Patras in Modern times

Patras was liberated on 7 October 1828 by the French expeditionary force in the Peloponnese, under the command of General Maison. In 1829 the then Governor of Greece, John Capodistria approved a very ambitious new urban plan for the city – which was still in ruins – presented to him by the French army engineer Stamatis Vulgaris. The plan was not carried out until the mid-19th century and then only with great adaptations conforming to the interests of powerful land owners. Patras developed as the second largest urban centre in late 19th century Greece after Athens.

The city benefited from its role as the main export port for the agricultural produce of the Peloponnese. It was the main centre for the organisation of production of raisin, offering warehouse, banking and insurance services. However, this early era of prosperity was short lived; the completion of the Corinth Canal in 1893 challenged the predominance of its port. Besides, in 1894 raisin export prices in the international markets began to plummet, due to overproduction and international circumstances, which triggered a prolonged crisis with deep financial, political and social repercussions, known as the Great raisin crisis. Trade with western Europe, mainly Britain, France and Italy, did much to shape the city’s early identity as a significant port and cosmopolitan urban centre in early 20th century Greece.

In the early 20th century, Patras developed fast and became the first Greek city to introduce public streetlights and electrified tramways. The war effort of the first World War hampered the city’s development and also created uncontrollable urban sprawl with the influx of refugees from Minor Asia. During the Second World War Patras was a major target of Italian air raids. At the time of the Axis occupation, a German military command was established and German and Italian troops were stationed in the city. On 13th December 1943, in the nearby town of Kalavryta, the German troops executed all the male population and set the town ablaze. After the liberation city grew fast to recover, but in later years was increasingly overshadowed by the urban pole of Athens.

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