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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 3: The Social and Cultural Environment: Foundations for the Village’s Success?

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← 72 | 73 → CHAPTER 3

The Social and Cultural Environment: Foundations for the Village’s Success?

When the first wave of modern economic globalisation took place, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Tsamantas was very much on the periphery of both the Ottoman Empire and the world market, due to its inaccessibility. Despite this, the village became relatively prosperous from the 1900s until the start of the Second World War. Indeed, as we shall see in the next chapter, its inhabitants went so far as to embark upon what scholars refer to as proto-industrial specialisation, an early stage in the development of industry in a rural community. To facilitate understanding of the economic success of Tsamantas during this period, it might be helpful to consider the process of modernisation. Dean Tipps suggests that modernisation can be viewed as ‘a series of transitions from primitive, subsistence economies to technology-intensive, industrialised economies; from subject to participant political cultures; from closed, ascriptive status systems to open, achievement-oriented systems; from extended to nuclear kinship units; from religious to secular ideologies; and so on’ (1973: 204). It is apparent that most of these transitions were taking place in Tsamantas at the turn of the twentieth century. But how do we explain the evolution of these transitions? Can we ascribe it to something special about the village and its residents? And what role did culture, beliefs and traditions play in shaping individual behaviour? In order to answer these questions, we need to...

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