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The Ionian Islands under the British Protectorate: Social and Economic Problems David Hannell I. Introduction The British occupied the Ionian Islands (Corfu, Paxos, Levkas, Ithaca, Zante, Cephalonia, and Kythera) for strategic and military purposes, and in this respect the protectorate, established by the treaty of Paris in 1815, was a device to keep the islands out of the hands of either Russia or France (Tumelty 1952: 14-15).' Nonetheless, during its brief history the protectorate was by no means governed simply as a military stronghold; neither was its administration concerned solely with strategic affairs. The British found themselves governing a population numbering around 240,000 (BPP 1857: 383), a society which had been complicated by previous foreign rulers, and a flawed and moribund economy. Partly as a result of social and economic problems, the one other factor being nationalism, the Ionian Islands failed to escape the tendency for revolt and disorder that afflicted Europe during the years 1848 and 1849. Covering the period 1815 to 1864, the life-span of the protectorate , this article is primarily concerned with the difficulties the British experienced in their efforts to maintain the well-being of the Ionian Islands. It is based mainly on British sources and gives British points of view. Nevertheless its publication one hopes will stimulate further research on the protectorate, in English, and based on a wider range of source material. The article begins with a discussion on the constitution of the protectorate, and moves immediately on to a study of the legal and political status of the islands. There then follows a class analysis, which is also an observation of the way in which Ionian society was divided on cultural and linguistic lines. This section prepares us for the next two topics: land tenure and finance as expressed by the then prevailing colonia and prostichio systems. This leads to an examination of Ionian Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 7, 1989. 105 106 David Hanneil farming techniques, particularly as observed by the British, which is combined with an evaluation of the islands' economic structure, especially with regard to crops and trade. The last major topic concerns the judicial administration of the protectorate, and how the British administration tried to overcome corruption within public bodies. In conclusion, I take a brief look at the events of 1848 and 1849 as a means of assessing the success of British efforts to improve the protectorate 's social and economic condition. The article ends with a glimpse of two modern aspects of the Ionian Islands, namely migration and tourism, which have connections with the protectorate. The social and economic history of the protectorate is characterized by three inter-related themes: class, agricultural backwardness and political impotence. With regard to the first two themes we find that traditional Ionian institutions tended to retard the economy and at the same time increase class tension. The sections on class, land tenure, finance and judicial administration illustrate this problem in detail, and are complimented by the sections on farming techniques, the islands economic structure, and the events of 1848 and 1849. These latter sections show how Ionians suffered the consequences of an entire framework of social institutions which discouraged agricultural investment, diversity and efficiency. The third theme concerns the manner in which the British responded to Ionian problems. We find that an ineptness in introducing reform was aggravated by political and institutional difficulties. These were caused by the legislative assembly, which fell under the control of narrow-minded special interest groups, and the international position of the protectorate, which was ambiguous and ill-defined. The sections on the constitution and political status of the protectorate provide an initial analysis, but the theme reappears in sections, such as land tenure and the islands' economic structure, where the British administration's attempts at reform are discussed in detail. //. Social and Economic Problems Following the treaty of Paris in 1815, the British were obliged to grant the Ionian people a constitution. The institutions eventually erected in 1818 were not well received in the islands nor in some quarters overseas. Generally, the constitution was condemned as oppressive , and there is no doubt that it was based on rather dubious principles (Pratt...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 105-132
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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