We know ancient Greece, the civilization that shares the same name and gave us much that defines Western culture today. Yet, as financial crises have convulsed Greece repeatedly since 2010, worldwide coverage has revealed just how poorly we grasp the modern nation. This book sets out to understand the modern Greeks on their own terms.
How did Greece come to be so powerfully attached to the legacy of the ancients in the first place and then define an identity for itself that is at once Greek and modern? This book reveals the remarkable achievement, during the last three hundred years, of building a modern nation on the ruins of a vanished civilization—sometimes literally so. This is the story of the Greek nation-state but also, and more fundamentally, of the collective identity that goes with it. It is not only a history of events and high politics; it is also a history of culture, of the arts, of people, and of ideas.
Opening with the birth of the Greek nation-state, which emerged from encounters between Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire, Roderick Beaton carries his story into the present moment and Greece’s contentious post-recession relationship with the rest of the European Union. Through close examination of how Greeks have understood their shared identity, Beaton reveals a centuries-old tension over the Greek sense of self. How does Greece illuminate the difference between a geographically bounded state and the shared history and culture that make up a nation?
A magisterial look at the development of a national identity through history, Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation is singular in its approach. By treating modern Greece as a biographical subject, a living entity in its own right, Beaton encourages us to take a fresh look at a people and culture long celebrated for their past, even as they strive to build a future as part of the modern West.
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