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Luxury, fashion and social status in Early Modern South Eastern Europe

Project description

The historical relationship between luxury, power and culture

Luxury is often viewed as a form of decadence from a moral perspective, yet it is considered a driving force of development from an economic standpoint. It is generally associated with power and reserved for elite groups in every society. The ERC-funded LuxFaSS project aims to examine the Christian elites of Ottoman-dominated Europe during the Early Modern period through the lenses of power and culture. The project will investigate how these elites defined their social status and identity at the intersection of East and West, and how the spread of Enlightenment ideas, the influence of the French Revolution, and changes in visual culture impacted the Westernisation of South-Eastern Europe with regard to luxury and fashion.


It is hard to give a broadly acceptable definition of the concept of luxury, which as a field of study has also been largely neglected by historians and sociologists. From a moral or philosophical point of view, luxury is seen as a form of decadence, although from the economic perspective it is seen as a force that drives development of the consumerist economy. Every society knows it in some form, regardless of the degree of economic development, reserving luxury to elite groups, who show their power and pomp through the display of luxury goods. The history of luxury is therefore, from this perspective, a history of power, reflecting the syncretism of cultural and political thought. Luxury and fashion as components of material culture can also be analysed through the lens of cultural history, since they play an important role in the creation of visual culture. This project proposes to analyse the Christian elites of Ottoman-dominated Europe in the Early Modern period from these perspectives, and to look at how they defined their social status and identity at the intersection of East and West. In such an analysis, the Westernisation of South-Eastern Europe proceeds not just through the spread of Enlightenment ideas and the influence of the French Revolution, but also through changes in visual culture brought about by Western influence on notions of luxury and fashion. This approach allows a closer appreciation of the synchronicities and time lags between traditional culture, developments in political thought and social change in the context of the modernisation or “Europeanization” of this part of Europe.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 437 500,00
023971 Bucuresti

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Macroregiunea Trei Bucureşti-Ilfov Bucureşti
Activity type
Research Organisations
Total cost
€ 1 437 500,00

Beneficiaries (1)