UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The British administration of Cyrpus, 1926-60 Greenwood, George Blair


Cyprus, a small island in the eastern Mediterranean which, since the beginning of recorded history, had always been dominated by a foreign power, obtained its independence in August, 1960. At that time it ceased to be a part of the British Empire and became a member of the Commonwealth. Great Britain, the last power to control the island, obtained it in 1878, as a base from which to check Russian expansion into the Near East. From 1878 until 1914 the island was held on a temporary basis from Turkey. After that date, when the two powers became involved as enemies at war, Britain annexed the island. In 1925, Cyprus became a Crown Colony. During the period of British administration many changes in all aspects of Cypriot life occurred. Economic and social progress until after the Second War was slow but continuous. The greatest changes were to be found in the areas of public works and communications, water development, agriculture and the elimination of rural indebtedness, forestry, trade and commerce, education, health, and government administration and finance. From 1946 until 1959, Cyprus, like other British colonies, benefited from the Colonial Development Programmes and other plans, during which time large sums of money were expended to accelerate the island's economic and social advancement. By 1959 the standards of economic and social life, in Cyprus were comparable to, if not better than, any in that area of the world. A most important force which operated throughout the whole period was Enosis, the desire of the Greek Cypriots to join with Greece. Requests and manifestations for Enosis occurred continually during the British administration. The leaders were the ecclesiasts of the Orthodox Church who assumed social and political, as well as religious authority and leadership. The first violent manifestation against British rule occurred in 1931. No further outbreaks occurred until 1956, from which time violence continued incessantly until the final truce. During the last four years of the period the organization known as EOKA, organized and directed by Archbishop Makarios and Colonel Grivas, conducted a campaign of resistance and terrorism against all aspects of British rule, in an attempt to obtain Enosis. The result was four years of communal strife and civil chaos. The Turkish inhabitants, who formed almost twenty-percent of the island's population, opposed every attempt on the part of the Greeks to achieve Enosis. The Turkish Cypriot policy hardened into one of adamant resistance, stating that Britain must either maintain the status quo or return the island to Turkey. Cyprus was governed under a Constitution promulgated in 1882, which was withdrawn in 1931 due to the outbreak of violence, and then replaced by the autocratic rule of the Governor and his Council. The Constitution was resented by many because of its very limited nature. The lack of any real political, responsibility for the Cypriots was another reason for their dissatisfaction with the British regime. From 1946 until 1959 constitutional offers and counter offers were put forth by the British and the Cypriots in an attempt to arrive at a solution. None of these offers was able to provide a compromise solution which would be satisfactory to the British, Cypriots, Greeks, and Turks, The British emphasized the strategic necessity of maintaining Cyprus; the Greeks and Greek Cypriots the desire for self-determination, as expressed constantly through the United Nations; and the Turks the necessity either to maintain the status quo, or to partition the island. It seems evident that only the prospect of continued violence and stalemate led all the powers concerned to come together at the end of 1958 and the beginning of 1959 and work out a compromise solution which became the basis of the Constitution. In viewing the many conflicting factors involved, It seems that the only possible type of agreement was one based on compromise.

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