Mr. Fenech's Colony: Maltese Immigrants in Cyprus 1878-1950 *

By Hook, Gail | Journal of Cyprus Studies, July 2007 | Go to article overview

Mr. Fenech's Colony: Maltese Immigrants in Cyprus 1878-1950 *


Hook, Gail, Journal of Cyprus Studies


Abstract

British Colonial Office documents describe negotiations beginning in 1878 between Cyprus administrators, the Colonial Office, and the Maltese government for several, separate schemes to bring colonies of agricultural workers to Cyprus. Then, beginning in 1879 the documents describe in detail and at length the existence of a Maltese colony of agricultural workers managed by Vicenzo Fenech, a land surveyor from Malta, as well as other schemes proposed by other entrepreneurs and Maltese governors through the turn of the century. However, a 1928 official report claims the earliest schemes "never crystallized." The purpose of this article is to demonstrate, in a case study of three Maltese immigration schemes in Cyprus between 1878 and the 1950s, how officials did indeed negotiate such schemes, sometimes in secret, and how these schemes ultimately failed.

Keywords: Cyprus, Malta, immigration, development, agriculture, settlements.

Ozet

Britanya Kolonyal Dairesi belgeleri, 1878'de baslamak uzere, Kibris Idaresi, Kolonyal Dairesi ve Malta Hukumeti arasinda Kibris'a tarim iscisi kolonileri getirilmesinin cesitli yollarinin gorusuldugunu ortaya koymaktadir. 1879'dan yuzyilin sonlarina kadarki belgelerde, uzunca ve detayli bir sekilde, toprak mufettisi Vicenzo Fenech yonetiminde Maltali kucuk bir isci kolonisinin ve Maltali vali ve yatirimcilarinin buna benzer projelerinin bahsi gecmektedir. Ancak 1928 tarihli resmi bir rapor bu erken projelerin hic bir zaman gerceklesmedigini one surmektedir. Bu makalenin amaci, 1878-1950'ler arasinda Malta'dan Kibris'a gerceklestirilmesi planlanan uc adet goc projesi ozelinde, iddia edilenin tersine memurlarin kimi zaman gizlilik icinde de olsa nasil bu turden gorusmeleri yuruttuklerini, ve bu projelerin basarisiz olma sebeplerini gozler onune sermektir.

Anahtar Kelimeler: Kibris, Malta, goc, gelisme, tarim, yerlesim.

**********

Britain occupied Cyprus in 1878 according to the agreements of the Congress of Berlin, then annexed the island in 1914 and made it a Crown Colony in 1925. Yet Colonial Office documents explicitly outline British attempts to develop the island's resources immediately in 1878 as if it were already a colonial possession. By early 1879, High Commissioner Sir Garnet Wolseley could proclaim:

   suffice it to say that Cyprus is going to be a great success; I
   shall have a surplus this year ... Next year I hope to embark upon
   some more important public works. Laugh at any one who tells
   you Cyprus is not going to be a complete success. (1)

Wolseley's idea of success was to have an economic surplus and to complete important public works like ports, buildings, irrigation, roads, and so forth.

Coincidentally, officials on another British-ruled island in the Mediterranean, Malta, saw the acquisition of Cyprus as a golden opportunity to relieve their own problems of overcrowding and impoverishment. (2) In the early years of the occupation, they petitioned the new Cyprus Government for numerous government-sponsored immigration schemes, including colonies of agricultural workers ranging from a group of 50 families to thousands of laborers. Governor Dingli of Malta hoped new colonies in Cyprus would attract "a continuous stream of Maltese emigrants." (3) Although a continuous stream never materialized, Colonial Office documents show that some groups did migrate to new Cyprus settlements. However, a 1928 official report claims the earliest schemes "never crystallised." (4)

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate, in a case study of three Maltese immigration projects in Cyprus how Cyprus administrators, the Colonial Office, and the Maltese government did indeed negotiate to bring colonies of workers to Cyprus between 1878 and the 1950s. The first of the negotiations began when the British occupied Cyprus in 1878. The slow pace and inability of the governments to reach agreement, however, left the door open for independent, private schemes.

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