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Members' research

We invite members of the society to discuss their research or to announce their latest publication through a short blog post.

Andrekos Varnava

Cyprus and Armenia in the Great War: imperialism, decolonisation, genocide, humanitarianism

Dr Andrekos Varnava is Senior Lecturer in Imperial and Military History at Flinders University, Australia. His research and publications centre on:
1) British imperialism, colonialism and decolonisation in Cyprus;
2) the history and politics of Cyprus, specifically minorities of Cyprus and the Cyprus ‘problem’;
3)British and French imperial and military policies in the eastern Mediterranean during and immediately after the Great War;
4) the Armenian Genocide and the Armenian Legion (Légion d’Orient);
5) the historiography and theories of imperialism, including ‘El Dorado’ in imperialism and colonial settlement.

He focusses on themes ranging from understanding European imperialism, and military and strategic policies, to socio-economic, political and cultural change in the eastern Mediterranean.

Currently, Dr Varnava is working on four projects relating to the Great War. These are:
1) the Cypriot Mule Corps during and after the Great War;
2) the role of Cyprus during the Great War;
3) the Légion d’Orient (later Armenian Legion);
4) Allied humanitarianism and the Armenian question.

Dr Varnava’s priority project is a comprehensive history of the Cypriot Mule Corps (formed in 1916 and disbanded in 1920), revolving around a planned monograph with the working title European Subalterns at War: The Cypriot Mule Corps in the British Army and Colonial Society during and after the Great War. Over 20% of the male population of the island, both Christian and Muslim Cypriots, primarily drawn from the lower classes, served in the Cypriot Mule Corps, a staggering number and the highest of any British overseas possession. The monograph deals with why the corps was established and its successes and failures and in particular the lives of the men, their families and on the British colonial government and bureaucracy in the island, both during the life of the Cypriot Mule Corps and after it. It therefore grapples with issues ranging from running allotment schemes, to criminality in the Cypriot Mule Corps, to veterans issues.

His history of Cyprus during the Great War will not be a day by day account of what happened in the island, but an exploration of the role of the island during the Great War and how the conflict impacted upon Cypriot society and vice versa. Themes will include chapters on the three camps on the island during the war: the Mule Purchasing Commission; the Ottoman Prisoner of War Camp; and the Légion d’Orient. Themes of loyalty and disloyalty are at the core of this project, in addition to broader themes relating to the Cypriot contribution and how the Great War impacted upon Cypriot society.

An account of the founding and operations of the Légion d’Orient, formed in 1916 and disbanded in 1920, provides new insights into understanding the Armenian Genocide, Armenian aims for a safe and secure homeland, and the role of the British and French in trying to achieve this within their own imperial ambitions. The eventual French (and British) failure to achieve their promises to the Armenians when the Légion d’Orient was formed, comprises the cornerstone of this project.

This issue, the French and British failure to create a safe and secure homeland for Armenians from the former Ottoman Empire, forms the larger and longer term project, which deals with the clash of humanitarianism and imperialism and incorporates the role of the US.