British imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915

The inconsequential possession

By Andrekos Varnava

British imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8640-3
  • Pages: 336
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £18.99
  • Published Date: July 2012
  • BIC Category: European history, Colonialism & imperialism, HISTORY / Europe / General, Humanities / European history, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, History, Europe
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


This book explores the tensions underlying British imperialism in Cyprus. Much has been written about the British empire's construction outside Europe, yet there is little on the same themes in Britain's tiny empire in 'Europe'.

This study follows Cyprus' progress from a perceived imperial asset to an expendable backwater by explaining how the Union Jack came to fly over the island and why after thirty-five years the British wanted it lowered. Cyprus' importance was always more imagined than real and was enmeshed within widely held cultural signifiers and myths. This book 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 combination of archival research, cultural analysis and visual narrative that makes for an enjoyable read for academics and students of imperial, British and European history.


By far the best book about the early decades of British rule on Cyprus.... This book, unlike those, deserves a wide readership and not just among Hellenists."

'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

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

'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 of British 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

'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


1. Historicising the British possession of Cyprus: The contexts
2. Cyprus from Richard Coeur de Lion to Disraeli: The imperial imagination
3. Justifying the occupation of Cyprus, 1876-78: 'The key of western Asia'
4. The sublime illusions: 1878-80: The Mediterranean 'Eldorado'
5. Financial policy and the development of Cyprus, 1880-1912: The 'mill-stone'
6. From multiculturalism to multi-nationalism: The 'European' possession
7. Cyprus' strategic place in the British imperial structure: The backwater
8. 'Cyprus is of no use to anybody': The pawn


Andrekos Varnava is Lecturer in Modern History at Flinders University of South Australia

British imperialism in Cyprus, 1878–1915

By Andrekos Varnava

Paperback £18.99 / $27.95

Hardcover £80.00 / $120.00

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