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‘A brighter Hellas’: rediscovering Greece in the 19th century

The Battle of Navarino

Title page of pamphletTitle page of pamphletThe decisive Battle of Navarino on 20 October 1827 witnessed the total destruction of the allied Ottoman and Egyptian fleet by combined British, French and Russian squadrons. The news of the battle met with mixed feeling throughout Europe. While the victory pleased philhellenes, the British government was not at war with the Turks, and the Duke of Wellington and King George IV were embarrassed by the event.

Descriptions and illustrations of the battle quickly appeared. At the Strand, a panorama of the scene by Robert Burford (1791-1861) attracted crowds of visitors; 19th-century audiences delighted in this type of 360˚ viewof landscapes and historical events. In the pamphlet shown Burford emphasises the accuracy of his depiction of the battle:

Scene from battle showing position of various shipsFrontispiece depicting the Battle of NavarinoMr. Robert Burford has to remark that, in the position of the ships, the manner of attack, & he has strictly adhered to the official plans, which, by the most gracious permission of His Royal Highness the Lord High Admiral, he has been allowed to use; that the view of the town of Navarin, and the country surrounding the bay, are from drawings taken immediately subsequent to the battle, by Lieut Thomas Finmore, RM of the Asia, under the inspection of Sir E. Codrington …

The naval officer Sir Edward Codrington (1770-1851) was commander-in-chief of the allied squadrons. His fleet gathered at Navarino bay to prevent the departure of the Turkish and Egyptian ships, commanded by Ibrahim Pasha. Both sides were suspicious of each other’s intent and when a Turkish ship fired at an allied boat, sent in to investigate, a full-scale battle ensued.

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