Analysing a Secret Revolutionary Network

The Friendly Society (Philike Hetaireia): Analysing a Post-Napoleonic Europe’s Secret Revolutionary Network

The early months of 1821 witnessed the outbreak of a co-ordinated large-scale uprising against the Ottoman empire and its rule over Christians both at the East and the utmost South of the Balkan peninsula. The ensuing war became the Greek war of independence. The idea had been articulated and propagated by Greek educational networks and organizational structures imbued with the ideas of political classicism and revolutionary nationalism. The most efficient of all those networks and structures proved a Greek patriotic organization, the so-called Philike Hetaireia or Friendly Society. Formed in 1814 in Odessa and fuelled mostly by merchant resources in terms of finance and manpower, the Friendly Society belonged to a swarm of societies secretly pursuing liberal and radical agendas in the post-Napoleonic Europe. The Friendly Society was mainly manned by petty traders and commercial intermediaries acting within and outside the Ottoman empire. Getting desperate by economic recession after Napoleon’s defeat they had become attracted to Jacobin-style political agendas.

In spite of the protective veil of secrecy that Friendly Society used with diligence, membership lists have luckily survived in two sources becoming thus available for research. One is the list included in the post-war historical essay of the publicist Ioannis Philemon (1859) containing 692 entries while the other is found in the personal archive of Panagiotis Sekeris, the man who was probably Society’s greatest financer. Sekeris’ list contains 541 entries. Both membership lists employ similar structure (date of initiation, name and origin of initiated member, place of initiation, name of initiator, comments etc), and can be taken to construe a social and spatial network which, in turn, can be mapped and analysed using network analysis theory and pertinent software tools. This is what I seek to do in this presentation: by unifying the membership lists and visualising them through ORA software, I intend to explore the social and spatial dynamics of the Friendly Society network from a brand new perspective in the hope that this modelling enables one to challenge one or two prevalent views and assumptions on the subject.

Text: Marios Hatzopoulos, Centre of Modern History Research (KENI)/ Panteion University, Athens