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99 Working Paper

Ministerial Elites in Greece, 1843-2001: A Synthesis of Old Sources and New Data

2001 – Dimitri A. Sotiropoulos and Dimitris Bourikos


The study of Greek political elites used to be concentrated on parliamentary deputies. Ministerial elites were rarely studied. In this paper, we take a long-term view of the Greek ministerial elites, studying their socio-political profile from the mid-nineteenth century to the present. We find that this profile does not change so much with regime change, but instead follows political developments at certain time points within specific regime periods. At these points, new political leaders were ushered into power. Examples were Eleftherios Venizelos in 1911 and Andreas Papandreou in 1981. Changes in personnel were not accompanied by changes in geographical origin or professional outlook, which took much longer to effect. In the nineteenth century mainly landowners and state officials dominated cabinets. After the beginning of the twentieth century, however, liberal professions, particularly lawyers, were overrepresented among ministers. This pattern continued throughout the twentieth century. Both the predominance of lawyers and the changes in the profile of ministers over time are attributed to the type of state built in modern Greece, a clientelist, overcentralized and legalistic state which only recently has started its transformation, requiring a different, more modern type of politician.