Liberalism and the Foundations of the Modern Greek State

Sat 3/16/2024 • 4PM - 6PM PDT

314 Royce Hall

Lecture by Michalis Sotiropoulos, The 1821 Fellow in Modern Greek Studies, British School at Athens

This event is free to attend but advance RSVP is requested.

How was the modern Greek state built? To what ideas, concepts and practices did the authorities of the new state turn to produce and legitimize its legal and political system? What intellectual and institutional disputes and different reform projects did this process entail? This lecture addresses these questions by looking at nineteenth-century Greek liberalism and the ways in which it engaged in reforms in the Greek state after independence from the Ottomans (ca. 1830-1880). By focusing on the thought and actions of a group of legal scholars whose influence and public role went far beyond the academy, the lecture challenges some of the assumptions of Western-centric histories of nineteenth-century liberalism. As it shows, while Greek scholars were informed by a number of European intellectual currents, they danced in their own music and used these currents for their own purposes. In the process, and as elsewhere in the periphery, they helped formulate a political language that preserved liberalism’s radical edge when it was losing its appeal elsewhere in Europe; a language that, considering the rise of illiberal politics currently unfolding across the world, may be worth recovering and reassessing.

Michalis Sotiropoulos, FRHistS, is a historian of modern Europe specializing in the intellectual history of the Mediterranean and the Greek world in the long nineteenth century. Sotiropoulos has earned a PhD from the University of London and is currently the 1821 Fellow in Modern Greek Studies at the British School at Athens and principal investigator of the SNF-funded research project ‘Unpublished Archives of British Philhellenism during the Greek Revolution, 1821-1832’. His publications include studies of the Greek Revolution of 1821, on law and the formation of states, and on the historiography on the Age of Revolutions, while his monograph Liberalism after the Revolution: The Intellectual Foundations of the Greek State, ca. 1830-1880 was recently published by Cambridge University Press. In October 2024 Michalis will be joining the University of Edinburgh as a Lecturer in Modern Greek Studies.

This event is held under the auspices of the Consulate General of Greece in Los Angeles and made possible thanks to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF).

Gefyra (Bridge) is a collaborative program established by the UCLA SNF Center for the Study of Hellenic Culture and the SNF Centre for Hellenic Studies at Simon Fraser University with support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). Gefyra’s mission is to connect students, faculty, and communities along the West Coast of North America with Greek scholars, artists, and other creators, so that they can together explore expansive and imaginative approaches to Greek culture and knowledge production. The program additionally supports academic conferences and cultural projects that bridge the West Coast and Greece.

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