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Tourism and Informal Empire in the Mediterranean: The British and Mallorca, 1919-1973

Abstract

The British were always prominent, though seldom predominant, in the development of Mediterranean island tourism from the nineteenth century onwards. Their imperial interests led them to occupy and garrison several islands, from Menorca and Malta to Corfu and Cyprus, building relationships which inflected the subsequent negotiations between international tourism and post-imperial identity. There is a rich field for research here; but, always within that broader context, this paper focuses on the role of the British and their empire in the rise of Mallorca as tourist destination and place of expatriate residence, alongside Catalans, Spaniards, French, Germans and other northern Europeans, and North Americans, to proffer a far from exhaustive list. Mallorca became an attractive stopping-off point for travellers to and from various distant points of Empire via the Suez Canal, including Indian civil servants and army officers. From quite early in the twentieth century it developed an expatriate community, an interesting mixture of bohemians and Colonel Blimps, attracted by a cheap cost of living (especially wines, spirits and domestic service), a distinctive kind of scenic beauty, and a local population who could be assimilated into British ideas of racial superiority while remaining recognisably European and not appearing dangerously 'other'. Meanwhile, a British tourist
trade developed in the inter-war years, interacting with the resident community in complex ways. These relationships were interrupted by the Spanish Civil War, and resumed from the 1940s onwards in new times, as the older British culture had to come to terms with the loss of Empire and the rise of the so-called 'Balearic model' of 'mass tourism'. The paper interrogates these developments between the 1920s and
the 1960s through the discursive constructions of guide-books, travel writing, memoirs and the English language press, paying due heed to the wider Mediterranean context and to the relationships between the British and other tourist and expatriate communities and interests.

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