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History of Alsace

Early Celtic settlers and Roman conquests, medieval prosperity and disputed territories, the history of Alsace has been anything but dull. With its location bordering both Switzerland and Germany, the outside influence of these European nations has ensured that there is a personality to Alsace unlike anywhere else in France.

Roman growth

Though a smattering of Celts had been calling the region home since 1500BC, it wasn’t until the arrival of the Romans in 58BC that the area would see significant growth, with the establishment of early viticulture being part of its development. Of course, Roman rule was only short-lived, and the dwindling of power would give way to Clovis and the Franks during the fifth century.

For the next four hundred years, rule of Alsace would remain with the Franks, until the Treaty of Verdun in August 843 divided the Carolingian Empire into three distinct areas; Alsace first formed part of Middle Francia, then later joined with other Germanic Alemanni people under the duchy of Swabia.

Alsace in the Middle Ages

Throughout the 13th century, prosperity and grandeur would make their way to Alsace, and in particular the city of Strasbourg. As a major waypoint for trade routes crossing Europe, the economic and political significance of the city grew exponentially, with the prosperous nature of the region halted only by the Black Death and the subsequent persecution of Jewish communities.

French control

Dispute was again at the fore during the 17th century, with the conquering of Alsace by the French. Due to its location near the German border, Alsace retained the language and economical influence of Germany, which added to the continued success of industry here. With the French Revolution of 1789, however, Strasbourg residents followed the storming of the Bastille with a march on the city hall, forcing administrators into exile and bringing about the end of the feudal system that had, until then, been prevalent.

Modern times

While the period following the French Revolution may have promised stability, defeat in the Franco-Prussian War meant that control of Alsace would change hands once more, with Otto von Bismarck annexing the region. This move was countered by the Treaty of Versailles following the First World War. Nazi occupation throughout the Second World War was all but inevitable for this long-disputed region, and since its liberation, a certain sense of autonomy among the people of Alsace has been prevalent.

Alsace today retains strong links to its past, with its multiculturalism and European influence resulting in a truly unique experience for travellers in France.