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

Distant view of the Acropolis in Athens and surrounding landscapeA view of the Acropolis in Athens from the foot of Mt Anchesmus, now known as LykavitosIn the early 19th century Greece waged a war against the Ottoman Empire and emerged in 1833 as an independent nation-state. As European supporters sailed to Greece to help in the struggle, Lord Byron landed at Missolonghi, where his brief presence assisted the momentum of the cause in the early years of the war.

Later, at the Battle of Navarino in 1827, the allied British, French and Russian fleet defeated the combined Turkish and Egyptian forces, marking a decisive turning point in the conflict. In the aftermath of their victory, the three Great Powers negotiated the terms of Greek independence, defined its new borders and selected a new king.

Our exhibition paints a picture of 19th-century Greece from a distinctly British perspective. We showcase the works of British writers, travellers and artists who were captivated by Greece before, during and after the struggle for independence, and who dreamed, like Shelley, of ‘a brighter Hellas’.

King’s College London has a rich tradition of teaching and research in Modern Greek Studies which is continued today by the Centre for Hellenic Studies. The holdings of the Foyle Special Collections Library, built up over centuries by purchase, gift and bequest, are particularly rich in the history of Modern Greece.

In addition, the historical library collection of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCO), transferred to King’s on permanent loan in 2007, provides a wealth of resources on Modern Greek history; in the exhibition our exploration of the Ionian Islands under British administration is drawn largely from this collection. Our display concludes with a selection of remarkable mid-19th century views of southern Albania, areas now part of modern-day Greece, given to the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s.

All items in this exhibition are held in the Foyle Special Collections Library and, when not on display, are available for consultation there.

'Welcome to this exhibition! The texts and imageson view show how British writers, artists, travellers, even military volunteers saw Greece during the years when a young nation-state was being created upon the ruins of an ancient civilisation – a subject that has been taught and studied here at King’s for almost a century.'

Roderick Beaton, Koraes Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature

Exhibition curator: Stephanie Breen

PLEASE NOTE: This exhibition originally ran from 13 October - 17 December 2011 in the Weston Room of the Maughan Library, King’s College London, and is now available to view as an online exhibition only.

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