French Banks and Greece

Hubert Bonin a publié, à la fin de l’année 2013, un livre en anglais, chez l’éditeur genevois Droz (dans sa collection « Publications d’histoire économique et sociale »), l’ouvrage: French Banks and the Greek “Niche Market”, mid-1880s-1950s, Genève, Droz, collection “Publications d’histoire économique et sociale internationale”, 2013 (382 pp.). The present state of banking and financial relations between Greece and western Europe does not favour positive mindsets, despite friendship and a common historical and philosophical legacy. But Philhellenism did mobilise also banking and finance, and intimate connections joined the Paris marketplace and several merchant Aegean port-cities and their offshoot all along Eastern Mediterranean trading posts, the main being in Egypt and of course in Constantinople and the Black Sea. Thus several French banks were committed in banking and finance business involving Greek stake-holders or neighbouring cities where several diasporas were active, like in Thessaloniki. Far from the “big” adventures of the US marketplaces, the imperial overseas, Russia, China or the Ottoman Empire, these Greek port-cities offered opportunities for the deployment of “niche strategies” by French banks (Crédit lyonnais, Comptoir d’escompte de Paris, Paribas, Banque de l’union parisienne, Société générale, Crédit foncier d’Algérie & de Tunisie), either through shared activities managed from Paris, or thanks to sister or daughter banks, like Banque de Salonique and Banque d’Athènes. This book tells about such banking stories, thanks to original archives, and grapples with the techniques of business history to reconstitute strategies, portfolios of activities and of managing skills, risks assessment, Aegean and Egyptian embeddedness, and financial and commercial performances.