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National revenue collection as an area of arbitrariness and empowerment of local elites and as a cause of conflict in Corinthia during the revolution



National revenue collection as an area of arbitrariness and empowerment of local elites and as a cause of conflict in Corinthia during the revolution


1 October 2021


On a political level, the 1821 Revolution was a major turning point in relation to the period of Ottoman rule, but this is not equally visible at the economic level, more specifically, concerning the taxation of primary production, tax collecting or the management of national revenue. It is also not visible at the level of collective or individual mentalities. We could, perhaps, speak of a refusal to break with the past by individuals who were part of powerful families of notables prior to the revolution, that is, local elites, and of a reaction to the implementation by the national administration of revenue laws to raise the resources to cover the expenses of war. Tax-collecting mentalities inherited from the past continued to guide the actions of leading political or military groups in various provinces, provoking reactions from the local communities, which, in some cases, took up the character of a conflict between the taxable population and the revenue collectors. Research has shown that tax farming in that period became part of the financial strategy of powerful local actors, who had the necessary funds to lease tax farming and who considered it natural and self-evident to take on, in time of war, a role they also played prior to the revolution. The Peloponnese, as a place that was in a constant state of war (be it the national liberation or civil war), was for the military, at the same time, the main source of economic resources, be it legally, in the form of the national lands, or violently, at the expense of the property of other Greeks. Various provinces reported arbitrary tax appropriation, the looting of property or forced conscription. The military’s control of resources, in addition to undermining the very economy of the villages, left it scope for further power. Such is the case with the members of the powerful Notaras family in Corinth, who in 1828 were accused, among other serious complaints, of making of excessive and arbitrary tax demands, using force to collect national revenue and making false statements as regards the number of people they had recruited in order to claim larger amounts of money from the administration. A body of unpublished documents from the General State Archives provides rich information about these events. In particular, these documents, consisting of investigations made at the beginning of the Kapodistrian period concerning events from 1824 to 1827, are very revealing regarding the above-mentioned practices. This presentation aims to offer a comprehensive examination of this issue in order to examine, on the one hand, to what extent these allegations were substantiated and, on the other, by what mechanisms these powerful local actors were trying to “exploit” the revolution for the further accumulation of economic – and therefore political or military – power.

(Edited and translated abstract from conference website)

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