British Period (1878 - 1960)
Britain's influence on Cyprus is unquestionable. Without doubt the British Empire brought the best of times to the island as well as the worst of times, leaving a legacy that is still very much in evidence today.
When Cyprus was ceded to the British in 1878 by the ruling Turks, more than 300 years of economic isolation and decline came to an end. Although not formally annexed by the British at this time, the island very quickly had its fortunes restored. British Rule stamped its authority on everything from the way law and order worked to the side of the road on which the up & coming 'automobile' would be driven. British rulers got the economic wheels of Cyprus turning again, bringing prosperity back to the ordinary Cypriot people.
Turkish ownership formally ended in Cyprus on their entry into World War I as a Central Power. This pitched them against the Allied Forces, of which Britain was a major player, and so Britain had little choice but to annex the island at this point. But for all Britain's good intentions in Cyprus the Cypriot populous was restless. Three centuries of Turkish rule had left its mark on Greek Cypriots especially; the fight for independence and unification with their motherland was already crystallised and in motion.
World events though were to overtake their struggles for freedom with the advent of World War II. All Cypriots were staunchly on the side of the Allied Forces during the War, even before the invasion of Greece by German Forces in 1940. After the War, the appetite for independence among the Greek Cypriots was greater than ever - and the fight became directly with the British in 1948 after Greek Cypriots rejected a new constitution on the grounds that it did not unite Cyprus with Greece.
1950 and 1955 saw Greek Cypriots formally ask the UN to recognise Cyprus as an independent country. Both times, the requests were rejected. A campaign of violence then ensued directed against the British 'occupation'. By 1958 Britain put forward plans for the division of Cyprus into Turkish and Greek areas. The plans were accepted by the Turks but rejected outright by the Greeks, sparking some of the worst violence in Cypriot history.
British Rule came to an end in 1960 when Britain, Greece and Turkey agreed to grant Cyprus independence under the proviso that all three countries assumed roles as guarantors of the island nation.