'Britain's Greek Islands' now on:










































Praise for 'Britain's Greek Islands'


'Peter Prineas' book reads like a gripping and enthralling novel because it brings to the fore all the social, political and religious forces colliding after it became clear that the English protection [in the Ionian islands] was a covert form of colonial occupation.'

— Associate Professor Vrasidas Karalis, Department of Modern Greek Studies, University of Sydney.


'Prineas paints a lively portrait of the history of the United States of the Ionian Islands, as the British named their protectorate. He follows the often extravagant lifestyles of the state's lord high commissioners who, believing that the British-style parliamentary system was unsuitable for its Ionian subjects, oversaw a highly undemocratic political regime, centred in Corfu, which became increasingly unpopular with the islands' elites and wider populations.'

— Damian Mac Con Ulladh, Athens News

'Congratulations on an original, thorough and well-researched book, which will keep me interested for many weeks.'

— Jim Potts, Corfu, author of 'The Ionian Islands and Epirus: A Cultural History'.


A vivid and engaging account of Britain's Ionian Islands Protectorate

Britain's Greek Islands is a highly readable history of Britain's 55 year reign in the Ionian Islands off the western coast of Greece. The story is told from the perspective of the island of Cerigo (now Kythera), a remote fragment of this nineteenth century British Protectorate, but one that was surprisingly well integrated into the Ionian State.

As with Malta, Britain found herself in possession of the Ionian Islands after wresting them from her great enemy, France. In the European settlement that followed Waterloo, the Islands, with the support of Russia, hoped for independence, while Britain was determined to make them her own. The outcome was the 'United States of the Ionian Islands', a British protectorate with a constitution that gave the illusion of independent government while vesting power in the British Monarchy and its agent, the Lord High Commissioner at Corfu.

At the beginning of 1821 the Greek mainland, plainly in view across the water from the British Ionian protectorate, was part of the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman Sultan was Britain's ally in resisting Russia's southward advance towards the Mediterranean. But pent-up Greek yearnings for independence were about to surge across the land like a flood, led by men like Theodore Kolokotronis who as a captain in the 'Greek Legion', had helped Britain win the Ionian Islands from France.

Although neutral, the Ionian Islands had an important role in the Greek Revolution: English philhellenes including Byron came to the Islands to further their plans; the Islands were a base for supplying both of the warring sides; they were an asylum for refugees from the War; and they were a source of Greek fighting men who could not be stopped from crossing to the mainland by mere laws. Nor could British proclamations of 'strict neutrality' prevent violence in the islands, such as the massacre of Turkish refugees who landed on the shores of Cerigo when feeling over the war was at a height.

Some institutions not seen in Britain for centuries were to be found in the Ionian Islands at this time. One was a regime of forced labour known here as the angaria in which large gangs of Greeks were required to build roads, bridges and other works. Another was the High Police power which gave the Lord High Commissioners absolute discretion to hand out extra-judicial punishments, such as imprisonment and banishment.

The angaria was an early casualty of Ionian resistance. The movement for Ionian union with Greece in later decades would see relations between the Greeks and their British rulers become increasingly strained and the High Police power increasingly resorted to, until at last a way was found for the Islands to be ceded to Greece.

Author Peter Prineas draws on an array of existing sources to construct a vivid and engaging narrative. A strength of the book is the degree to which the story is informed by the original hand-written documents of the Ionian Protectorate kept at the British Public Records Office at Kew. 'Britain's Greek Islands' brings many things to light that have been overlooked or long forgotten.



Click here to read 'Slay all the klepths' - Chapter 3 of 'Britain's Greek Islands', which tells the story of how Theodore Kolokotronis sowed the early seeds of resistance in the Ionian islands that would later see him become a leader in the Greek revolution.

Learn more about these books by Peter Prineas

Britain's Greek Islands


Katsehamos and the Great Idea


Wild Places