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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 8: Tsamantas from 1950 to 1981: Causes and Effects of Decline

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← 257 | 258 → CHAPTER 8

Tsamantas from 1950 to 1981: Causes and Effects of Decline

As Epirus licked its wounds in the wake of the civil war, the battered region – freed at last of the world’s attention – resumed its status as a remote, peripheral territory in the western European political system. With its back firmly turned on its communist neighbours to the north, it was looking to a brighter future. But the truth was that Epirus was shackled to the past: its inaccessibility, coupled with high levels of illiteracy and poverty, continued to impede growth, and there was little evidence of economic or social development. For most of its inhabitants, in villages scattered across the largely mountainous terrain, life continued to be one of ‘misery and squalor’.1

At the national level, however, the Greek economy had begun to recover, partly due to substantial aid provided by the United States: approximately $376 million, paid between 1948 and 1951 via the Marshall Plan. The government’s adoption of a policy of market and trade liberalisation also contributed to the recovery, since it encouraged foreign trade and began to attract much-needed investment, through tax incentives and concessions. As a consequence, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew at around 6% per annum in a ten-year period from 1951, one of the highest rates of growth amongst eleven national economies examined in a survey (Bowles, 1966: 1). However, the composition of the GDP started to change significantly from the start of...

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