History’s Spoiled Children

The Formation of the Modern Greek State

February 2018 9781849048255 472pp


History’s Spoiled Children is the story of a small Ottoman province and its transformation into a modern European state. In some respects, the challenges to the formation of the Greek state could be likened to those encountered by the Western world in its efforts to impose its politico-cultural model on societies foreign to it. Though the Greeks of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were Christians whereas the societies subject to Western experimentation today are Muslim, the political venture known as modernisation has treated both as civilising projects and in no way as equal partners.

However, there is one distinction that cannot be ignored. Western Europeans regard Greece and Greeks as foundational in their own history. With this in mind, one may better understand the West’s (more or less) particular treatment of these populations, which not only rebelled against the Ottoman Empire in the name of Christianity but also invoked connections to an ancient past in which Europe sees the roots of its own identity.

Kostas Kostis explores this perception and traces the formation of this favoured modern nation, dubbed in nineteenth-century Europe the ‘spoiled children of history.’

Table of contents


1. The Empire Transforms (18th Century- 1821)

2. The War of Independence (1821-1832)

3. The Bavarians in Greece (1833-1843)

4. King Otto and the Greeks (1844-1862)

5. The Greeks Amongst Themselves (1863-1880)

6. The Flight Forward (1881-1897)

7. Unexpected Developments (1898- 1913)

8. A New Greece (1914-1923)

9. Parliament and Dictatorship (1924-1940)

10. Wars (1941-1949)

11. The Anti-Communist State (1950-1974)

12. In Europe (1949-2010)

13. Crisis (2007-)


‘Offers a much more detailed and up-to-date account than has previously been available in English  . . . particularly valuable are the chapters devoted to the development of [the] economy.’ — The Times Literary Supplement

‘Kostas Kostis has produced an important, challenging and highly readable history of the evolution of the Greek state, perhaps the best one to have ever been written . . . It is remarkable in its comprehensiveness – it travels from the Ottoman era down to the present day – but also and most satisfyingly it is remarkable in its willingness to make claims, pass judgements and face harsh realities.’ — European History Quarterly

‘This sweeping, provocative, argumentative history of the evolution of the Greek state is the most important to have appeared since the 1970s.’ — Mark Mazower, author of Salonica: City of Ghosts

‘Expertly balancing succinct description and expansive analysis, this must-read account of Greece’s fascinating and multilayered modern history will satisfy readers seeking a deeper understanding.’ — Stathis Kalyvas, Professor of Political Science, Director of the Program on Order, Conflict, and Violence, Yale University, and author of Modern Greece: What Everyone Needs to Know

‘Written at the beginning of the recent economic crisis in Greece by a prominent economic historian, this book provides a sober and coherent account of the transformations of the Greek state from the 19th to the 21st century. Often offering explanations that challenge traditional views, it is no wonder the book has already become a bestseller in Greece. This edition will provide a valuable tool for the study of Greek history.’ — E. Kostas Skordyles, Lecturer of Modern Greek History and Language, University of Oxford, and author of Culture and Society in Crete: from Kornaros to Kazantzakis

‘Kostas Kostis explodes cherished myths and challenges stereotypical assumptions in this authoritative account of the formation and fortunes of Greece as a modern state during the last three centuries, the most comprehensive so far available in English. A must-read for all with an interest in the modern history of Greece or the comparative study of state-formation.’ — Roderick Beaton, Koraes Professor of Modern Greek History, Language & Literature, King’s College London, and author of The Making of Modern Greece: Nationalism, Romanticism, & the Uses of the Past (1797-1896)

‘A remarkable attempt to make sense of the intricacies of modern state building in Greece by one of the country’s most accomplished contemporary historians. The book’s many virtues include the author’s broad comparative perspective that makes possible a realistic understanding of the dramatic historical trajectory of a small nation, whose brilliant classical heritage has secured it the continuous attention and support of the modern West.’ — Paschalis M. Kitromilides, Professor of Political Science, University of Athens, and author of Enlightenment and Revolution: The Making of Modern Greece

‘Covering the period from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century, this book offers a highly readable, concise and thought-provoking account of the formation of the Greek state. A bold, authoritative and well-informed introduction to modern Greek history, it eloquently demonstrates the advances of Greek historiography in recent years.’ — Dimitris Tziovas, Professor of Modern Greek Studies, University of Birmingham, and author of Greek Diaspora and Migration Since 1700: Society, Politics and Culture


Kostas Kostis is a Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Athens. From 2006 to 2009 he occupied the Chair of Modern and Contemporary Greek Studies at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris.

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