The Greek Kingdom in British public debate
This study examines British comments on the independent Greek state from the
dynastic change in 1862 to the annexation of Thessaly and the Arta region of Epirus
in 1881. Its aims are to pinpoint and construe elements of continuity and change in the
image of modem Greece in Victorian Britain and to interpret individual and collective
expressions of sympathy with and criticism of the Greek kingdom or the Greek `race'.
This study argues that British images of Greek modernity were firmly based on
contemporary notions of `civilization' and `national prosperity', although allusions to
classical antiquity and the Byronic tradition occasionally filtered into the debate.
Moreover, from the late 1860s onwards, the gradual application of racial
argumentation to the discussion of the Greek case, in terms of an inquiry into the
descent of the modem Greeks and the association of essential and stable traits of
character with members of the Greek `race', confirmed rather than altered the existing
body of British assumptions about the Greek kingdom and crystallized them into a
definite diagnosis of Greek modernity. This study concludes that in the period 1862-
1881 British philhellenism, that is, interest in the affairs of modem Greece and the
advocacy of the `Greek cause', should be accounted for mainly within the framework
of liberal concern for freedom and, consequently, in the context of British interest in
continental nationalities, without, however, overlooking the links between religious
and especially scholarly affiliations and the championship of the Greek cause.
After an introductory chapter, which covers the formative years of Otho's reign
focusing on the sources of information on Greece and their lasting impact on British
understanding of that country, the argument developed in this thesis is based on a detailede xaminationo f five episodesT. hesea re the overthrowo f King Otho and the
cession of the Ionian Islands to Greece (1862-1864), the Cretan insurrection (1866-
1869), the `Dilessi murders' incident (1870), the Eastern crisis (1875-1878), and the
final settlement of the Greek question (1879-1881). These illustrate, in contrasting
and complementary ways, the major facets of the relationship between the Greek
kingdom and the formation of opinion in Victorian Britain.