The Judgmental History Thread

Welcome to this week’s History Thread! This week’s discussion question is judging the past through modern eyes. It’s hard not to look at past events without using our own lens of judgment. How much are you willing to forgive, or excuse, or look past the different mores of historical figures? In some cases like, say, owning slaves it seems pretty clear-cut; in others it might be harder to judge.

Today’s picture: On July 23, 1974 the Greek military junta collapsed. After seven years of brutal rule, which rendered Greece a pariah in the eyes of most Western countries (excepting the United States), the dictatorship was finally toppled by Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus. President Phaedon Gizikis, yielding to the inevitable, convened a meeting of Greece’s leadership to form an interim government. After a contentious argument between military and civil liberties, they selected former Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis, living in France at the time, to head the new government. Karamanlis accepted; Athenians launched massive demonstrations cheering, “He is coming!” before he arrived, grateful that the deeply unpopular junta was finally collapsing.

Over the next few months, Karamanlis (who spent several weeks sleeping on a yacht guarded by a destroyer to avert a coup attempt) slowly led Greece back towards democracy. He moved Greece from an explicitly pro-Western stance in the Cold War to a more neutral position, and even briefly withdrew Greece from NATO over ongoing tensions with Turkey; he also championed Greece’s integration into the European economic community. Serving twice as Prime Minister (1974 to 1980 and 1990 to 1995), Karamanlis became one of postwar Greece’s most important, influential figures.