British Decolonization in the Mediterranean

Part of the Themes in Comparative History book series (TCH)


Looking back from the vantage point of the 1980s, the Mediterranean dimension of British decolonization after 1950 seems much more dated than its African counterpart. Thus the Mau Mau revolt in Kenya seems to retain something of a contemporary ambience, whereas recollections of British troops patrolling the streets of the Cypriot capital, Nicosia, have about them the musty bouquet of a dead age. The reasons for this are simple enough: the colonial issue in African politics was sustained through the 1960s and 1970s because white-settler power remained entrenched in certain territories through these years. In contrast, British colonialism in the Mediterranean quickly shed its rationale after the Suez fiasco in 1956, and had essentially disappeared by 1965. Admittedly, Gibraltar remained a UK possession, but the forces making for Anglo-Spanish understanding were too powerful to allow this to emerge other than fitfully as an ‘issue’. But if Britain’s African decolonizations loom with greater clarity within the metropolitan folk memory, its Mediterranean decolonizations were, in the crucial phase of the 1950s, often more dramatically significant. Even after Indian independence in 1947, Cyprus and Malta remained of critical relevance to imperial interests because of their location on the sea lanes to the east.


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9 British Decolonization in the Mediterranean

  1. 1.
    Stanley Mayes, Makarios: A Biography (London, 1981) p. x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Sir Anthony Eden, Full Circle (London, 1960) pp. 219–23.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    David Goldsworthy, Colonial Issues in British Politics 1945–61: From ‘Colonial Development’ to ‘Wind of Change’ (Oxford, 1971) p. 310.Google Scholar
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    For Grivas’ version of Cypriot events see Charles Foley (ed.), The Memoirs of General Grivas (London, 1964).Google Scholar
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    G. M. Kahin, The Asian-African Conference, Bandung (New York, 1956).Google Scholar
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    Sir Hugh Foot, A Start in Freedom (London, 1964) pp. 143–88.Google Scholar
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    The most suggestive introduction to Maltese society, and the place of the Catholic Church in island life, is Jeremy Boissevain, Saints and Fireworks: Religion and Politics in Rural Malta (London, 1965).Google Scholar
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    The linkage between language and nationalism in Malta is discussed in Henry Frendo, Party Politics in a Fortress Colony: The Maltese Experience (Valletta, 1965).Google Scholar
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    The two standard texts on the various stages towards Malta’s self-government in the 1950s and 1960s are Dennis Austin, Malta and the End of Empire (London, 1971).Google Scholar
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    and E. Dobie, Malta’s Road to Independence (Oklahoma, 1967).Google Scholar

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© R. F. Holland 1985

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