The Impact of the Cypriot Contribution during the Great War on Colonial Society and Loyalties/Disloyalties to the British Empire

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    Abstract

    The role played by British colonial possessions during the Great War is only now starting to emerge in the last decade or so. This article aims to include Cyprus amongst those possessions that contributed enormously to the British war effort, such as India, Jamaica and the former settler colonies. Before the war Cyprus was an ‘inconsequential possession’ and during the first two years of the war it played a very minor role, when for the most part it served as a pawn to lure Greece into the war, which failed when Athens rejected the British offer to cede Cyprus to Greece in exchange for Greece coming to the military aid of Serbia in October 1915. From the summer of 1916, soon after the British and French signed the Sykes–Picot Agreement, the island became a bustling military and humanitarian base, while it also fed and fuelled the allied armies in Egypt, Macedonia and France. Its most significant contribution was undoubtedly the formation of the Cypriot Mule Corps in summer 1916. Until it was dissolved in April 1920 over 12,000 men had served at one time or another, a staggering number given the small size of the island, representing 25% of the male population aged 18–35. The contribution of the island and its people says much about imperial loyalty as well as the social fabric of a Mediterranean island emerging after centuries of Ottoman rule to the modernizing influences of British modernity. Therefore, this article does not merely aim to fill a gap in the historiography of the Great War by including the role of Cyprus and Cypriots in the story, but also endeavours to contribute to the historiography of the British Empire and its relations with the people it controlled before the advent of anti-colonial movements during the inter-war years.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)17-36
    Number of pages20
    JournalFirst World War Studies
    Volume8
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Jan 2017

    Keywords

    • colonial loyalties
    • military camps
    • refugees
    • role of Cyprus
    • the British Empire
    • The Great War

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