Bordeaux - History of a Great City

Bordeaux History - I guess you could dedicate a whole lot of pages to this, but as my site is not really about any kind of history but about South-West-France I will tell you just a few historical details.

I just think it’s lovely to go and visit a City and know something about it.

Well, where to start..........

Let’s go back about 20.000 to 30.000 years when the area was inhabited by the Neanderthal.

Remains were found at a famous cave known as Pair-non-Pair near Bourg sur Gironde, which is just north of the City.

The city fell under Roman rule around 60 BC, its importance lying in the commerce of tin and lead towards Rome. Later it became capital of Roman Aquitaine, flourishing especially during the Severan Dynasty. (third century).

In the late 6th century, the city reemerged as the seat of a county and an archdiocese within the Merovingian kingdom of the Franks. The city fell into obscurity as royal power waned in southern Gaul in the late 7th century. The city was plundered by the troops of Abd er Rahman in 732, after he had defeated Duke Eudes and before he was killed during the Battle of Tours on October 10.

Under the Carolingians were appointed a series of Counts of Bordeaux who served to defend the mouth of the Garonne from the Vikings. Eventually, the city was inherited by the Dukes of Gascony in the late 10th century.

From the 12th to the 15th century, the City regained importance following the marriage of Duchess Eleanor of Aquitaine with the French-speaking Count Henri Plantagenet, born in Le Mans, who became, within months of their wedding, King Henry II of England.

The city flourished, primarily due to wine trade, and the cathedral of St. André was built. It was also the capital of an independent state under Edward, the Black Prince (1362–1372), but in the end, after the Battle of Castillon (1453) it was annexed by France which extended its territory.

The Château Trompette (Trumpet Castle) and the Fort du Hâ, built by Charles VII of France, were the symbols of the new domination, which however deprived the city of its richness by halting the wine commerce with England.

In 1462, it obtained a parliament, but regained importance only in the 16th century when it became the center of the distribution of sugar and slaves from the West Indies along with the traditional wine.

Bordeaux adhered to the Fronde, being effectively annexed to the Kingdom of France only in 1653, when the army of Louis XIV entered the city.

The 18th Century was the golden age of Bordeaux history.

Many downtown buildings (about 5,000), including those on the quays, are from this period.

Victor Hugo found the town so beautiful he once said: "take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux".

Baron Haussmann, a long-time prefect, used Bordeaux 18th century big-scale rebuilding as a model when he was asked by Emperor Napoleon III to transform a then still quasi-medieval Paris into a "modern" capital that would make France proud.

The French government relocated from Paris to Bordeaux very briefly during World War II, when it became apparent that Paris would soon fall into German hands (as in 1870 during war against Prussia and at the beginning of World War I). The French capital was soon moved again to Vichy.

From 1940 to 1943, the Italian Royal Navy (Regia Marina Italiana) established BETASOM, a submarine base at Bordeaux.

Italian submarines participated in the Battle of the Atlantic from this base which was also a major base for German U-boats as headquarters of 12 Unterseebootsflottille (12th U-boat Flotilla).

The massive, reinforced concrete U-boat pens have proved impractical to demolish and are now partly used as a cultural centre for exhibitions.

Today, Bordeaux is a city of Warehouses, Factories, Suburbs and wide Quays.

Despite being France’s fifth largest city, it is considered the most ‘un-French’ city in the country, due to its 300-year long occupation by the English.

It may lack the vibrancy of Paris, but it is still an important cultural centre and transportation hub between southern France and Spain.

Now, I thought that was quite interesting and easy to read.

Should you be visiting this lovely City now to do Shopping, visit some of the Museums or just enjoy the City I am sure you will be glad to know some of the history.

Enjoy your trip........

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