The Historiography of the British Empire-Commonwealth: Trends, Interpretations and Resources

By Robin W. Winks | Go to book overview

GIBRALTAR, MALTA,
AND CYPRUS

Edith Dobie

BRITAIN'S COLONIES in the Mediterranean have played significant rôles in every phase of the development of her Empire- Commonwealth. When Gibraltar was acquired from Spain in 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Britain already had begun to concentrate upon world trade. This trade could be won and extended as well--and often better--by ensuring British influence in given areas rather than by establishing political control. Modern historians have called such regions "the informal empire," the extent of which greatly exceeded that of the colonies or formal empire.1 The eastern part of the informal empire expanded rapidly, with India becoming of vital importance both for its trade and for developing British interests in adjoining parts of Asia.

As the volume of commerce mounted the British began to make some use of the old overland routes from the Mediterranean to the East via Egypt. To protect these routes Malta, which Napoleon had spied out as another Gibraltar, was obtained as a result of Nelson's victory over Napoleon in the Egyptian campaign. A third outpost, Cyprus, gained during the Congress of Berlin in 1878, was to be used to strengthen the Turkish Empire and thus to block Russia's access to the Mediterranean, check her drive toward India, and exclude her from the trade with Syria and other Turkish countries. These three places, Gibraltar, Malta, and Cyprus, as the eastern trade became more and more essential to Britain's continued prosperity, became guardians of what was literally a life-line of Empire.

____________________
1
Charles R. Fay, "Movement toward Free Trade", Cambridge History of the British Empire ( Cambridge, 1940), II, 388-414; John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson , "The Imperialism of Free Trade", Economic History Review ( London), 2nd ser., VI (Aug., 1953), 1-15.

-312-

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The Historiography of the British Empire-Commonwealth: Trends, Interpretations and Resources
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Contributors ix
  • Introduction 3
  • The American Continental Colonies in the Empire 23
  • The Empire Since 1783 46
  • Canada 69
  • Australia 137
  • New Zealand 174
  • The British Territories in the Pacific 197
  • South Africa 212
  • British Central Africa 237
  • British East Africa 248
  • British West Africa 261
  • Egypt and the Sudan 279
  • Great Britain and Inter­national Trusteeship: the Mandate System 296
  • Gibraltar, Malta, and Cyprus 312
  • Ireland's Commonwealth Years, 1922-1949 326
  • The British West Indies 344
  • India 357
  • Pakistan 396
  • Ceylon 421
  • Burma 448
  • Malaysia 460
  • Commonwealth Literature: Developments and Prospects 493
  • Appendix: An American Report 523
  • Index 529
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