The inhabitants of Athens, 1900-1960. Demography

Ευγενία Μπουρνόβα (Eugenia Bournova)

Eugenia BOURNOVA was born in Larissa (Greece) in 1958. She studied History in the University of Lyon II and she obtained her PhD from the same University in 1986. She taught in the Department of Sociology of the University of Crete (1987-1990). Since 1990 she teaches economic and social history and urban history in the Department of Economics in the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. She had a post-doctoral fellowship (1992) from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France and she became a visiting professor in Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (Paris) (April-June 1998). She is member of the committee board of the Historical Archives of the University of Athens.  Finally, she is also academic coordinator of Erasmus program, member of the Executive Committee of the National Federation of Greek Academic Teachers (POSDEP) and member of the university Council.

Her research interests are in 19th and 20th century social and economic history and more particularly in urban history. Her last publications are on history of population, socio-professional categories and public health in Athens during the 20th century

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This book is a study on the composition, demographic behaviour, and socio-professional structure of the population of Athens during the period 1900–1960. It is a work of primary research and aims to serve as a foundation for further research. It employs an analytical and methodical approach to address shortcomings in the historiography of Greek urban populations. To this end, it utilises the marriage records of the Municipality of Athens for the period 1910–1960, making this the first time that they become the subject of historical study. This study also draws on published sources, particularly the results of censuses in the period 1907–1961, and natural movement of population during the period 1921–1960, as well as N. Igglesis’ Guide to Greece, especially the volumes for 1910 and 1921.

The study comprises three distinct chapters. Chapter One deals with the integration of the population of the Municipality of Athens into the broader national framework and into the physical space of the city and its suburbs.

During the period studied, the Municipality of Athens underwent significant changes: Its population grew 4.5 times, whilst its land area decreased as a result of dozens of secessions, during the 1920s and 1930s, of localities that broke off to form the new municipalities. These secessions weakened the Municipality’s pole position in the urban network and signalled an overall shift to the Capital Region. During the 1950s, the two initial urban centres, Athens and Piraeus, grew at a significantly slower pace than the suburban municipalities. The Municipality’s land area was never limited in relation to its population, and there were no cases of overcrowding comparable to those in Europe’s developed capitalist nations. Until 1960, the urban network was not very dense and had not covered the Municipality’s entire expanse, and it was even possible to locate rural areas within the city limits. Like today, the city centre was its historical centre and was its commercial, administrative, cultural, and financial hub until the gradual and partial decentralisation that was to take place in the 21st century.

Chapter Two presents the fundamental characteristics of the population structure and composition and the evolution of its demographics, and highlights the impact of migration on the constitution of the capital’s population.

During 1900–1960, the capital’s residents began to diverge considerably from the national mean in several areas concerning demographics, as well as in their overall cultural level. The population of Athens grew continuously, becoming an increasingly larger part of both the urban- and overall population of Greece. The changing characteristics of migration to the capital saw the predominance of males in the city give way to a predominance of females and also resulted in a decrease in the number of children and youth under the age of 15 in its population. For the most part, migrants to the capital continued to be supplied by the same areas for over a century – namely the Peloponnese and the Cyclades islands – and there were few foreign citizens living in Athens during the first half of the 20th century. Yet the biggest difference compared to the rest of the country, and the one that confirmed the capital’s supremacy as a place of culture and liberty, were Athenian women, who could read and write.

Chapter Three of this study examines the demographic behaviour of the capital’s residents. Focusing on marriage, it uses the Municipality’s marriage registry records to identify the rules and social practices that governed it, as well as the social and geographical mobility of the various socio-professional groups of both sexes. The methodical mapping of the data aims to clearly demonstrate the social and spatial mobility and make possible a comparative approach with other European countries.

With the young population that it drew from other regions, Athens recorded high nuptiality, albeit with a higher average age at first marriage. Meanwhile, both internal migrants and refugees exhibited high rates of geographical endogamy, more so than rates of professional endogamy. It becomes clear, however, that up until 1960, Athens was not the unproductive city that certain researchers claim it was.  Both before and after the war, labourers made up 13%–16% of the population, whilst craftsmen and shopkeepers accounted for 23.6%–25%. The elite comprised at least 10% of Athenians, as much before as after the war. This relative stability of the professional structures is a clear indicator that, until 1960, the capital had not yet entered into a new economic development model reflected n the socio-professional composition of its population. Finally, the beginnings of the process of geographical distribution also become evident, by mapping individuals’ place of residence in relation to their birthplace, demonstrating a movement of population to areas north and east of the city centre.     

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Co-publisher's ISBN-13 (24)

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Co-publisher's ISBN-13 (24)