In progress: A study of the Greeks

Professor Richard Clogg, noted historian of modern Greece and a Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford, is in Athens, combing local archives for material to illustrate a new book. He talked to Kathimerini English Edition about how he came to work on modern Greek history, why he has chosen to broaden the focus for his next work, and the pleasures of delving in photographic archives. It was traveling to Greece as a student in the early 1960s that kindled Clogg’s interest in the modern history of the country: «When I first came here,» he says, «I looked at all the standard archaeological sites, but then I realized that this country had an interesting modern history in its own right, and became interested in learning more about this.» Then, as now, Greek studies abroad were heavily slanted in favor of ancient and sometimes Byzantine history. Clogg was to become one of the few scholars who, as he puts it, «have tried to redress the balance somewhat and shift the focus to the study of more recent Greece.» But, this, he says, is an uphill task: «There is such a long-established tradition in Britain, at least, and in other countries, of classical studies and Byzantine studies. There are many more jobs in these fields, many more resources devoted to them, many more books on ancient and Byzantine Greece in British libraries than there would be on modern Greece. But slowly things are changing, and there are now a number of younger scholars in Britain who are writing some excellent books about recent Greek history.» Equal measure Having already written two short histories of Greece, «A Short History of Modern Greece» and «A Concise History of Modern Greece» (Cambridge), Clogg is casting his net wider for his current project. «As I’ve studied Greek history over the years,» he explains, «it’s been borne in on me that to focus narrowly, as we historians – and I myself – have done on the history of the Greek State is to give rather a distorted view of Greek history, because until very recently Greece was a country that exported people, exported migrants. It’s only in very recent years that there’s been immigration into Greece – more or less a phenomenon of the last 20 years, if one excepts the great influx in the 1920s. But that wasn’t immigration, it was a forced exchange of populations. And given that emigration has played such an important part in the history of the Greek people, I think that one should give the history of Greek communities overseas equal measure with the history of the Greek State.» The new book, he says, will be «an attempt to link the history of the Greek State, the way in which it emerged from three or four centuries of Ottoman rule, with the history of the Greeks who remained under Ottoman rule even after Greece became independent in the early 1830s. I try and link the history of the Greek State with the history of what the Greeks call ‘I kath imas Anatoli’ – ‘our East, the Greek East.’ And there’ll be a third dimension to the story, which is the history of the Greek Diaspora proper. I define the Diaspora as the Greeks who have migrated outside the confines of the Greek State, outside the confines of the Greek East: the US obviously, Canada, Australia, Africa, many parts of Africa, and Latin America.» The joys of research Readers of Clogg’s many previous works will be pleased to know that he plans to continue his practice of including lavish visual material in his next book. This is what brought him to Athens this time as a visiting fellow at the British School. «What I am doing here, and this is a very important part of the book, is looking for illustrations. This is something one can’t really find outside Greece. And I’m having a very enjoyable time going through photographic archives looking for photographs to illustrate this book. I think a good photograph with an appropriate caption can tell you a great deal, and gives a sort of flavor of life in Greece and the communities of the Diaspora to someone who may not know very much about Greece.» Such material is not always readily found. «It’s scattered and not very easy sometimes to track down. Authors often rely on picture researchers to carry out the research for them and to find suitable illustrations. I prefer to do this research myself, because I can hopefully pick out the pictures that really do tell a story and which are very graphic and interesting in themselves. So it does mean accessing a number of different archives scattered in various parts particularly of Athens. But it’s very enjoyable. I can think of few more enjoyable ways of spending time than looking at old photographs.» Local developments From his vantage point as a foreign scholar, who has written numerous books on Greece and the Balkans, Clogg appreciates the great strides made in modern Greek historiography. For example, he says: «A book of this kind would have been virtually impossible to contemplate 30 years, 35 years ago, when I started to work in the field of Greek history. There would not have been this great array of first-rate secondary material that is now available in Greece. The development of Greek historiography over the last 25-30 years, more or less since the downfall of the colonels’ dictatorship in 1974, has been truly remarkable. Every time I come here I come across interesting and exciting new books.» Clogg’s research work has inevitably taken him to the National Library in Athens, a place which poses something of a challenge to scholars. He has some suggestions for rectifying its shortcomings: «The National Library has been under-resourced for many years. It has very rich holdings, but it’s not easy to get hold of them. I myself and many other people would like to see the Greek State give greater priority to redressing the situation. This would be a very good time to contemplate either restructuring the existing library or perhaps creating a completely new library. All the exciting developments in information technology in recent years would make this a very appropriate time to start building up a proper bibliographical database. It would be very good to have a modern, technologically up-to-date National Library where you could be pretty sure of finding any book that has been published in Greek.»

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