From Battleground to Playground: The British in Corsica from the Mid-Nineteenth Century to the Eve of the Second World War
Date: 8 April 2019
University of Exeter
Doctor of Philosophy
British interest in Corsica began in the mid-eighteenth century. In the changes that occurred in the island from 1794 to 1939, the British played a marked role. British involvement in the island is still evident with the survival of the Anglican Church in the capital city, Ajaccio, the names -- Rue Miss Campbell, Bois des Anglais, ...
British interest in Corsica began in the mid-eighteenth century. In the changes that occurred in the island from 1794 to 1939, the British played a marked role. British involvement in the island is still evident with the survival of the Anglican Church in the capital city, Ajaccio, the names -- Rue Miss Campbell, Bois des Anglais, Cascade des Anglais-- and the monument to the British submarine, HMS Saracen, on Cupabia beach. The British came to the island as conquerors, sojourners, traveller-discoverers and permanent settlers, communities more usually associated with the formal or informal empire. This study investigates the nature, form and impact of these groups considering their motivation for going to Corsica, how far they were able to maintain and express a British national identity, their interaction with other communities, and their impact on the development of tourism, trade, industry and commerce. Britain’s political involvement in the island resulted in the Anglo-Corsican Kingdom of 1794-1796, and the legacy of that time was not forgotten. The perceived benefits of the island attracted a winter colony of sojourners in Ajaccio from the mid-nineteenth century. A few permanent settlers made investments in the economy, albeit with varying degrees of success; these investments gave an impetus to modernisation. Tourism received a stimulus towards the end of the nineteenth-century when traveller-discoverers came to follow their special interests in a place still seen to be unexplored. Then, in line with social and economic trends, tourism broadened its base and season. However, by the eve of the Second World War, the transition to mass tourism in the summer months was far from complete. The British involvement in Corsica led to a long-lasting and deep connection between the two countries seen today in the annual service in Westminster Abbey that commemorates the death in 1807 in London of the Corsican general Pascal Paoli. This thesis shows how this rapport was developed and sustained. In doing so, it illuminates an under-researched British presence on the periphery of Empire and contributes to the concept of networks of multiple British worlds. Specifically, what can be seen in Corsica, at a micro-level, is a British presence that was part of a wider British Mediterranean world that mirrored both the growth and waning of the British Empire.
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