Moldavia and Wallachia had reached in the 18th century the lowest point in the history of their existence. The two small countries in south-eastern Europe populated mostly by Romanians depended on the Ottoman Empire, being ruled after 1711 by Greek princes appointed by the sultan. The system of government had ... (Show more)
Moldavia and Wallachia had reached in the 18th century the lowest point in the history of their existence. The two small countries in south-eastern Europe populated mostly by Romanians depended on the Ottoman Empire, being ruled after 1711 by Greek princes appointed by the sultan. The system of government had retained many elements of medieval origin, there was no army, there were no education system outside a few Church schools, and the administration was in the hands of an elite group of untrained boyars who encouraged endemic corruption. And yet, among the princes were some who were open to the ideas of modernization that were taking place in Europe. Remarkable is the case of Constantin Mavrocordat who published in 1742 in "Mercure de France" a project of reform inspired by the Enlightenment ideas that were beginning to make their place in society, supporting, among other things, the elimination of serfdom and the remuneration of appointed officials. We owe the first measures of social assistance to other princes, including the opening of the first modern hospitals in the Romanian principalities. As we approach the 1800s, the attention of the princes turns to the towns, which had fallen far short in the previous period, being affected by the many wars between the Russian, Austrians and the Ottomans, which had taken place partially on the territory of the Romanian principalities. In the meantime, the towns had lost their little autonomy, were run by officials appointed by princes, were burdened with taxes, and looked like the Ottoman centers south of the Danube. The Kuciuk-Kainardji peace of 1774 between the Russians and the Turks allowed trade to intensify in this corner of the continent, giving local towns a new chance. The modernization effort has been answered by many professionals from Central and Western Europe, who have played an important role in the process of change, both mentally and economically or politically. A first category is represented by doctors and pharmacists, employed in hospitals opened by princes or working as private individuals, having as clients the rich families of boyars and townspeople. A second is that of architects who responded to orders from the same families, but also from the Church, as evidenced by the wave of secular or ecclesiastical neoclassical buildings that will dominate the local architecture at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. The third category is given by engineers, involved in surveying activities or water supply arrangements. French, Austrians, Germans, Czechs, a significant number of professionals will be employed in the principalities, becoming true agents of change. At the same time, it is interesting to follow the process of their integration among the local elite, especially the urban elite. Most of these professionals will remain here, marrying women from both countries, establishing ties with important families, entering politics, and their role being very visible after 1821, when the Ottoman Empire decides to give up the appointment of Greek princes and return to appointments from local aristocratic families. In addition to analysing the main directions of action of these professionals, our paper aims to present some relevant case studies.
My interest in the elite is older and I participated with a paper at the ESSHC conference in Valencia 2016. (Show less)