Book of the month

20 Jul 2023

R. Hamilton Lang, Cyprus: its history, its present resources, and future prospects, Macmillan and Co., 1878.

“The island is thought to have received its name “Cyprus” from a shrub extensively found in it, and which is called in Greek Κύπρος, in Hebrew Gopher, and in Latin Cyprus.”

Sir Robert Hamilton Lang (1832-1913) was a Scottish banker, diplomat, antiquarian and author. He served as Consul of Cyprus, manager of the Imperial Ottoman Bank in Larnaca and later as a director of the Imperial Ottoman Bank at its headquarters in Constantinople.

When Cyprus was occupied by England in 1878, Lang was no longer living on the island, but he observed Cyprus's emergence on the international stage. Recognizing that there would be a growing demand for information about the island, Lang utilized his extensive residence in Cyprus from 1861 to 1972, which provided him with exceptional insights, notes, experiences, and memories. Additionally, his position allowed him to travel extensively to various regions of the island every spring: “Every year we went over new ground as much as possible and so came to know the island from end to end”, which enabled him to gain a deep understanding of Cyprus, its inhabitants, its wealth-producing resources, and its social conditions. Through his travels, he became an authority on the subject, accumulating a wealth of knowledge about the island's diverse landscapes, cultural traditions, economic activities, and the daily lives of its people. This rich knowledge and expertise led him to publish the highly captivating and valuable work "Cyprus: Its History, Its Present Resources, and Future Prospects" in London in 1878.

In this remarkable publication, he meticulously documented Cyprus's historical background, tracing its roots back to ancient civilizations, suggesting that Cyprus had a civilized population prior to Greek or Phoenician colonization “The origin of the earliest inhabitants of Cyprus is a question of considerable difficulty […]. He described the island's geographical features, from its stunning coastlines to its rugged mountain ranges, highlighting the unique beauty of each region.

Moreover, he emphasizes the agricultural potential of Cyprus, shedding light on its significant capabilities and the potential to transform it into a highly productive region through improved farming systems. Lang, personally conducted farming experiments and achieved satisfactory results, which added immense value for prospective settlers. Further, the chapters on archaeology, rock tombs, and their contents are deemed particularly intriguing. “The great majority of the tombs were cut out of limestone rock on the sides of hills or upon gentle eminences.” Lastly, Lang expresses optimism about the outcome of Cyprus becoming a dependency, suggesting that the political and socio-economic situation of Cyprus at the time, could only be benefited positively by changes resulting from the island's dependency status.

Overall, "Cyprus: its history, its present resources, and future prospects" became an invaluable resource for scholars, and individuals interested in Cyprus. Its comprehensive coverage of various aspects of the island's life made it an enduring contribution to the understanding of Cyprus's past, present, and potential future.

You can find this book, and many more, in the Research Centre of the CVAR.

The 'Book Of The Month' series is made possible with the support of OPAP (Cyprus).

Discover More