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West of Suez: Britain and the Mediterranean, 1704-1967
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West of Suez: Britain and the Mediterranean, 1704-1967

A British policeman and his Spanish counterpart at the frontier in Gibraltar, with the Rock of Gibraltar in the backgroundA British policeman and his Spanish counterpart at the frontier in Gibraltar, with the Rock of Gibraltar in the backgroundThis online exhibition examines the history of British involvement in the Mediterranean, a strategically important region that provided the former British Empire with bases and territories to consolidate and further its military and trading objectives.

From its first territorial acquisition, that of Gibraltar in 1704, until the disbandment of the Mediterranean Fleet in 1967, Great Britain obtained a chain of territories stretching from the Pillars of Hercules, at the entrance to the Straits of Gibraltar, to Port Said, at the northern end of the Suez Canal. As the British Empire in the regions east of Suez declined, so did her power and influence on the islands and shores of the Mediterranean.

Each section of the online exhibition deals with a different geographical location as they follow the sea first eastwards from Gibraltar to the Levant, and then back westwards along the North African coast. Through themes such as diplomacy, government, cultural exploration and migration, the exhibition explores how the significant British presence in the region helped to shape its history.

Most exhibits are drawn from the holdings of the Foyle Special Collections Library, particularly from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Historical Collection, transferred to King’s College London in 2007. This collection provides a wealth of material on former British colonies and protectorates in the region, on the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar and on Cyprus, where Britain retains military bases.

In the final section we also show images from items in King’s College London Archives’ Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, which cast light on 20th century conflict in the Mediterranean.

We are grateful for the support and advice of Professor Roderick Beaton, Koraes Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature at King’s, and Professor Robert Holland, Visiting Professor in the Centre for Hellenic Studies at King’s.

Exhibition curators: Lavinia Griffiths and Adam Ray.

Please note: this exhibition originally ran from 25 January to 7 May 2016 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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