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From «Pax Ottomanica» to «Pax Europaea»

The growth and decline of a Greek village’s micro-economy

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Dimitrios Konstadakopulos

The macroeconomic development of south-eastern Europe has been profoundly affected not only by the region’s major historical events – for example, liberation from the Ottoman Empire, the outbreak of civil wars, and the birth of new nations – but also by global events, such as the world-wide conflicts of the twentieth century, and the recent transnational processes of globalisation and European integration. The rationale of this book is to employ a comprehensive micro-history – that is, the history of one particular community: in this case, the village of Tsamantas, in north-western Greece – as a means of providing a detailed picture that will permit extrapolation to a wider context. Situated in one of the most isolated parts of the region of Epirus, Tsamantas has a complex history and a rich folk culture. At times, it has been a textbook example of how decision-making within a community can impact upon the success of the local economy. Its inhabitants have been rational problem-solvers, with a sense of what is in their family’s best interests, rather than passive victims of circumstance, and their choices at critical points in the village’s history have resulted either in growth or decline. The author focuses his groundbreaking analysis on these choices, drawing upon publications, archived materials, and illuminating oral accounts of local events.
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This book is the history of the recent past of the village of Tsamantas, a mountain community in the region of Epirus in north-western Greece. It was written with the belief that the analysis of one village contains implications that could enable us to obtain a new understanding of the economic, political and social transformation of south-eastern Europe during the last hundred years.

I visited Tsamantas for the first time during the summer of 2000, one year after the death of my mother Spyridoula. I stayed in the stone house, which my mother had just rebuilt out of the ruins of her ancestral home – burnt down by the Nazis in April 1944. The village was the birthplace of my mother and my maternal grandparents Nikolaos and Paraskevi Vezdrevanis. In 1938, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, my grandfather, an itinerant tinker, took his wife and his three young daughters to live in the faraway city of Patras in the Peloponnese. I was born and grew up in Patras in the early 1950s, but since I was a child I felt a sense of belonging and affinity for Tsamantas, listening to the tales and stories (such as that of St George’s votive lamp) told by my grandparents sitting around the small charcoal fire during cold winter nights in Patras. When I visited for the first time this place of my imagined childhood, I was amazed by the village’s extraordinary beautiful landscape, rich culture and...

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