Online Encyclopedia

GEORGE FINLAY (1799-1875)

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V10, Page 387 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
GEORGE FINLAY (1799-1875), British historian, was born of Scottish parents at Faversham, Kent, on the 21st of December 1799. He studied for the law in Glasgow, and about 1821 went to Gottingen. He had already begun to feel a deep interest in the Greek struggle for independence, and in 1823 he resolved to visit the country. In November he arrived in Cephalonia, where he was kindly received by Lord Byron. Shortly afterwards he landed at Pyrgos, and during the next fourteen months he improved his knowledge of the language, history and antiquities of the country. Though he formed an unfavourable opinion of the Greek leaders, both civil and military, he by no means lost his enthusiasm for their cause. A severe attack of fever, however, combined with other circumstances, induced him to spend the winter of 1824-1825 and the spring of 1825 in Rome, Naples and Sicily. He then returned to Scotland, and, after spending a summer at Castle Toward, Argyllshire, went to Edinburgh, where he passed his examination in civil law at the university, with a view to being called to the Scottish bar. His enthusiasm, however, carried him back to Greece, where he resided almost uninterruptedly till his death. He took part in the unsuccessful operations of Lord Cochrane and Sir Richard Church for the relief of Athens in 1827. When independence had been secured in 1829 he bought a landed estate in Attica, but all his efforts for the introduction of a better system of agriculture ended in failure, and he devoted himself to the literary work which occupied the rest of his life. His first publications were The Hellenic Kingdom and the Greek Nation (1836); Essai sur les principes de banque appliques a l'etat actuel de la Grece (Athens, 1836); and Remarks on the Topography of Oropia and Diacria, with a map (Athens, 1838). The first instalment of his great historical work appeared in 1844 (2nd ed., 1857) under the title Greece under the Romans; a Historical View of the Condition of the Greek Nation from the time of its Conquest by the Romans until the Extinction of the Roman Empire in the East. Meanwhile he had been qualifying himself still further by travel as well as by reading; he undertook several tours to various quarters of the Levant; and as the result of one of them he published a volume On the Site of the Holy Sepulchre; with a plan of Jerusalem (1847). The History of the Byzantine and Greek Empires from 716-1453 was completed in 1854. It was speedily followed by the History of Greece under the Ottoman and Venetian Domination (1856), and by the History of the Greek Revolution (186'1). In weak health, and conscious of failing energy, he spent his last years in revising his history. From 1864 to 187o he was also correspondent of The Times newspaper, his letters to which attracted considerable attention, and, appearing in the Greek newspapers, exercised a distinct influence on Greek politics. He was a member of several learned societies; and in 1854 he received from the university of Edinburgh the honorary degree of LL.D. He died at Athens on the 26th of January 1875. A new edition of his History, edited by the Rev. H. F. Tozer, was issued by the Oxford Clarendon press in 1877. It includes a brief but extremely interesting fragment of an autobiography of the author, almost the only authority for his life. As an historian, Finlay had the merit of entering upon a field of research that had been neglected by English writers, Gibbon alone being a partial exception. As a student, he was laborious; as a scholar he was accurate; as a thinker, he was both acute and profound; and in all that he wrote he was unswerving in his loyalty to the principles of constitutional government and to the cause of liberty and justice.
End of Article: GEORGE FINLAY (1799-1875)
[back]
FINLAND (Finnish, Suomi or Suomenmaa)
[next]
FINN MAC COOL (in Irish FIND MAC CUMAILL)

Additional information and Comments

About George Finlay. His "History of the Greek Revolution" andc its sequel of the reign of King Otho was re published by Zeno of London in 1971 and this masterly work dove tails with other observers English and Greek such as Fotis Chrysanthopoulos. Of interest is his revelation of the presence of another philhellene Frank Abney Hastings a young out of work naval officer who died at Anatolicon in central Greece in the last stages of the revolt. Hastings innovated modern naval warfare by transforming a paddle steamer which he called "Karteris" ( Perseverance) with cannon and firing hot shot into the Egyptian ships of Ibrahim Pasha which had entered the war and which had practically smashed the revolt. In fear of this strange new craft Ibrahim's navy re positioned itself in a safe haven at Navarino where it met a disaastrous end at the hands of he combined English,French and Russian fleets.Navarino bottled up Ibrahim's ships denying the fleet from mobility on the open sea to its strategic detriment Hasting's contribution was to have caused the Egyptians to make the fatal move into land locked position so as to make it a sitting duck. It was the first application of the new technology of steam powered vessels in war and the bewildered Egyptian navy personnel were attacked by a craft that needed no winds or tides to carry it in and out of range to fire its deadly shot at their sails and hulls. Finlay's affection for Hastings is one of the most touching parts of the history as he recounts the obstacles and the dispointments Hastings experienced and pays tribute to this otherwise unremembered hero who gave his life for a foreign cause that in context was in fact a universal cause of every hero. A fight for fellow man.
About George Finlay. His "History of the Greek Revolution" andc its sequel of the reign of King Otho was re published by Zeno of London in 1971 and this masterly work dove tails with other observers English and Greek such as Fotis Chrysanthopoulos. Of interest is his revelation of the presence of another philhellene Frank Abney Hastings a young out of work naval officer who died at Anatolicon in central Greece in the last stages of the revolt. Hastings innovated modern naval warfare by transforming a paddle steamer which he called "Karteris" ( Perseverance) with cannon and firing hot shot into the Egyptian ships of Ibrahim Pasha which had entered the war and which had practically smashed the revolt. In fear of this strange new craft Ibrahim's navy re positioned itself in a safe haven at Navarino where it met a disaastrous end at the hands of he combined English,French and Russian fleets.Navarino bottled up Ibrahim's ships denying the fleet from mobility on the open sea to its strategic detriment Hasting's contribution was to have caused the Egyptians to make the fatal move into land locked position so as to make it a sitting duck. It was the first application of the new technology of steam powered vessels in war and the bewildered Egyptian navy personnel were attacked by a craft that needed no winds or tides to carry it in and out of range to fire its deadly shot at their sails and hulls. Finlay's affection for Hastings is one of the most touching parts of the history as he recounts the obstacles and the dispointments Hastings experienced and pays tribute to this otherwise unremembered hero who gave his life for a foreign cause that in context was in fact a universal cause of every hero. A fight for fellow man.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.