January Books 16) Geschiedenis van Cyprus, by Alain Blondy

This is a Dutch translation of Blondy’s short (120-page) 1996 history of Cyprus in the Que sais-je? series. Its most interesting feature is that, where most books on Cyprus start the clock in 1974 (or if you are lucky 1963 or even 1960), Blondy fits the first thirty-five years of independence into the last seven pages. The narrative is therefore a bit rushed. We start off in prehistory, then Greeks, Assyrians, Egyptians and Arabs rule in turn, and by page 40 we have reached Richard the Lion Heart. The next 35 pages are about the 300 years of francophone rule mainly by the de Lusignans; in contrast, 80 years of rule by Venice are disposed of in four pages (mostly about fortifying Nicosia), and the next 30 pages cover 400 years under both the Ottomans and the British; which is an interesting insight into what gets put in and what gets left out if a professor from the Sorbonne writes your history. Frankly (and I choose that word very carefully) the most interesting thing about the de Lusignans was that they and their government spoke French.

Blondy’s real interest is in Malta under the rule of the Knights, as you can tell from the enthusiasm with which he mentions them here when he can. He tends otherwise to concentrate on the standard Greek Cypriot version of the island’s history, which made my revisionist hackles rise: quite apart from the Turks, what happened to the Latins who were so powerful under the Lusignans and Venetians? When do we first see a permanent Islamic presence on the island? What difference did the Suez Canal make? None of these questions is asked, let alone answered.

I shouldn’t be too harsh: one can’t expect too much from books in the Que sais-je? series. There were lots of facts here I hadn’t known (eg that Cyprus was the birthplace of the philosopher Zeno and Paul’s disciple Barnabas). I didn’t catch any actual errors of fact other than omission. And I haven’t seen any history of Cyprus of this short length covering such a long time period. But I couldn’t really recommend this as more than a starting point for French (or Dutch) readers.

1 thought on “January Books 16) Geschiedenis van Cyprus, by Alain Blondy

Comments are closed.