- Anatolica: Studies in the Greek East in the 18th and 19th Centuries
Thomas W. Gallant’s recent article on the state of contemporary Greek historiography (JMGS 15:209–216) identified one of his forthcoming publications and those of other “young scholars” as a critical threshold in the development of the discipline of modern Greek history. Gallant’s pronouncements are predicated upon the assumption that past Greek historiography has been severely handicapped by an essentialist parochialism that has led to the field’s segmentation from broader contextualization. Since historians produce historiography, Gallant’s overarching implication and criticism is that senior, or “old,” scholars have fallen short of the criteria of comparativism and interdisciplinarity that he considers necessary to bring credibility and recognition to modern Greek historiography.
There are a number of serious problems with Gallant’s view. The mantras of interdisciplinarity and comparativism do not necessarily correlate with progress in historiography. In order for comparative and interdisciplinary approaches to be meaningful and productive, they must indeed be what they claim to be. Gallant fails to recognize that, instead of genuine interdisciplinary scholarship, meaning a synthesis of historical research methods with other disciplinary modes, much of the recent work in modern Greek history, especially under the rubric of identity studies, has become the colonial domain of scholars [End Page 371] from outside disciplines all too often unfamiliar with, contemptuous of, and dismissive of history’s methods and literature. In contrast, when rigorous interdisciplinary approaches have been employed, they have more often than not led to major contributions to the field—one need only consider the seminal works of anthropologist Michael Herzfeld, classicist Ole Smith, and political scientists John Iatrides and Paschalis Kitromilides. Their works, among others, demonstrate the remarkable receptivity and scholarly potential of history as an anchor for nonhistorians who are familiar with and respectful of the discipline’s research methods.
Gallant’s interpretation also suffers from the erroneous assumption that the histories and historians of modern Greece have been heretofore unsuccessful in contextualizing Greece within broader thematic and regional matrices and, hence, have failed to bring about the field’s recognition. The relative marginalization of modern Greek history, as of modern Greek studies in general, is more the product of institutional attitudes reflecting regional prejudices and confusion over classification than the product of any flaws that can be assigned to the discipline and its practitioners in the past. What was perhaps most remarkable about the small field of early modern and modern Greek history in the recent past was the fact that it contained such a highly disproportionate concentration of extraordinary historians. Indeed, the works of Barbara Jelavich, William H. McNeill, John Petropulos, Theodore Saloutos, Leften Stavrianos, Arnold Toynbee, Apostolos Vacalopoulos, Speros Vryonis, and Elizabeth Zachariadou, for example, have come to be accepted as standards for scholars in all disciplines and areas. These historians’ works contextualized Greece within frameworks of region, diaspora, intellectual and social currents, nationalism, and state-building, as well as politics and diplomacy. The preceding list of august names indicates that, although there may currently exist more professorships in other disciplines, history has surpassed all other areas in modern Greek studies in terms of recognition and acceptance. Therefore, one must consider the possibility that the field’s epistemological heritage and recent past are not so bleak, nor its immediate future so optimistic, as Gallant suggests.
For those interested in evaluating the trajectory and quality of scholarship in modern Greek historiography, analysis of tangible evidence should be privileged over subjective prognostication about future trends. Richard Clogg’s most recent book, Anatolica: Studies in the Greek East in the 18th and 19th Centuries, presents an opportunity for such analysis. The current and longstanding dean of modern Greek history, Clogg has been instrumental in advancing both the professional standards and recognition of his field for over three decades. His impressive corpus of work is the sort of scholarship, comprehensive and perfecting, that one would wish for all fields and disciplines, let alone modern Greek studies...