Environment, economy and landscape in early modern Cyprus

Whitting Room - Arts Building (Room 436)
Thursday 17 January (17:15) - Sunday 17 February 2019 (18:30)

The Centre’s General Seminar normally meets in the Whitting Room (436), 4th floor, Arts Building on Thursdays at 5.15pm (unless otherwise stated) and is open to all interested in the related concerns of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies.

  • Speaker: Dr Antonis Hadjikyriacou, Bogazici University (Istanbul)
  • A seminar in the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies 2018/19 seminar series. 

The economy of early modern Cyprus was characterised by water-intensive agriculture. By the seventeenth century, sugarcane plantations of the Venetian period (which ended in 1571) gradually gave way to Ottoman-era cotton fields. As a result, the cotton plant became the most lucrative and prolific cash crop of the island. This shift lasted well into the nineteenth century. Yet, the contemporary observer of the ecology, geography, landscape and climate of Cyprus would be incredulous to the possibility of an economy based on export-oriented thirsty crops. The paper constitutes an attempt to address the role of the environment, economy and landscape in early modern Cyprus in order to resolve the conundrum of the semi-arid conditions with the possibility of an export-oriented, water intensive economy.

The paper synthesizes varied Ottoman and European written sources, cartographic material, local chronicles, and archaeological surveys, while at the same employs Historical Geographic Information Systems (HGIS) methods. Following Faruk Tabak, it situates the island in the era of the ‘Mediterranean autumn’, and examines the reflection of large-scale, longue durée processes in the economy, climate, or production that coincided with the transition from Venetian to Ottoman rule. It locates human agency in the management of water resources not simply as a hierarchical application of imperial state policies, but also as a horizontal phenomenon involving non-state actors in creating the conditions that facilitated the irrigation of these crops, not only at the degree of making them sustainable, but also cultivating them for the purposes of export-oriented agriculture.