From observatory to dominion
: geopolitics, colonial knowledge and the origins of the British Protectorate of the Ionian Islands, 1797-1822

  • Evangelos Zarokostas

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


The thesis explores official information-gathering and colonial rule during the transition which led to the British Protectorate of the Ionian Islands, between 1797 and 1822. It studies more closely the official anxieties that played a crucial role in the protectorate’s early development, placing these in the framework of British official concerns after the Napoleonic Wars related to retrenchment and security associated with a militarist ethos. Overwhelmingly, previous historiography on the islands has focused on the controversies which brought the end of the protectorate. It has also, to some extent, exaggerated the transformative characteristics of imperial rule. Unlike previous studies of British rule in the islands (Anglokratia in Greek) which focus on its end and the ultimate cession of the islands to Greece in 1864, this thesis focuses on the early period of British rule, analysing the origins of the protectorate in a Mediterranean, as well as an imperial, context. British officials were ambivalent about the place of the protectorate in the empire from its very beginning. Yet, despite the recurring political and economic crises going on in the islands during the period under study, the British were adamant on maintaining control over the islands. Taking the Ionian Islands as a case-study of early nineteenth century imperial rule, this thesis argues that the reasons for maintaining control over the islands were more directly related to the wartime origins of the protectorate than of what is often assumed in the historiography on the islands. Similarly, as in other parts of the empire, crucial aspects of the governance of the islands, such as the control of information and the compilation of statistics, consistently followed official mentalities of the period, which should not be conflated with the subsequent ‘information revolution’ of the 1830s. In order to illuminate this argument further, the thesis focuses on key themes including disease-control, information-collection and security imperatives. By re-examining the origins of the protectorate and its ‘logic’ of rule in the earlier period this thesis revises our understanding of the nature of British rule in the islands and offers for potential comparison with other wartime acquisitions.
Date of Award6 Nov 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorSimon J Potter (Supervisor) & Richard D Sheldon (Supervisor)

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