Mosaiko.gr recently met with Professor Psalidopoulos, the Constantine G. Karamanlis Chair in Hellenic and European Studies at the Fletcher School, Tufts University and discussed his current role, his Fulbright research scholarship and his latest book project "Desperate Supervisors."
Professor Psalidopoulos, can you tell us a few things about yourself and your current role at the Fletcher School?
I am a historian of economics and my work focuses of the relationship between economic thought and economic policy in the 19th and in the 20th century. I hold a professorship at the department of economics of the University of Athens and since September 2010 I hold the Karamanlis Chair in Hellenic and European Studies at the Fletcher School/ Tufts University. Fletcher is one of the top two graduate schools for international relations in the United States. It offers courses leading to degrees in International Relations, in International Business and in International Law. It also awards Ph.D. Degrees. The School is international in outlook, encourages diversity at all levels and has an excellent network of graduates in public administration in the States and the whole world. Incoming students are professionals with an average age of 28 years. Their first degrees vary and emphasis is laid on bringing them in tune with exam requirements. I enjoy teaching here immensely.
During my tenure I hosted, among others, Baroness Catherine Ashton, Commissioner Olli Rehn and Ambassadors Joao Vale de Almeida, Pierre Vimont and Thomas Mayr-Harting. On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the chair I organized a conference on Greece, the eastern Mediterranean and Europe. Last year Charles Dallara of the IIF spoke at the annual Karamanlis Chair lecture on the Greek crisis. The courses I teach are on the history of financial crises, the European Union foreign and economic policies (co-taught) and on Southeastern Europe in the world economy.
How would you describe your Fulbright research scholarship? In what ways would you say it has influenced your life and career path?
I was a Fulbright fellow at Duke University in 1992/93 and my stay there was a catalyst in my career. Having done my postgraduate studies in Germany I was never exposed in a systematic way to the Anglo-American academic world. Duke was (and still is) the best place in the US to study the history of economic thought. My American colleagues were extremely forthcoming and helpful to me and the library a treasure for researchers. Next to these "gifts" I also benefited from my stay in an unexpected way: whereas my paper submissions from Greece met with rejection and delays, my Duke University affiliation open closed doors for me. Since 1993 I was "allowed" to enter the international community of historians of economics. For this I am indebted for life to the Fulbright program.
You recently presented your latest book "Desperate supervisors" (Επιτηρητές σε απόγνωση) in Athens. Can you tell us a few words about how this book came to life?
"Desperate supervisors" came to life out of my desire to contribute to a better (and not a superficial) understanding of events surrounding the Truman Doctrine and American assistance to Greece from 1947 up to 1954. In 2006 I edited the diary of Paul A. Porter, Truman s special envoy to Greece, a vivid and revealing document about the economic situation of the country in early 1947. 'Desperate supervisors" takes the story from there. It is based on archival material I found in the Truman Library Institute and at the National Archives and records Administration in Washington and Maryland. I studied materials referring to the work of individuals who participated in the American mission for aid to Greece, that later became the Marshall plan and then the Mutual Security Agency. I researched the papers of economists like Henry Grady (the ambassador), John O. Coppock, Edward A. Tenenbaum and others. In the book then I tell the story of the interaction of American economists with their Greek counterparts. I refer to conflicts between the mission and the American embassy, between the mission and the Greek governments and the combined efforts of diplomats and economists to reach their goals according to their mandates. American economists saved Greece in my view. People like Walter Packard who made exporters out of rice producers, Brice Mace who was in charge of technical assistance in agriculture and others should be always remembered and honored for their work. And so should Coppock and Tenenbaum despite their different approaches to the economic problems of the country. My analysis of the existing documents reveals that at first American economists thought it would be easy for them to get results in Greece since they had the money and their New Deal expertise to lean on. Greece was reconstructed and the civil war was won. The shift however in security matters, Korea and the threat of the Soviet Union revealed to the Americans that Greek governments were slow with reforms. Policy toward Greece changed hence the "desperation" to bring economic stability in the country quickly and at all cost. A fight was fought in 1951/2 between supporters of the introduction of a new currency in Greece and supporters of a simple devaluation. The battle was won by the second group and after 1953 the Greek economy took off to growth and prosperity. In retrospect I am proud about this book and I hope the public will appreciate the documentation and the effort I put in it.
What is next for you?
I am currently involved in two projects. The first deals with a history of the Central Bank of Greece, The Bank of Greece, from 1928 to 2008. It is based on archival material, the reports of the governors and on interviews and shows the efforts of the bank for monetary stability and growth and on how later, due to its mandate after it became a member of the Euro system, the efforts shifted to financial stability.
The second deals with the German Historical School and its legacy in Europe. The Historical School of economics was influential from the mid-19th century to the interwar years. An international group of 14 scholars is preparing individual chapters on national experiences with the historical school. I will be editing and introducing this volume together with my Portuguese colleague and friend Jose Luis Cardoso.