King's College London
Exhibitions & Conferences
‘A brighter Hellas’: rediscovering Greece in the 19th century

Notes and observations

Agricultural implementsPlate no. IIFollowing his studies in medicine at Edinburgh University, John Davy (1790-1868) entered the army as a surgeon and later became inspector-general of army hospitals.

His work involved periods of service abroad, and he published accounts of his experiences in Ceylon, the Ionian Islands, Malta, Constantinople and the West Indies, taking a particular interest in the local people. From 1824 to 1835 he served with the medical staff of the army in the Mediterranean.

Davy felt it his duty as a medical officer to communicate information he had gathered while working. In the first volume of the two-volume work on display, he explores the history of the Ionian Islands and gives an account of its geology and mineralogy, springs, earthquakes, climate, the qualities of the soil, and the state of agriculture and horticulture.

In regard to the latter, Davy notes:

The state of agriculture inthe Ionian Islands at present is little advanced; it is merely a rude art, founded on traditional knowledge, a series of processes handed down from father to son, unenlightened by methods of science.

In the second volume the author reports on government, arts, commerce, education, charitable institutions, diseases and quarantine, and the character of the people of the islands.

Olive press showing a man at work, corn mill and various other utensilsPlate no. IVPlate no. II above shows the agricultural implements in use on the islands including a plough (fig.1), hoes (figs.4-7) and reaping-hooks (figs.8-11) for cultivating corn, a broad hoe (fig.4) and spade (fig.16) used in the currant-plantations, and pruning-knives (figs.12, 13) used in the vineyards. Following the destruction of currant vineyards in the Peloponnese during the war, the cultivation of currants on the islands, particularly in Cephalonia, increased.

Plate no. IV includes an olive press (fig.1), a water-mill, ‘probably of great antiquity’, for grinding corn and other grain (fig.3),and common earthenware made of the grey clay of the islands (figs.10-13).

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