In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the region that encompasses the Balkan peninsula, Eastern Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea, Anatolia, Greater Syria, and Egypt, came into contact with three historical processes that transformed its social structure: its integration into the capitalist world economy, the modernizing policies undertaken by an array of historical actors, and the nation becoming the main source of collective identification. Between the end of the Crimean War in 1856 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the unfolding of these processes was solidified. In other words, it looked as a world without capitalism, nationalism, modernizing politicians, and modernized states was no longer possible. This was also a time when a new class, the one that had mostly benefited from economic integration, became more active in instilling its values and ideas into the rest of society. This was the moment when bourgeois ideals became hegemonic in the region. Overall, in my project, I study how the Greek-speaking members of this class participated in this process and with a focus on how a group of bankers, financiers, and merchants in Istanbul, Athens and other major urban centers formed the core of this new social elite.
In the chapter for this edited volume, I focus on two significant individuals for whom we have quite extensive records: Ανδρέας Συγγρός (Andreas Syngros or Syggros) and Κωνσταντίνος Βούρος (Konstantinos Vouros). With the help of their memoirs and correspondence with other prominent members of this class, I am in a position to place them in the context of the abovementioned large-scale processes. Their actions are approached along the four axes of analysis that structure my overall research project: how they managed to accumulate their fortunes; how they positioned themselves vis-à-vis the modernizing policies initiated by various politicians in Greece and the Ottoman Empire; what kind of public acts of philanthropy they undertook and in which countries; and, lastly, whether they decided to run for office and what were their reasons for running for office or denying the overtures of political parties in the Ottoman and Greek political contexts.