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Guest Lecture of Prof. Elias Kolovs

9 November 2018

Monasteries, Economy, and Politics from Medieval to Modern Times

Prof. Elias Kolovos

Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Crete, Greece

Abstract: From Medieval to Modern Times, monastic institutions, especially in the Orthodox Christian world, have an impressive historical continuity. Some of the monasteries on Mount Athos, for example, have a continuous presence for over a millennium now. How can we explain this continuity? Is it only because of the religiousness of both the monks and the faithful, across ages? In my talk, I will argue that this continuity has to be also explained on the basis of continued – albeit different in character in different historical circumstances – relations of the monastic institutions with economic activity and political protection. I will focus especially on monastic landholding across the ages, as the basis of economic stability in both medieval and modern times, even today; secondly, I will focus on political protection in favor of the monasteries in various states and societies, even Islamic ones, a case in point being the Orthodox monasteries under Ottoman rule. Last, but not least, I will make an effort to include into the analysis and discussion the role of the monastic networks, religious, economic and political at the same time. In conclusion, after breaking down as modern historians the patterns of monastic activities in their cultural, economic, and political aspects, I will argue that we have to keep in mind that from the perspective of the medieval and modern monks, all these aspects were combined together and practiced as a whole. This unity of behavior might have also contributed and contribute even today, in our post-industrial age, to the survival, stability, and even success, of the monastic institutions. After all, in the midst of economic crises, the world is always in search for stable institutions.

Prof. Elias Kolvos is Associate Professor in Ottoman History at the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Crete, Greece. He studied history at the Department of History and Archaeology of the Aristotle University of Salonica and obtained a Ph.D. degree in Ottoman History with a dissertation on Peasants and Monks in Ottoman Halkidiki (15th-16th c.). He is an elected member of the Board of the International Association for Ottoman Economic and Social History. As a visiting scholar, he taught at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, France, Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, Turkey, and at the Program of Hellenic Studies, Princeton University, U.S.A. He participates in research projects at the Institute for Mediterranean Studies, FO.R.T.H., Greece, at the Ecole Francaise d’ Athenes, and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Germany. He has written, edited, and coedited ten books and over 40 papers in Greek and international publications and journals. His research interests include the Mediterranean economic history, the history of the insular worlds, the history of the monasteries, rural and environmental history, as well as the spatial history and legacies of the Ottoman Empire. His latest book is: Across the Aegean: Islands, Monasteries and Rural Societies in the Ottoman Greek Lands, The Isis Press, Istanbul 2018.


9 November 2018