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The formation of tax mechanisms and the management of communal finances in pre-revolutionary Hydra (1810-1821)



The formation of tax mechanisms and the management of communal finances in pre-revolutionary Hydra (1810-1821)


16 June 2022


The importance of Hydra for the Greek Revolution and especially the responsibility of the elite shipowners of the island for the organisation of the navy and the fight at sea are issues known in Greek historiography. Historical research has also pointed to the development of the island's shipping – especially during the Napoleonic Wars – as a decisive phenomenon that determined the economic development of Greece in the decades before 1821.

On the contrary, the last pre-revolutionary decade remains a period that has not attracted the attention of historical research with the exception, of course, of Vassilis Kremmidas. His view of the crisis of the shipping activities of Hydra and the other naval communities of the Aegean after 1815, although considered to have emerged as one of the most essential conditions for the manifestation of the revolution, nevertheless – as far as Hydra was concerned – has prevented, in contradictory way, the systematic research in the direction of highlighting aspects of the economic and social life of the island in the last pre-revolutionary years.

An extensive series of unpublished accounting books from the local archive of the island – which were only partially edited by Antonios Lignos – are offered for examination: a) the formation of the tax mechanisms of the community and b) the multiplicity of functions and responsibilities undertaken by qualified shipowners as members of the community of Hydra to serve the obligations of the island to the Sublime Porte.

We turn our attention in the presentation to these two aspects. In particular, we try to decipher the internal logic and the directions that were formed regarding the taxation of the population, the shipping and in general the economic activity on the island. We will also focus on the role of members of the community in managing budgetary affairs during this decade. We hope that the presentation shows that the regulatory role of the community has ultimately led to a refinement and standardisation of the control and taxation mechanisms, as well as to the connection to the credit networks that were developing in Istanbul.

The fiscal and financial strategies of the members of the community were, of course, influenced by the economic situation and the demands of the Ottoman centre. However, they, in turn, had a decisive influence on the differences within the group of elite shipowners of the island and the contradictions within the community, which characterised the course of the island towards the Revolution.

Our aim for the presentation is to converse with a focused literature in the dynamic and multifaceted relationship between the central Ottoman administration and the regional power groups, at a time when the former was redefining its attitude to the latter. We consider, therefore, that in order to understand the taxation and management strategies of the community’s affairs at the micro level, the integration of Hydra into a wider context is required, as part of a vast empire, for which the standardisation and control of tax collection mechanisms was a vital aspect of the functioning of the state.

(Edited and translated abstract from organiser’s website)

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