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

Travels in the Ionian Isles

Holland's Travels in the Ionian IslesHolland's Travels in the Ionian IslesSir Henry Holland (1788-1873) studied medicine at Edinburgh, spending time at both Guy’s and St Thomas’ in London. Holland was a keen traveller and his career as a physician afforded him the time and opportunity to pursue this interest. Following his graduation, he embarked on an eighteen-month tour of Portugal, Gibraltar, Sardinia, Sicily, the Ionian Isles and Greece. He recounted the eastern part of his journey, including his stay on the Ionian Islands, in the publication on display.

From the 13th century onwards Venice’s Levantine empire gradually obtained control of the seven Ionian Islands of Corfu, Paxo, Santa Maura, Ithaca, Cephalonia, Zante and Cerigo. While the Ottomans controlled Greece, the Ionian Islands under Venetian rule remained Christian, and western European customs and ideas prevailed.

When Napoleon conquered Venice in 1797 the islands found themselves briefly occupied by the French, before being passed to and fro between the Russians, French and British. Finally, by the Treaty of Paris in November 1815, the islands became the ‘United States of the Ionian Islands’ under British protection. They remained a British Protectorate until 1864.

Holland, writing in 1814, considered the future of the islands:

… it is still uncertain how this little community will be disposed of, under the internal arrangements ofthe great powers of Europe. An independence, under the common guarantee of England, Russia, France, and Austria, would probably, on the whole, be the condition most favourable to the interests of the people …

The English government, short as was its duration, has certainly been beneficial to the welfare of the isles: their commerce has experienced some increases; and the revenues, which were formerly abused to party purposes, have, during this time, been devoted to the internal improvement of the country, the repair of the fortifications, and the construction or improvement of roads.

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