Skip to main content Accessibility help
  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: May 2018

“Greek Maritime History Steaming Ahead”

from Contributions-Dummy


Maritime history opens the way to comparative history and communication beyond national boundaries. One major weakness of Greek historiography is linguistic isolation, which to a large extent prevents Greeks from participating to international dialogues. Shipping is an international sector par excellence in any coastal economy, and the activities of Greeks during the last three centuries have taken place primarily beyond domestic waters. The small communities of seamen onboard vessels are traditionally international, and the space of a ship is the most globalised and homogeneous workplace in the world. The wind, sea, sails and masts engender a common language whether in the China Seas, the Gulf of Mexico or the Aegean Sea.

An important branch of the so-called “new” Hellenic historiography began in the early 1970s “onboard ships.” The first studies of Greek shipping within the framework of the modernization of the economy and society of the Greek state by Vassilis Kremmydas and Constantinos Papathanassopoulos reflected the scholarship of that period. The beginning of Greek maritime history was marked by a volume on Greek merchant shipping published by the National Bank of Greece and edited by Stelios Papadopoulos in 1972. It not only contained a unique and comprehensive overview of Greek merchant shipping under Ottoman rule by George Leontaritis but also used an integrated approach to study Greek ships and seamen up to the mid-nineteenth century.

It is no coincidence that most of the authors who wrote about trade also wrote about shipping. The latter is the thread that links the history of diaspora communities with Greece and is closely bound with the development of Greek commerce with the West during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Indeed, Kremmydas wrote about the commerce of the Peloponnese before he wrote about Greek shipping. Christos Hadziiossif, who has written about the Greek commercial community in Alexandria, has also produced a series of important studies on various issues of Greek shipping. Olga Katsiardi-Hering has published not only about the Greek community of Trieste and Sennigalia but also about eighteenth-century Adriatic shipping. Vassilis Kardasis wrote about the first Greek shipping centre, Syros, and Greek merchant shipping during the transition from sail to steam, in addition to works about Greek merchants in Russia.