Edmond About, who passed the prestigious agrégation examination in 1851 and was to know success some years later as a writer and dramatist, was appointed a member of the French School at Athens in that same year. He joined the institution in 1852 and lived in Greece for a little under two years. It was an inspiring stay and from it he derived one of his first books, La Grèce contemporaine (Paris: Hachette & compagnie, 1854), which went through many editions during his lifetime. Tackling various facets of Greece (country, people, economic activities, family, religion, institutions etc.), which had been independent from the Ottoman empire for only 20 years or so, the book also has a chapter a good 30 pages in length on the Greek public finances.
We reprint here only the first part, which offers “general observations on the financial situation of Greece” (the following section goes much further into the technical details of the budgetary mechanism). These observations by Edmond About from more than a century and a half ago seem to us highly relevant in the current European context, in which the Greek public debt crisis continues to complicate the fragile economic situation of the eurozone countries.