The Historical Journal


Great Britain and Greater Greece 1917–1920

Erik Goldsteina1

a1 University of Birmingham

The First World War saw the collapse of the old order in the Eastern Mediterranean with the disintegration of the Ottoman empire, an event which threatened to create a dangerous power vacuum. Great Britain for the pastcentury had attempted to prevent just such a crisis by supporting the maintenance of the territorial integrity of the Ottoman state. Britain had a number of crucial strategic concerns in the Eastern Mediterranean, in particular the Suez Canal and the Straits. The former was the more critical interest and Britain was determined to keep this essential link to its Indian empire firmly under its own control. As to the Straits Britain, which was concerned about over-extending its strategic capabilities, was content to see this critical waterway dominated by a friendly state. The question inevitably arose therefore as to what would replace the Ottoman empire. One alternative was Greece, a possibility which became increasingly attractive with the emergence of the supposedly pro-British Eleftherios Venizelos as the Greek leader in early 1917.