Institute for Mediterranean Studies

Digital Crete

Digital Crete: Mediterranean Cultural Itineraries

Digital Crete aims towards the creation of a cultural information system, consisting of digitized documentation and information regarding the cultural heritage of the island of Crete, from prehistory to the modern periods.

The program "The city in modern times" contributed to the work of "Digital Crete" with four databases; its aim was to make freely accessible to the public some basic and rich sources of Cretan history that constitute a series and permit both simple and complex approaches of the past. Emphasis was given to sources that would highlight the co-existence of Muslim and Christian inhabitants of the island, so that common or diverse problems of the two communities can be investigated, as well as their relationship and the way it changes in time, when the Ottoman domination was succeeded by the Cretan autonomy and then the integration in the Greek state and in 1922 the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey and the subsequent exodus of the Muslims from Crete.

Inventories of the real estate properties of the Muslim Cretans who left in 1922, compiled by the Rethymno Comittee of Rehabilitation of Refugees

A database has been created of 1.620 entries, from the thousands records that were compiled by the «Committee of Rehabilitation of Refugees» (EAP) of the Prefecture of Rethymno. The records consist of inventories of the real estate property of the Muslim residents (Turk-Cretans) of the area of Rethymno who left Crete due to the exchange of populations between Greece and Turkey after the war of 1919-1922. The new owners of these properties (either refugees from Asia Minor or local Cretans) are also recorded. The structure and the original text of the inventories has been preserved. Moreover, all the evidence that had been deleted in the original records have been included in the entries of the database, in angular brackets (< >). Few keywords have been inserted and can be used for searching within the database, as the records per se were quite analytical. There has been made an effort to facilitate the access of the non-specialist user of the database to the evidence.

Obviously, the social history of the Prefecture of Rethymno is now enriched with new evidence, that permit a better understanding of this society. The extensive descriptions of the properties (mostly houses and shops, but also holdings, fields, olive groves and pastures) provide a satisfactory picture of the economy and material life of the area of Rethymno and permits us to reconstruct a, however limited, picture of the city, with its streets and neighbourhoods. The names of the old and new owners, their professions, the value of the properties offer precious evidence about a significant part of the population: hypotheses about the social hierarchies can be formulated, on the basis of the different value, type and size of the properties. A noteworthy information is that the 41% of the new owners were local Cretans and not refugees.

Indexes of the archives of three notaries of Rethymno and one of the province of Mylopotamos in the prefecture of Rethymno (1879-1920)

A database has been created with the indexes of the acts of four notaries of the prefecture of Rethymno: Pertev Dervisakis, Rethymno (index Α: 1914-1917, index Β: 1917-1920, 2.950 acts); Ioannis D. Nikolakakis, Mylopotamos (index Α: 1883-1884, index Β1: 1894-1896, index Β2: 1885-1910, 1.879 acts); Giorgis Siganos, Rethymno (index Α: 1879-1881, 63 acts); Emmanouil Kousoumvekakis, Rethymno (index Α: 1881-1882, 126 acts).

These indexes cover the period 1879-1920; usually evidence about the contracting persons is recorded (name, profession, residence), as well as an extensive summary of each act, fees and signatures of the contracting persons. The wealth and the variety of the information that can be drawn by using the keywords of the summaries permit to form elementary patterns regarding important aspects of the social life: economic relations, formation of fortunes, family strategies, social differentiation, attitudes towards life and death etc. 

The archive of the notary Pertev Dervisakis is very rich in evidence about the Muslim residents of Rethymno in the crucial years 1914-1920: data about their surnames, their family relations, their economic activities and fortunes can be drawn; more than anything else, their efforts to sell their properties to Christians are vividly depicted, as their departure from Crete was getting ever more probable. The selling acts consist of 23% of the total acts. Of course there are some transactions and acts that constitute testimonies of tendencies of peaceful coexistence of the Christian and the Muslim population.

The indexes of Ioannis Nikolakakis, notary of Mylopotamos (1883-1884, 1894-1897) offer evidence about the economic and social relations between Christians and Muslims in another conjuncture, a few years before the foundation of the Autonomous Crete: an intense trend is recorded of Christians arrogating the rural properties. In these records appear, as well, on the one hand the strata of merchants and rentiers who appropriate a part of the surplus by lending the peasants, and on the other hand the lawyers (among them El. Venizelos) who mediate these transactions.

Business directories of G. Igglesis regarding the main cities of Crete (1911,1920, 1925, 1930, a part of 1938)

A database has been created with the evidence on the Cretan cities contained in the professional directories of Igglesis for the years 1911, 1920, 1925, 1930 and 1938. Among other records, information is provided about the authorities of the island (administrative, judicial and military), the public and municipal buildings and, particularly, the professions in the biggest cities of Crete. The structure of the source has been preserved in the database: its user can search both by trade and by the names of specific professionals, as well as by a combination of the two. The entries can be presented according to the city, year, profession, gender or religion of the professionals.

This source, despite the limits set by its own nature (it was published in order to provide information to a specific audience of professionals or a broader audience of consumers), provides a picture of the social structure in each city; a picture that should function as supplementary to the one provided by more complete records, such as municipal registers, censuses, electoral registers, notarial acts and registry archives. However, trends in the social and professional structures of the Cretan cities can be detected. The user of the database, by searching for individual professions (worker, merchant, doctor etc) or groups of professions (services, industry etc), can draw information about the basic sectors of the economy in urban Crete and the more frequent professions in every city, as well as compare the occupational structures of the cities of Crete. Some urban economic activities are directly connected with the rural production, and thus the economic life of the countryside can be also studied. Moreover, the distance of approximately 10 years between the directories gives the opportunity to compare in time and detect quantitative and qualitative change. Finally, advertisements of local economic activities have been also recorded in the database.

Bibliography on the cities of Crete (19th- 20th century)

More than 1.000 titles of publications (books, articles in journals or collective volumes, unpublished theses of postgraduate students) referring to the cities of Crete in the 19th and 20th century have been recorded. The library of the University of Crete in Rethymno and the Public Library of Rethymno have been used for the compilation of this literature. Most entries are articles in Cretan journals and collective volumes. The data recorded for every publication include the name of the author and/or the editor, title, publisher, place and year of publishment, pages, the place where the publication was detected, the size and the subject area. Keywords have been used in order to facilitate simple or complex searching.    

The most common topics are the Cretan revolutions until 1896 and the battle of Crete in 1941. The entries for foreign travellers and memoirs are also numerous. Of course there are many other topics regarding the economic, political, social, cultural and other activities of the Cretan people, and particularly of the residents of the big cities (Heraklion, Chania, Rethymno). The  visitors of the website may use the detailed introductions created foe each database.


Project Team

Christos Loukos

Emeritus professor of modern and contemporary history
Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete
Curriculum vitae