defining characteristics of the EOKA struggle for union with Greece in the s.

    Some children, such as Eirwen Llewellyn Jones, whose father managed the Ottoman Bank in Nicosia during the s, spoke Greek fluently. Elsewhere in the empire large amounts of energy were expended trying to protect children from the dangers of cultural or linguistic assimilation with the colonial subjects. It is conspicuous that few parents appear to have encouraged their children to learn Turkish.

    This may have been because, as the minority language, it was of less practical use, or because, unlike Greek, it was not perceived as the elevated tongue of classical civilisation but as an Oriental language, which was accorded a correspondingly lower status in the linguistic hierarchy. In , Book 1. The long-suffering governor hoped in vain that his daughters might set an example appropriate to their social situation.

    Although most parents were generally more relaxed about limited interracial contact than their counterparts elsewhere in the empire, British colonial children growing up on the island had little to do with their Cypriot peers. Growing up in Cyprus in the s, Donald Waterer had no close Cypriot friends and learnt no Greek, despite the fact that his father, who worked in the Forestry Department, socialised extensively with Cypriot families. We were completely un-integrated with the majority community. Little Donald Waterer was allowed to accompany his father on forest trips only if he was appropriately dressed in his topi, which, on ceremonial occasions, had to be teamed up with a kilt.

    Privileged colonial children spent most of their time outdoors, cycling, swimming, or riding. Horses were the main source of recreation for many. The Waterer children kept their ponies in a field adjacent to the family home in Byron Avenue Nicosia. British children in Cyprus, as in other colonies, occupied a middle-ground between the colonisers and the colonised.

    Members of the elite governing class, they nevertheless spent much of their time in the company of Cypriot servants. Many lived quite separately from their parents. Some of the conventions they initiated became firmly entrenched in colonial society and were upheld by successive expatriate families over decades. Several generations of colonial children in Nicosia believed that celebrations would not be complete until Father Christmas had ridden along Byron Avenue, mounted on a camel.

    Eirwen Harbottle formerly Llewellyn Jones Book 1. Despite the stereotype of the stiff upper lip associated with British colonial rule, families found the separation traumatic. By comparison, families posted to Cyprus were fortunate. Closer proximity to Britain meant that children could usually come home at least once a year. While this geographical proximity enabled families to remain in touch, it also served to underline the dilemma the British experienced in Cyprus.

    Here, Book 1. Nowhere in the empire-building rule book were there instructions on how to engage with a mainly Christian population, situated on the edge of Europe, possessing an undeniable linguistic claim to the cultural heritage that underpinned the British empire itself. Cypriots were not sufficiently different from their colonial rulers to be exoticised. Yet the imprint of an essentially Anglicised Hellenism that many sought in Cyprus proved so faint, it could be interpreted only as a pale, inferior imitation of the original.

    It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, given their profound misgivings about the identity of their subjects, that the colonists felt far more comfortable addressing the issue of how best to modernise and develop the island. A young woman in jeans and a blue shirt is serving Turkish coffee from a circular metal tray. Two young clerks slowly sip their coffees behind a high counter in what was once the ticket hall. The garden in the station forecourt is overgrown, full of yellow Cape Sorrel and purple mallow. Conifers still line the station approach. The clock shows the time as The station yard at the back of the building is now occupied by Famagusta Fire Service.

    The firemen sit outside, opposite the old engine sheds, playing cards. Their equipment is polished and shining, and everything, from the table they sit at to the trunks of two adjacent medlar trees, has been painted white and red. There is little here today that evokes the atmosphere of a busy railway terminus. The period between and saw a burst of development in Cyprus. Six years later, on 21 October , High Commissioner Charles KingHarman stood in front of Famagusta railway station, where the ticket office and engine sheds were draped with union flags and olive branches, to declare the railway line officially open.

    The single-track line ran from Famagusta to Nicosia, stopping at 18 halts on the way. The co-ordinated development of Famagusta port and the railway was intended to boost Cypriot agricultural exports. But there would be other incidental benefits too. Just as the land was being managed, cultivated and controlled, so it was hoped the rural peasantry could also be enlightened and reformed. Winston Churchill, who visited the island as under-secretary of state for the colonies in October , was one of the first to endure this ritual.

    Following the death of the previous incumbent, Archbishop Sofronios in , two rival contenders, the bishops of Kition and Kyrenia, had each claimed the archepiscopal throne. It was in the context of this dispute that the railway did finally play, as the Times of Cyprus had hoped, a significant role in introducing Cypriots to modernity, although not in the way the newspaper had envisaged.


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    All is as it was But many colonists felt ambivalent about their desire for progress — particularly economic progress — regretting the loss of both innocence and Oriental exoticism that modernisation brought with it. The innocent peasantry, the Cyprus News suggested, now needed protection from the engines of civilisation that the colonists had brought with them. This was a formidable undertaking, one that involved not only technical innovation but also the symbolic domination of the landscape, and, more problematically, the establishment of a relationship with the Cypriot peasant farmer.

    The practice essentially involved selling the right to collect taxes in a particular district to the highest bidder. Putative tax farmers, or aghas, often borrowed heavily in order to secure a concession and consequently needed to extract the maximum revenue over the shortest possible time. The most graphic account of conditions amongst the rural poor during the first half of British colonial rule was written by explorer and agricultural reformer Sir Samuel Baker, who travelled extensively across the island in , one year after the British occupation.

    Unlike other colonial writers, he did not attempt to romanticise their poverty; his frank descriptions contain a degree of detail and specificity lacking in subsequent accounts of rural life on the island. This may be in part due to the fact that he arrived soon after the start of the British occupation and was, therefore, able to publish his impressions without any implied criticism of the administration.

    The travellers were accompanied by their three spaniels and several locally hired retainers, engaged to manage the luggage train, cook meals and act as translators. The lifestyle of the peasants Baker Book 1. Two of the three reservoirs were subsequently abandoned and the network proved to be an expensive failure. The irrigation system represented an important element in the business of ordering and improving the colony and consolidated the ideological — as well as the economic — foundations of the empire.

    The profound symbolic importance the colonists attached to the supply and control of water had been spelled out by Samuel Baker in , more than 20 years earlier. There must be no question of supremacy; water must serve mankind. It suggests that he was writing not only about H2O, but also about the need for the colonists to establish dominance over their new subjects. It is therefore incumbent upon the government, as an act of self- preservation to take such measures of precaution as will render certain the supply of water.

    But subsequent agricultural reforms, which involved the transformation of both the landscape and its inhabitants, would challenge colonial perceptions of who their Cypriot subjects actually were and how they were to be defined. The company ran three other farms on the island, all managed by a Scotsman, Cecil Duncan Hay. He and his family lived on the Kolossi Estate near Limassol, in a house attached to the keep of mediaeval Kolossi Castle.

    Most of the vast castle rooms were used to store grain, but one was set aside for use by the family as a badminton court. The new experimental farm and breeding station was intended to research cultivation techniques and to house stud animals. As the pace of agricultural reform quickened in the early years of the twentieth century, the colonists attempted to stimulate further interest in improving livestock quality through the introduction of that quintessentially British event, Book 1.

    The concept of competitively showing either farm animals or agricultural produce and handiwork had not initially appealed to Cypriots. Earlier attempts by Kitchener to organise a rural arts and crafts show had failed. After three centuries of government by capricious Ottoman overlords, Cypriots feared that any articles they exhibited would be immediately appropriated by their new British rulers. By the early s such anxieties had been overcome. Runner up in the class for dairy animals was a cow belonging to Anton Bertram, the Classics scholar and senior judge, who recorded the event in his photograph album.

    But it was towards the Cypriot peasant farmer that the efforts of the agricultural department would be directed for the rest of the colonial period. The business of convincing villagers to change practices that had remained the same for centuries became the cornerstone of British agricultural policy in Cyprus. Unlike their colleagues working in the more politically complex and explicitly ideologically driven sphere of education, colonial agriculturalists enjoyed a straightforward relationship with their work.

    It was their duty as scientifically trained experts to disseminate information and expertise across the island. By initiating the rural peasant into some of the mysteries of modern science the colonial officer believed he was setting him on the path to prosperity and happiness. For many it was a satisfying job, producing clear and tangible results.

    In the years that followed, armies of trained officials from the ministry, mostly Cypriot, some British, would visit rural communities bringing with them the latest scientific information. Whether it was the best way to cure olives, the distance at which to space fruit trees, techniques for the extraction of silk, or how to avoid headaches while working in the heat, the ministry official was on hand to advise. But the advice was not always accepted. Most retained a deep-seated conviction that they knew better than the educated types sent out from Nicosia.

    In many cases they did. But the small wooden plough was particularly appropriate for conditions in Cyprus, light enough to be carried easily between fields few Cypriot peasants had contiguous land holdings and suitable for ploughing steep gradients or narrow terraces cut into the hillside. Although agricultural development appeared far removed from the politics of the Legislative Council and troublesome demands for enosis, it was in the countryside that the economic exploitation which lay at the core of Empire was felt most acutely by the colonial subjects.

    Regardless of the efforts of the wellmeaning reformers from the ministry, the fundamental injustice of colonial rule was reinforced at least twice every year when officials from the un-elected administration came to each village to take away a proportion of the harvest. Donald Waterer, whose father Ronald ran the Forestry Department in — , remembers one occasion later in the century when villagers outwitted government officials who were attempting to regulate the extermination of vermin. Colonies of rats frequently settled in the boles of neglected carob trees and would systematically eat their way through the young shoots, sometimes destroying entire trees.

    Waterer recalled Book 1. As late as , after 30, Cypriots had fought alongside the British in World War Two, and the concept of racial hierarchy which had once underpinned the empire began to crumble, many colonial civil servants in Cyprus still appeared to view the villagers of Cyprus as a race apart. Government must make God helps those who help themselves not those who always ask the Government for help. Have you done this? I hear that some growers who began this treatment were persuaded to give only three sprayings by stupid people who think they know better than the Department of Agriculture.

    Although less obviously challenging than the educated urban elite, rural villagers were, at the same time, mysterious, remote and essentially unknowable. The traditional Cypriot method of threshing corn involved spreading the crop on the flat, hard surface of a threshing floor or barn; oxen then pulled a wooden board, the underside of which was inset with sharp stones, back and forth across the crop, while the pressure exerted by the stones was increased by someone standing, or more often sitting, on a wooden chair placed on top of the boards.

    But centralised, mechanised threshing facilities made it easier for government authorities to assess how much tax should be paid. Far better for the small-scale subsistence farmer to enlist the help of his extended family, who, although they might need the whole summer to do the job, at least did so away from the attention of the government tax man. The old Ottoman system of taxation had actively discouraged Cypriot farmers from adopting new techniques which might have increased productivity.

    Ottoman assessments of crop production were notoriously arbitrary and often bore no relation to the quantities involved. Colonel A. Attempts were made instead to encourage immigrants to settle on the island. At the end of the nineteenth century a thousand Book 1. The survivors abandoned Cyprus for Canada leaving only their rough-haired Siberian dog behind.

    The most enduring of these ambassadors of agricultural reform, encouraged by the British to settle in Cyprus, have been the Armenians. For many decades silk production flourished. Number 1 Gladstone Street, one of the most imposing houses in Nicosia, was owned by an Armenian silk merchant, whose factory was at the side of the building. Neighbours remember camels lining up there to be loaded with bails of silk before plodding off across the plain towards the port of Famagusta.

    By , four years after the government had taken over the experimental farm at Athalassa and with the new threshing machines still unpopular in the villages, the Agriculture Department made another attempt to reach out to the recalcitrant Cypriot farmer by launching The Cyprus Journal: A Quarterly Review of the Agriculture and Industries of Cyprus, published in English, Greek and Turkish.

    The journal also carried poignant features on animal welfare, which exhorted Cypriots to be kinder to working animals — particularly donkeys — and appealed for an end to the practice of killing dogs with rat poison. The literature did not work. Rat poison, freely available today, is still used to kill hundreds of dogs each year. The jolly didacticism of the Cyprus Journal, published less than 30 years after centuries of Ottoman neglect had come to an end, must have seemed bizarre to its rural readership.

    To a certain degree they succeeded. An association to Book 1. These tangible improvements provided an obvious and immediate justification for the British occupation; Cypriot agriculture had undoubtedly benefited from imperial rule. Visits to sites of agricultural improvement soon became a popular element in any official itinerary. Yet despite these achievements, for most of the time that the British occupied Cyprus the rural peasantry remained wretched and poor. For most, the peasantry remained exotic specimens, observed from a distance but never really understood.

    To that extent the experience of most colonists did not differ significantly from that of travellers to the island, both in their own way were tourists making brief excursions into an unknown and unknowable environment. This did not prevent the colonists from appropriating the landscape and making it comfortingly English. This disquieting vision was replaced in many colonial accounts of the peasantry by a jolly theatrical caricature of the rural Cypriot, someone who was cheerful, childlike and prone to spontaneous outbursts of singing.

    The familiar Cypriot peasant, recognisable by his ubiquitous colourful clothes, was easily reduced to a stereotype. Not only did he need protection from the vagaries and harshness of the natural world, the British argued, but he also needed shielding from his urban compatriots, the predatory moneylenders and lawyers who threatened both the harmonious rural order and the legitimacy of British rule. The stereotype was to become particularly entrenched during the violent final years of the British occupation, at the time of the EOKA armed struggle, when the simple, loyal Cypriot peasant was often depicted as being manipulated by his treacherous urban compatriots.

    It was a picture that, by implication, cast them as agents of progress, guiding the neglected island and its benighted inhabitants towards modernity, prosperity and happiness. Television monitors hang from the ceiling and one wall is entirely occupied by betting kiosks. The men — there are no women — are mostly unshaven and dressed in open-necked shirts. Several pace around the perimeter talking furtively into their mobiles, betting by phone to avoid paying taxes.

    One man rises from his seat to shout angrily at a jockey as he walks past. These gamblers are not here for an entertaining afternoon out; their tense faces suggest an internal compulsion — or financial need. Gambling is big business in Cyprus. The Nicosia municipality of Ayios Dhometios where the racetrack is situated derives almost half its annual revenue from the proceeds of horse racing.

    It is not uncommon for racetrack officials to find small bombs under their cars — the traditional method of registering dissatisfaction with a result. The racecourse itself seems to be part of a different world from the bleak and shabby betting hall. Elegant and compact, it is bordered by royal palms and eucalyptus trees.

    An oasis of green topiary marks out the island at the centre of the track. From the stand, race-goers have a view of the distant Kyrenia Mountains. It is a memorable view that British colonial race-goers in Cyprus gazed on for decades and doubtless carried away with them to bungalows and retirement homes in England. The most important race of the year was, inevitably, the Jubilee Cup. Questions were asked in London about whether this was a responsible act, but in the end Goold-Adams escaped censure. The stallion, Temeraire, was stabled at the government stud farm in Athalassa, in a building for which GooldAdams had laid the foundation stone during his first year in Cyprus.

    Temeraire went on to sire generations of outstanding horses. His progeny were exported to Egypt and Greece, where they enjoyed such racing success that both countries eventually prohibited the import of Cypriot-bred horses. But on all other subjects he demonstrated an intense dislike of administration and bureaucracy, entirely failing to master the technique of the well-crafted diplomatic despatch. The ideal despatch was brief and ultimately reassuring; even as it drew attention to a dilemma, it should propose a series of solutions that would make the problem disappear — without the need for action from London.

    With London at least a five-and-a-half-day journey away, and the nearest British administration at Port Said over 19 hours distant, the colonists were cocooned from the rest of the world. Each year was much like the next, punctuated by the annual three-month sojourn up in the cool of the Troodos Mountains.

    Account Options

    Communications between London and Mount Troodos were slow and it was to be a full 10 days before Goold-Adams finally contacted the Colonial Office. When he did so, his response did not take the form of an official despatch, but a peevish handwritten letter sent on his personal writing paper.

    Orr, who was due to return to his post in Nicosia after a period of absence. Bolton, who is acting, is so calm and quiet Orr on the other hand is highly strung. With a jerky anxious manner whose presence is itself slightly worrying to myself and those who serve under him. Technically, therefore, it remained part of the Ottoman Empire, an empire with which Britain was about to go to war. The unfortunate Greaves could not have hoped for a more sympathetic employer, but as Europe prepared for all-out war, this was not what the Colonial Office wanted to hear.

    The permanent under secretaries were unimpressed. Presumably the first will be along the France Belgium border in which our own people must take part. I do hope that everything will be as we wish and that many of our people may not be killed. Trusting you are fit and well and not over worried. During July and August, when the intense heat of the plains around Nicosia would have virtually brought all work to a standstill, this was not unreasonable.

    The administration declared a month-long moratorium on further withdrawals, during which time it was hoped that public anxiety would diminish and some of the cash would be re-deposited. Sending money from England would take too long, so the notes were hastily produced by the Government Printing Office in Nicosia. The mufti was the highest Islamic religious figure on the island, elected by Turkish Cypriots, with his position ratified by the caliph.

    He supervised the religious life of the community and had the right to pronounce on issues related to Islamic law. Although in practice by his role had become primarily symbolic and he no longer had a seat on the Legislative Council; he still assumed ceremonial precedence over the Greek Orthodox archbishop. His appearance at the annual official opening of the council was spectacular. Luke describes him as dressed in violet ceremonial robes with a white turban Book 1. Now this old Ottoman world order, where individual and societal identity was defined by religion, was being replaced by the emerging ideology of the nation state.

    Ottoman suzerainty on the island was at an end and Cyprus became part of the British Empire. For the British, as much as for the Cypriots, the new relationship required some adjustment. Technically, many of them were now enemy aliens, required to declare in writing that they would not harm Britain or her allies and to obtain government permission to leave the island.

    In it received a copy of a petition that had been forwarded to the Grand Vizier in Constantinople from the unfortunate sheikh of the mosque or tekke of the Mevlevi Islamic sect in Nicosia. Cypriots had overnight exchanged government by one empire for subjugation to another, more geographically distant and certainly more culturally alien. Since their arrival in the British had been scrupulous in their observance of Ottoman diplomatic protocol. Cyprus might be tied to the Porte by only the loosest of bonds, but many of the trappings and public rituals of the Ottoman Empire were still maintained.

    It was a connection which could not be unravelled overnight. There were Cypriots defined by the new proclamation as anyone born in Cyprus living and working in all the major cities of Egypt, the Levant and Asia Minor. Many Book 1. For its part, despite the early scares of the war, the colonial administration still kept its money in the Ottoman Bank in Nicosia.

    Over the previous decade, as the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire accelerated, Britain, France and Germany had each sought to establish their own sphere of influence within the Turkish armed forces. When, as war approached, Britain appropriated the vessels, still under construction in British shipyards, there was uproar in Constantinople and the Porte accused Britain of breaching international law. They continued to be closely connected to the Ottoman Empire by ties of religion, language, commerce and culture. But as British subjects, Book 1. As a result they were highly vulnerable to accusations of treason, espionage and collaboration with the enemy and, under martial law, were at risk of being interned at any time without trial.

    In August a clerk in the land registry in Nicosia was dismissed for intrigue and for corresponding with the office of a member of the triumvirate in Istanbul. Cypriot Muslims responded by making conspicuously generous donations to the Cyprus branch of the Red Cross Society. Like its Ottoman predecessor on the island the British government in Cyprus enjoyed the monopoly of salt collection.

    Disposal of the Book 1. The Colonial Office, generally content to allow the administration of Cyprus to drift aimlessly, somehow managed to provide the island with capable and incisive rulers at times of crisis when British military interests were threatened. Clauson was a military high-flyer who, in his early twenties, had designed a revolutionary pontoon bridge subsequently adopted by the army.

    He had spent six years as assistant secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, during which time he had gained a thorough understanding of the workings and internal politics of both the Colonial and War Offices. Significantly for both Clauson and for Cyprus, given the immense challenges that lay ahead, he possessed the mental clarity that his predecessor had lacked.

    As a high commissioner governing a colony at war, with the disintegrating Ottoman Empire on its doorstep, Clauson would be confronted by uniquely complex situations of which neither he nor his superiors in London had previous experience and which required him to improvise policy on the hoof. Although no fighting took place in Cyprus during the First World War, its geographical location meant that it was perforce heavily involved in the conflict.

    Clauson oversaw the recruitment of some 13, muleteers and the despatch of 7, Cypriot mules for the Macedonian and Egyptian fronts. He authorised the provision of food relief for thousands of starving Cypriot refugees trapped in Asia Minor, arranged for the reception of thousands more in Cyprus and headed off serious challenges to his authority from British military intelligence in Egypt. For security reasons, much of this responsibility fell to him alone, generating a workload that would have exhausted the most energetic of high commissioners.

    Tabitha Morgan has brought it back to life. At The Nile, if you're looking for it, we've got it. With fast shipping, low prices, friendly service and well over a million items - you're bound to find what you want, at a price you'll love! ISBN X. ISBN Format Paperback. Author Tabitha Morgan. Pages Language English. Media Book. DEWEY Subtitle A History of the British in Cyprus.

    Place of Publication London. Country of Publication United Kingdom.

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