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Cold goes south. The emergence of refrigeration technologies in the European South. The case of Greece (late 19th-20th centuries)

Final Report Summary - COLDGR (Cold goes south. The emergence of refrigeration technologies in the European South. The case of Greece (late 19th-20th centuries).)

The overall aim of this research project was to examine the appropriation of industrial and domestic refrigeration technologies in Greece from the late 19th century until the end of the 20th century, focusing especially on the period after the Second World War. During the late 1950s the electric refrigerator was gradually transformed from a luxury commodity to a mass-market product. This was also translated into major changes in the habits of eating (through the organisation of agriculture, the meat and fish industry), the organisation of family life, women’s everyday life, home architecture and the use of appliances.
The project focused on a historical account of the development of the Cold Chain in Greece between the 1920s and the 2000s in order to place industrial and domestic refrigeration in context. Emphasis was placed on the frozen fish industry and the refrigeration of agricultural products. The research was based on books written by some of the main actors of the Greek Cold Chain, articles from financial and other specialized journals, and technical reports prepared in view of the country’s integration in the EEC in the late 1960s. Furthermore, the project paid special attention to the period between 1950 and1970, which was a period characterized not only by the development of the Cold Chain, but also by the gradual diffusion of domestic electric refrigerators in the Greek urban household. Research was based on material drawn from the periodical press, cookbooks and books on nutrition, which gave evidence of both marketing strategies and consumers’ behaviour.
The expansion of mechanical refrigeration in Greece went hand in hand with the industrialization of the country throughout the 20th century, the development of its critical infrastructures, such as energy networks, road and railway networks and the emergence of new actors such as technicians and their associations devoted to the maintenance and service of refrigerating machines, but also groups of actors dedicated to the promotion of domestic appliances, such as the Home Economists. The project focused on the role of Home Economists as one of the mediating actors between consumers and producers from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries. Sometimes speaking on behalf of housewives, other times on behalf of the corporations or the governmental bodies that hired them, Home Economists claimed expertise on domains that had to do (among other things) with nutrition and the food industry. In the case of Greece, refrigerator companies used women in order to complement salesmen in their effort to promote electric domestic appliances. The Greek housewife had to be convinced of the ‘superiority’ of electrical over gas appliances, and this was achieved through house-to-house demonstrations and cooking courses.