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Business elite in Cyprus during British rule

06/08/2021 15:04

New addition to the “Let’s Talk History” online lecture series of the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation.

The online lecture series is enriched with a new episode-lecture by Dr Evaggelia Mathopoulou, “Didaktor” postdoctoral fellow, Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation. The lecture is titled Business elite in Cyprus during British rule and it is presented from the 13th of August 2021.

Lecture Theme:

The study of the specific characteristics of entrepreneurship is a significant tool for interpreting economic activity. In the case of Cyprus, we know very little about the protagonists of the island’s social and economic life until the mid-20th century. The lecture aspires to shed light on unknown aspects of the phenomenon of entrepreneurship in Cyprus during British rule by studying the social profile of three generations of major merchants and businessmen. Without a doubt, in a rural Mediterranean economy of the late 19th century, that had inherited from the Ottomans the shortcomings of a long period of financial decline, including the absence of a road network, land improvements and regular postal and maritime communication that would enhance the transfer of merchandise and information, both within the island and with foreign markets, one could hardly expect to find capital intensive enterprises. Prevalent in the first years of British rule was the land merchant type, established as a trading personality during the late years of Ottoman rule. Some members of the previous generation of merchants were the descendants of old families and notables and others were of Heptanesian, Greek and European origin, representing foreign firms. The large merchant type also stood out, as men moved from the countryside to the city and forged commercial networks, through the neighbouring markets of the East, with markets in the West.

In the years of British rule, particularly after World War I, the self-made city merchant-entrepreneur type rose to prominence. These were men that hailed mostly from the mountainous areas and had educated themselves at Trading Schools of the East and Europe. From the 1940s onwards, even as the company sector flourished, a new generation of “ambitious” industrial merchants, prone to entrepreneurial extroversion, became active in various sectors of industry, tourism, shipping and constructions.

In an effort to map the profile of three generations of pioneering businessmen of the time, the lecture focuses on pertinent factors, such as the institutional framework and the changing social and economic conditions, in order to trace the development of their entrepreneurial profile. The lecture makes part of the programme POST-DOC/01916/0231, “The business elite of modern Cyprus, 1878-1959: social origins and entrepreneurial characteristics in a historical perspective”, hosted by the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation. The programme is co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Structural Funds in Cyprus through the Research and Innovation Foundation.

Brief resumé of the speaker:

Dr Evangelia Mathopoulou holds a PhD in Modern and Contemporary History from the University of Cyprus (2016) and a Master’s in the History of International Relations from LSE (2008). She has worked as a special scientist at the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Cyprus and as an associate in scientific programmes in Cyprus and abroad. She has published studies in international scientific reviews, journals of a Cyprological interest as well as in collective volumes. She has presented her research work at international conferences in Cyprus and abroad. Since 2019 she has worked as a post-doctoral fellow for the Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation. Her research interests focus on the history of immigration and of business networks in the Eastern Mediterranean during the 19th and 20th century, as well as in the history of entrepreneurship in Cyprus.

The “Let’s Talk History” online series is scientifically validated and at the same time friendly to the listener. Invited to the series are acclaimed scholars, discussing a host of Cyprological topics related to the Museums, Collections, Exhibitions and Actions of the Cultural Foundation, but also to any given period of Cypriot history, archaeology, art history and literature.

The lectures are added regularly to the Cultural Foundation’s Facebook page (@boccf), the Foundation’s website and other digital audio platforms (Buzzsprout, Spotify, Google Podcasts: “Let’s Talk History”).

The Bank of Cyprus Cultural Foundation

86-90, Faneromeni Str.,  1011 Nicosia

For information: 22 128157