HIST 385

Is this the center of the world? Modern Greece: From Revolutionary Visions to the European Crisis

Major Discipline(s):
Spring Semester

In 1935 the American ambassador to Greece remarked that developments in this peripheral European country forecast global trends and transformations. Eighty years later, amidst an unprecedented financial and social turmoil, Greece seemed to foretell the crisis and reshaping of the European project. The understanding of Greece as a laboratory of the future blended with ideas of national exceptionalism, perceptions of classical times, and links between contemporary events and the country’s recent troubled past. It was indeed the history of Modern Greece that reaffirmed such notions: the Greek War of Independence (1821) underscored the downfall of the multiethnic Ottoman Empire, the Greek Civil War (1946-1949) proved to be pivotal in the unfolding of the Cold War division, the Greek transition to Democracy (1974) preceded the end of authoritarian regimes across the global south.

Is Greece a unique case in Modern History?

The course explores and challenges this question by providing an overview of Modern Greek history spanning from the revolutionary visions of the 19th century until the contemporary crisis of the common European project. Leaving aside theories of national exceptionalism it aims to position Modern Greek history within the broader international context and to discuss Greece as a thought-provoking paradigm of a country encompassing a number of challenges spanning from the tension between the ancient past and the quest for a modern state to the recurring theme of being on the margin between the West and the East. The overall aim is to provide students with firm background knowledge that will allow them to understand contemporary Greek society and rethink on how we conceptualize social, political and cultural transformations in any given national/international setting.

Therefore the course illustrates the links and intersections between Greek, Balkan, European and Global history. This viewpoint will enhance theoretical discussion and debate on the nature and content of transnational history and historiography, the contributions and limitations of dependence and center/periphery theories, and the role of historical experience and knowledge in the shaping of our collective perception of the world and the shaping of political imagination in the 21st century. In this context, the history of Modern Greece will become an example of how we perceive history in general and the impact of this perception in framing our response to present and future challenges. This last aim is further explored in a series of historical tours in the city of Athens and discussing the multiple ways diverse historical legacies and memories intersect with the contemporary urban social and spatial fabric.


CYA Class Explores Kaisariani - read the story on our blog