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George N Leontsinis

The Island of Kythera. A Social History. (1700-1863). Preface and Acknowledgments.

National and Capostrian University of Athens
Faculty of Arts
S. Saripolos' Library

A thesis submitted for the degree of
in the School of Modern Languages and European History
at the University of East Anglia, Norfolk, England.
August, 1981.


The purpose of this study is to examine the social history of the island of Kythera from the beginning of the eighteenth century to 1863.

Particular attention will be given to the relationship between social change on the island and foreign domination and to such factors as revo­lutionary behavior, rural rioting, emigration, population growth, econ­omy, education and welfare.
Some may consider the year 1700, the starting point of this study, somewhat arbitrary, but as the eighteenth century has seen the decline of European aristocracy and the displacement of the middle and the land­less peasants, this year was chosen both for convenience and mostly to mark the beginning of an era of social transformation; politics and ideas, besides uncertainty and the awakening consciousness of miserable living conditions, moved the common people of a small island in Western Greece towards a change in the pattern of their society.

While in its broadest outline, this work is placed within a chronolog­ical framework, the subject lends itself more readily to a topical treat­ment. Then, too, it is the writer’s conviction that historical processes do not take place in a fragmented socio-political framework, but in a milieu of dynamic, often conflicting, human aspirations where social, political and economic forces are interdependent. Consequently, the vital areas of demographic change and consolidation, economic and political devel­opment, social evolution, and the rise of educational institutions will be treated not only as self- contained units possessing significant and intrin­sic characteristics, but as integral parts in the evolutionary process of Kytherean society.

The first chapter is an introductory one giving an account of the geographical position and the chronological frame of successive foreign dominations and providing an analysis of the constituent groups of Kytherean society according to the position they occupy in the land tenure and the social division of labour.

Part one which starts with the second chapter examines in broad outline the establishment of the ancien régime during the period of Vene­tian domination, with particular emphasis on the last century of its development. This part also examines the background, origin, evolution and the political and social conditions imposed on the Kythereans by successive Venetian regimes. The object of this chapter is to present a general outline of the inner workings of Venetian governmental institu­tions and their relationships with the island’s political leadership.

The third chapter deals with the revolutionary activity of the lower classes (1780- 1817) — a series of uprisings by the burgesses and peasants
from the last quarter of the eighteenth century to the imposition by the British of the 1817 Constitution. It concludes with a discussion of the results of the changes that came about after these revolts and a survey of the political aftermath of this revolutionary period.

The object of the last two chapters of part one, then, is to focus attention on the ethos of the foreign rulers and of the local population insofar as the interaction of different cultural traditions effected funda­mental social change in the island.

Consequently, three interrelated themes are analysed for illustrative purposes. The first defines the salient features of the ancien régime; the second is concerned with the ancien régime’s essential characteristics, its decline, and revolutionary activity; while the third delves into the political aftermath of the uprisings against foreign domination.

These themes are alternating phases of one and the same political process. They display reciprocity and mutual interaction, so that they cannot be treated as self-contained, isolated subjects, but, rather, the essence of the period under examination.

Part two consists of six chapters dealing severally with certain sub­jects of basic importance to the evolution of Kytherean society. That is to say, they study the functioning of certain structural elements of Kytherean society as it developed with the passage of time. Some ele­ments were discarded, others altered; and some new elements connected politically with four successive foreign occupations were introduced, especially, those connected with the British Protectorate, since this was the longest and because it had an opportunity to adapt itself to the new political and social situation that came in the wake of a transitional peri­od of continuous rebellion by the lower classes against the nobles.

This part also examines the decisive role played by the régime of the
British Protectorate. Following the struggle for supremacy in the Eastern Mediterranean between the Great Powers, each of which used the islands as a strategic outpost, the Ionians accepted British ‘protection’ as inevit­able. For them there was no alternative to protectorate status, especially as they had previously had a taste of the policies of the other great European powers of that time, which in practice meant economic, politi­cal and cultural dependence. The limited mobility that ensued in various fields of activity went just as far as was necessary to serve the working needs of British policy. On the basis of this principle and of the changed socio-political situation then prevailing on the Continent and in Britain, an ostensibly parliamentary system of government was devised and an administrative nobility in a new guise was created, effectively perpetuat­ing the structures of the ancien régime but with broader representation. In education, emphasis was now placed by both sides (foreign rulers and the local leadership) on the need for Europeanisation, but only as much of it as was needed to serve the interests of British policy, to mollify ideological dissenters and to give an impression of the supremacy of the British régime in the Eastern Mediterranean (the Ionian Islands.

This work, apart from some modifications and additions, was pres­ented in its present form as a doctoral dissertation to the University of East Anglia in November 1981 and was accepted by the Department of Social Studies as satisfying the thesis requirements for the degree of Doc­tor of Philosophy. It is based mainly on unpublished archives.

Other primary sources include published archives and documents, monographs, articles, chronicles, memoirs and diaries (published or unpublished). The sources regarded as being of primary importance are those that illustrate the evolution of Kytherean society from the seventeenth century onw­ards. However, equal importance has been attached to certain other sources such as oral tradition, folk songs, proverbs, and the various his­torical monuments and other material objects (churches, schools, librar­ies, lazarettos, fortresses and other buildings, household material, etc.) that have survived on Kythera to the present day.

There is no other scholarly study in existence on the subject of this thesis.

The existing historical writings about the island are based on general works dealing with the Ionian Islands as a whole. They are brief summaries; most of them merely descriptive, and they are therefore listed among the secondary sources for the thesis.

The Kythera Archives, the Bishopric Archives and the private ones contain an enormous quantity of material relating to all periods of for­eign rule. The Kythera Archives especially contain duplicates of the doc­uments of the Central Archives of Venice, and further more a considera­ble number of documents from the latter exists in published form, most notably in the works of G. Pojaco, K. Sathas, S. Spanakis, D. Seremetis, S.M. Theotokis and S.P. Lambros. As far as Kythera Archives are con­cerned, research here was extremely hard work, because the papers are completely unclassified and the various documents were traced from material which was heaped in random piles wherever there was room for it in the building. In the footnotes, if one of these documents is untitled or if its title is excessively long and unwieldy, it is referred to by a concise description of its contents, while every reference lists the date and place of issue and the name of the author or issuing office.

Statistics have been drawn from a wide range of sources, either from censuses cited in the Kythera Archives or from censuses and other doc­uments cited in the Public Record Office.

In the spelling of places, names and surnames, I have attempted to remain as faithful to the original as possible. Italian names are spelled in the original; titles of Greek books and articles are retained in the original language with an English translation in brackets. The titles of Greek periodicals remain in the original but at the end of the Bibliography a list of periodicals, newspapers and other miscellaneous Greek titles is pres­ented transcribed in Latin characters, as well as translated into English. In addition, Greek titles or résumés of Greek Archival material are translated into English; titles of documents in other languages are pres­ented in their original form.

I am indebted to a number of people and institutions for their help with this work. I want, first, to express my gratitude to my supervisor Dr. Morley Cooper, Senior Lecturer of the University of East Anglia; without his assistance, this study could have never been realized. I also wish to thank Professor W.E. Mosse of the University of East Anglia who kindly read the original draft of the first part of my thesis suggest­ing many improvements and Dr. David Barrass for stimulating discus­sions; my examiners Dr. Jim Casey and Professor Robert Rowland for painstaking and helpful criticism; the historian Dr. Louis Kassimatis for his trouble in reading the manuscript and his welcomed criticism; Profes­sor Emm. Protopsaltis of the University of Athens, who was responsible to the Greek “State Scholarship Foundation” for guiding my studies. His encouragement and suggestions helped me to continue my research with much optimism.

A special debt should be expressed to Mr. Spyridon Logothetis who helped me by offering his private archive; also with his knowledge on historical matters.

I should also like to thank all those people of the various libraries and public archives as well as the owners of the private ones who were of assistance to me in my archival work. Also I thank the librarian and staff of the University of East Anglia for all their help, and Mrs I. Copeman for the typing of the thesis.

Special thanks are due to the “State Scholarship Foundation” of Greece for the financial support of my postgraduate studies as well as to the Administrative Committee of the “Saripolos Foundation” of the University of Athens for granting financial assistance to help me to con­clude my research; I also wish to thank the latter for subsidizing the publication of this book.

Last but not least, I wish to thank my wife Dr. Athanassia Glycofry­di-Leontsini, Lecturer at the University of Athens for her understanding, patience and advice over the years. By her critical reading of the manus­cript and her suggestions many short - comings have fortunately been overcome. It is to her and to my daughter Helen that this thesis is dedicated.

July, 1981.

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