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Aristotle Onassis in the 1930s. Source: Onassis ArchiveLaunching of the tanker Tina Onassis, 25 July 1953. Source: Onassis ArchiveLaunching of the tanker Tina Onassis, 25 July 1953. Source: Onassis Archive

Upper House Seminar

Organised as part of the Modern Greek Studies program run by Dr Lamprini Rori (University of Athens) and Dr Eirini Karamouzi (Sheffield)

Prof. Gelina Harlaftis (IMS/FORTH), “Onassis Business History, 1924-1975”

Abstract: Aristotle Onassis is the most famous shipowner of the 20th century, the archetype and image of the shipowning magnate, the symbol of Greek enterprise on a global scale. He created the shipping business of the new global era, which has continued to operate in institutional terms on the models that he laid down, to the present day. The Onassis group of companies, which started out in 1924, will soon have completed a century of operations: 50 years with Aristotle Onassis, and 50 years with the Onassis business family. His business, without an heir, without a shareholder, without a relative or boss, lives on exclusively for the public-benefit projects of the Foundation nearly 50 years after his death. The research for this book is based mainly on the Onassis Archive which belongs to the “Alexander S. Onassis Foundation” and covers the whole fifty-years entrepreneurial period of Aristotle Onassis. The Onassis Archive consists of hundreds of archival boxes that contain thousands of documents. The Archive reveals the activities of a multinational business group across the globe, with companies in four continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and America) and 14 countries (Greece, France, Monaco, Germany, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, Argentina, Uruguay, Panama, Honduras, United States, Saudi Arabia and Liberia); its construction and classification breaks new ground in Business History not only in Greece but also internationally.

Biographical note: Gelina Harlaftis, Director for the Institute for Mediterranean Studies of the Foundation of Research and Technology-Hellas (FORTH) since 2017, is Professor of Maritime History in the University of Crete. She has graduated from the University of Athens and has completed her graduate studies in the Universities of Cambridge (M.Phil.) and Oxford (D.Phil.). She started her career as a lecturer in Piraeus University (1990-2003) and continued since 2003 in the Ionian University. She was Chair of the Department of History of the Ionian University (2004-2008) and President of the International Maritime Economic History Αssociation (2004-2008). In 2009 she was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford University, and in 2008 an Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., International Visiting Scholar in the Business History Program, Harvard Business School. Since 2022 she is a member of Academia Europaea. Her research interests are in maritime history, economic and social history, business history, global history and diaspora history. She has published 33 books in English, Canadian and Greek publishing houses and more than 70 articles in edited volumes and international peer-reviewed journals. She is currently project leader of the project “Onassis Business History” in collaboration with the Onassis Foundation (2017-2024) She has organized many international conferences in Greece and abroad, participates in numerous international organizing committees of conferences and journal editorial boards.

Hybrid lecture, 16:00 (UK) / 18:00 (Greece) 

Please register here to attend online via Zoom webinar:

Please register here to attend in person in Athens:

images left to right: Aristotle Onassis in the 1930s. Source: Onassis Archive. The logo of the Onassis shipping company on the chimney of Tina Onassis. Source: Onassis Archive. Launching of the tanker Tina Onassis, 25 July 1953. Source: Onassis Archive


Upper House Seminar
When: 15 April @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EEST
Where: British School at Athens, Upper House – Athens – 52 Souedias Street