Colonial Rule, Cultural Relations and the British Council in Cyprus, 1935–55

Maria Hadjiathanasiou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article offers an examination of the British Council’s early stages of expansion in Cyprus under British rule, from 1935 to 1955, before the start of the Greek Cypriot anti-colonial struggle (1955–59). It argues that the British Council’s development and quality of activities in the British colony were affected by various factors such as the peculiar political difficulties encountered in the island due to the rise of Greek nationalism and the growing influence of the Church of Cyprus over the local public; the mismanagement of the local British Institutes by some of the Council’s representatives; and the financial stringencies hindering the Council’s ambitions. Through the investigation of primary material, accessed at the Cyprus State Archive in Nicosia (Cyprus) and at the National Archives in London (UK), the article traces and critically analyses for the first time the Council’s early steps in colonial cultural policy-making, using Cyprus as a case study. During the 20-year period under examination, British experiments in culture attempted to attract the Cypriots’ interest and convince them of the importance of the British connection. The British and colonial governments envisaged that through cultural influence they could safeguard the consent of the governed. In this way, British presence in Cyprus could be retained and Britain would be able to protect its strategic, political and economic interests in the region. However, research reveals that the Council’s efforts in the colony were more often than not misguided, its activities proving ineffective, its hopes misplaced. Although the aspiration was that the British Council should be a powerful instrument of Britain’s foreign policy in the colonies, this article shows that in Cyprus it had a tumultuous childhood. Caught up in the realities of the Second World War, the rise of nationalism, the thread of communism, and amid the climate of Cold War, the British Empire was coming at an end, while the British Council was fighting to survive.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Apr 2018


  • British Council
  • colonial rule
  • cultural influence
  • cultural relations
  • Cyprus
  • decolonisation
  • nationalism


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