Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2003.04.01

Richard Clogg, A Concise History of Greece. Second edition.   Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2002.  Pp. xv, 275.  ISBN 0-521-00479-9.  $19.00 (pb)..  



Reviewed by Diana Wright, New School University (wrightd@newschool.edu)
Word count: 1132 words

Since its original publication in 1979, Clogg's A Short History of Modern Greece has been a basic textbook for courses on modern Greek history (still rare in the United States). In 1992, the name was changed from "short" to "concise" to signal rewriting and addition of supplementary material. This 2002 edition will be even more welcome to teachers, as it brings Greece up to 2000 and the 17 November terrorist group, the conflict over religion on identity cards and minority rights, and the Macedonian crisis. To cover a certain degree of niggling, particularly in the latter half of this review, I want to say that I will have my students buy and use this edition.

The book has 56 plates dispersed throughout the text, many of them unfamiliar to specialists in Greek history, with extensive discussion of ideas raised by the images. Ten maps show major cities and Greek communities, population changes, the pattern of refugee settlement between the wars, the Aegean dispute, and electoral and administrative districts. Other resources include a bibliography; a family tree for the Greek royal family; a list of presidents; 6 population tables showing distribution, growth, religious affiliation, and language; electoral results for 1952-2000; a chart showing relationships among political parties; and 7 pages of key dates. Finally, there are 20 pages of useful biographies of leading Greeks since the Epanastasis, all political except for Alexandros Papadiamantis and Georgios Papanikolaou. Makriyannis and Georgios Seferis might have been included, had the page and photograph elsewhere for the Prince of Wales -- surely irrelevant to Greek history -- been omitted.

The publishers' blurb unnecessarily calls this a "wholly new account": a brief comparison showed that -- for one example -- Chapter 2 repeats much of the information and phrasing of the original Chapter 2 from 1979. The publishers several times emphasize "concise": the book is extremely concise and often frustratingly so, especially with the lack of footnotes or indication as to where in the bibliography one might usefully go to follow up a particular topic. This puts the responsibility on the instructor, but there will be many readers without such access.

That said, the book is a vigorous, well-written, somewhat opinionated and occasionally humorous view of Greek history since 1770, remarkable in the amount of information and context it provides. The degree of conciseness makes it difficult to summarize. An example of Clogg's presentation of issues is seen in his solid discussion of major 18th-century shifts affecting the nature of Greek society, which together made possible the movement to independence: (1) the Ottoman military decline and loss of territory over the century, and its failure to adapt to technological challenges; (2) pressure from the Russians, who after the war of 1768-84 claimed a protectorate over the Orthodox Christians of the empire; (3) anarchy within the empire from janissary indiscipline and the emergence of provincial leaders who increasingly demonstrated independence; (4) the rise to power within the empire of a small group of Phanariot Greeks; and (5), perhaps of greatest significance, the emergence of a widely-dispersed entrepreneurial class whose travels allowed them to see other forms of government and whose profits financed local public works and education. This provides a background for understanding the conflicts among the various Greek participants in the Epanastasis, and for the intra-Greek conflicts ever since.

Clogg thoughtfully tracks post-independence the abusive results of the Greek penchant for a patronage system, and observes that "patronage had originally developed as a kind of defense mechanism against the harshness, and particularly the arbitrariness, of the Ottoman system of government." Patronage certainly served that purpose, but a people who even now respect the Homeric guest-host relationship, who then had had 1500 years of experience with saints, and whose provincial patronage structures worked though the whole history of Byzantium to the detriment of the government in Constantinople, cannot be said to have developed patronage originally against the Ottomans.1

The analytical strengths of the book are less in evidence in the chapter on Greece in the 1990s, perhaps a sign of the importance of perspective. To my mind, Clogg somewhat glosses over disturbing elements of recent Greek history, such as the culture that acquiesced in long tolerance of the November 17 group, with the apparent parallel increase in right-wing activity as seen in the pro-Milosevic and anti-Macedonian policies of the last decade.

It is because Clogg is so very good at conveying the flow and issues of Greek history, and because the book is so concise, that the problems become so irritating. One such is the duplication of information between the picture commentaries and the text, such as that for Plate 42 and on page 125; or the three mentions of the "fair-haired race" of Russians, or the three references to "strong-willed" Queen Frederica, which chew up space that could have transmitted a little bit more information.

There are no women in the Biographies, while nearly all of those I found in the Index appear on a scale of feminine behavior finely-calibrated in relation to marriage, motherhood and docility: Elisabeth of Romania, Queen Olga, Margaret Papandreou; "autocratic," "strong-willed" Queen Amalia; the "hugely rich Helena Schilizzi," "German-born and strong-willed" Queen Frederica -- but possibly Clogg was influenced by the Homeric tradition of epithets. Olga, for one, though, had more significance than being the wife of a king: she sponsored the first translation of the New Testament in demotic Greek, an event which caused public demonstrations and brought down the government.

The marriage paradigm is emphasized by photos of Alexandra Benaki's engagement, and the weddings of Eleni Zarifi and Anna Marcellas. There are four exceptions: Melpomene Papaheliou (called "Thyella" in the Resistance) is photographed with a gun; Merlina Mercouri is mentioned for her crusade to regain the Elgin marbles; Aleka Papariga is cited as the first woman to be a party leader in Greece; the Duchesse de Plaisance shows up in a discussion of architecture. Bouboulina may be completely off the femininity chart but I expected a mention of Helen Vlachos, publisher of the daily newspaper Kathimerini or Lady Amalia Fleming (both strong-willed) for their opposition to the junta, especially when there was room to mention Lady Diana Spencer (again, for marriage).

The Index is somewhat inconsistent as to what is listed, and how (of Andreas Papandreou's wives, Liani gets more words of text than Margaret, though only Margaret is in the index: the page numbers for quite a few entries (such as Queen Sophia, 210, 212; Philhellenes, 37) are incorrect. Cambridge can do better.

I look forward to the next edition of this book when Professor Clogg will have had a chance to reflect on the conclusion and meaning of the November 17 affair, the inflationary effects of the Euro, and the significance of the 2004 Olympics for the Greek economy and self-perceptions.2


Notes:


1.   Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, ed. Alexander P. Kazhdan. New York, 1991. Vol. 3, articles on "Patrocinium Vicorum," p. 1610 & "Patronage, Social" p. 1611.
2.   Professor Clogg writes extensively on non-mainstream issues in Greek history. Recent publications are Anglo-Greek Attitudes (2000) and The Greek Diaspora (1999), both published by St. Antony's College, Oxford; Ottoman Greeks in the Age of Nationalism, (Princeton, 1999); and Anatolia: Studies in the Greek East in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, (Variorum, 1996).

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