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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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Chapter 1: The Physical Environment and its Impact on the History of Tsamantas

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The Physical Environment and its Impact on the History of Tsamantas

The village of Tsamantas is situated in the Greek region of Epirus, which occupies the north-west corner of the Greek mainland. Despite having road access southwards to the Peloponnese and Athens, Epirus is relatively isolated: to the east, the rugged and near-impassable Pindus mountain range separates it from the regions of Thessaly and Macedonia; to the west it is bounded by the Ionian Sea; to the north lies problematic, post-communist Albania. Epirus is divided into four prefectures – Arta, Ioannina, Preveza and Thesprotia – and Tsamantas lies within the latter, in one of its most remote localities (see Figure 1). A local historian from nearby Povla (officially known as Ambelonas) wrote of his surprise when, as a child, he climbed a peak and saw the village for the first time, nestling in its valley; though aware of its status as the head village locally, he had no idea that it was such an extensive community, significantly larger than his own (Koundouros, 1990). For centuries, before the construction of roads in the area, the Tsamantas’s communication routes were limited to paths that led to neighbouring communities, such as Povla, Vavouri, Lias, and Lesinitsa (the Greek name for Leshnicë, just across the border in Albania).1 There was also a path through the narrow valley of the River Kalpakiotikos to the market town of Filiates. The local historian Nikolaos Nitsos tells us that it took...

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