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by Archaeology Newsroom

The British administration in Cyprus (1878-1960)

The period of British rule over Cyprus can be divided into three phases:

a) 1878-1920. The Panhellenic feelings of the Greek Cypriot population were tolerated by the spirit of British “laisser-faire”. During this period prominent British politicians, Gladstone, Churchill, Lloyd George, Lord Crew, Lord Milner, MacDonald, accepted as logical the aspiration of the Greek Cypriots for Union with Greece. In October 1915, Britain offered Cyprus to Greece as an inducement for participation in the war on the side of the Entente powers.

b) 1920-1945. In 1924 the treaty of Lausanne settled the International status of Cyprus. Thereafter Turkey urged the Turkish population to emigrate to Asia Minor but without much success. In 1925 Cyprus was proclaimed a crown colony and the British government tried to contain Greek Nationalist feelings with a policy that resulted in the uprising of 1931. The rising was easily suppressed. During the second World War thousands of Cypriots inspired only by their love for freedom fought against fascism by the side of the British.

c) 1945-1960. In 1948 Britain offered constitutional proposals of limited self-government which were rejected. The Cypriots believed that as Greece was the ally of Britain in two World Wars and as they themselves had fought with the British against their enemies, they should have their aspiration for union with Greece fulfilled, while Britain could retain its military bases.

This did not happen. The British attitude remained entirely negative and it resulted in an armed uprising of the Greek Cypriots in 1955. In the process of reacting against the Greek Cypriots Britain deliberately involved Turkey in the affairs of Cyprus.

By 1959 the Greek Cypriots were obliged to compromise and accept an independent Cyprus in order to avoid the forcible dismemberment of their island as envisaged by the MacMillan plan. Thus, on February 19 1959, Britain, Greece, Turkey and representatives from the Greek and Turkish communities of Cyprus signed in London the complex agreements that created the Independent State of Cyprus.