On this day in 1988, Alec Issigonis, the Greek-British car designer and developer of the Mini Cooper, died at the age of 81. Born in Smyrna in 1906, Issigonis immigrated to London in 1922 during the war between Greece and Turkey. After studying engineering, he joined Morris Motors as a suspension designer. There he developed the Morris Minor, which remained in production from 1948 to 1971. A reliable vehicle with excellent steering and cornering qualities, it was the first all-British car to pass the one million mark in sales (surviving models are still cherished by owners and collectors). In 1959, in response to the Suez energy crisis and the popularity of Germany’s Volkswagen Beetle, Issigonis introduced the Mini. The boxy, inexpensive, fuel-efficient Mini used a transverse engine to power its front wheels – a radical design at the time – and thus could seat four passengers despite being only 10 feet long.
On this day in 1828, the Greek city of Patras was liberated by the French expeditionary force under the leadership of General Maison. Located on the Gulf of Patraikos, Patras is the chief port of the Peloponnese and one of the largest ports in Greece. In the 8th and 9th centuries, its population was increased by settlers from various Slavic nations. In 1205, after the 4th Crusade, which attacked the Byzantine Empire, it became a Frankish barony and the seat of an autonomous Latin archbishop, which later sold the city to Venice in 1408. It was long contested by the Venetians and the Turks. Patras was the ‘see’ of Bishop Germanos, who in 1821 raised the standard of the Greek War of Independence in Kalavrita. During the War, the Turks burned the city to the ground before they retreated. Patras was eventually freed in 1828 and its current grid plan dates from the reconstruction that took place after the war was over.
Also on this day in 1908, Crete revolted against Turkey and aligned itself with Greece. The island of Crete, an Ottoman possession since the end of the Cretan War (1645-1669), was inhabited by a mostly Greek-speaking population, whose majority was Christian. During and after the Greek War of Independence, the Christians of the island rebelled several times against external Ottoman rule, pursuing a union with the rest of Greece. In 1878, the Pact of Halepa established the island as an autonomous state under Ottoman suzerainty, until the Ottomans reneged on that agreement in 1889. The collapse of the Pact heightened tensions on the island and led to another rebellion in 1895, which expanded greatly over the next few years to cover most of the island. In 1897, there was another violent uprising in Crete which led the Ottoman Empire to declare war on Greece. In turn, this caused the Great Powers (Britain, France, Italy, Austria-Hungary, Russia) to intervene on the grounds that the Ottoman Empire could no longer maintain control. This was the prelude to the island’s final annexation by the Kingdom of Greece, which occurred de facto in 1908 and de jure in 1913.