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Alsace Province of France

History of Alsace

In prehistoric times, Alsace was inhabited by nomadic hunters.  The Celts began to settle in Alsace by 1500 BC clearing and cultivating the land and by 58 BC the Romans had invaded and established Alsace as a centre of viticulture.

And in order to protect this highly valued industry, the Romans built fortifications and military camps that evolved into various communities, which have continuously been inhabited even up until today.

Alsace Province

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History of Alsace Province of France

Yet with the decline of the Roman Empire, Alsace became the territory of the Alemanni. The Alemanni were agricultural people, and their language formed the basis of the modern-day Alsatian dialect.

Then during the 5th century the Franks drove the Alemanni out of Alsace and Alsace became part of the Kingdom of Austrasia.

Alsace remained under Frankish control until the Frankish realm was, following the Oaths of Strasbourg of 842, formally dissolved in 843 at the Treaty of Verdun.

During the 12th and 13th centuries Alsace experienced great prosperity under the Hohenstaufen Emperors, but this prosperity was terminated in the 14th century by a series of harsh winters, bad harvests, and the Black Death.

In time, after being part of the Kingdom of Burgundy during the 15th century, Alsace became part of the Holy Roman Empire as western part of the duchy of Swabia and was later under the administration of the Austrian House of Habsburg.

During the Renaissance, prosperity returned to Alsace under Habsburg administration, until the Thirty Years War, which devastated large parts of southern Germany. Most of Alsace was ceded to France at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, which, along with Lorraine, marked its start as a contested territory between Germany and France.

The City of Strasbourg was annexed by France during the reign of Louis XIV of France, in a time when Habsburg and other Germans were fighting off the Turks, at the Battle of Vienna.

Alsace remained a part of Germany until the end of World War I, when Germany ceded it under the Treaty of Versailles.

After World War I, the establishment of German identity in Alsace was reversed, as Germans who had settled in Alsace since 1871 were expelled. Policies forbidding the use of German were introduced.

The region was effectively annexed by Nazi Germany in 1940 during World War II and reincorporated into the Greater German Reich, but the German government never negotiated or declared a formal annexation.

France regained control of the war-torn area in 1944 in order to preserve the possibility of an agreement with the West and the resumed its policy of promoting the French language.  For example, from 1945 through to 1984 the use of German in newspapers was restricted to a maximum of 25%.

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