Brief history of Bordeaux summarized
The history of Bordeaux begins with the human presence that has been found near the city in the form of the remains of Neanderthal cavemen that are more than 20,000 years old.
The site of the current city was established by the Celts in the 3rd and 4th centuries BC and became part of Julius Caesar’s Roman Empire in the 1st century BC.
Early history of Bordeaux
The city of Bordeaux was the capital of the Roman region of Aquitaine. Many of its fortifications were built to defend against Germanic invasions, although they were ultimately unsuccessful. Bordeaux was ruled by the Dukes of Aquitaine from the 10th century.
Under the reign of King Henry II of England, following his 12th century marriage to Eleanor of Aquitaine, the entire Gironde area prospered and developed its business of exporting wine to thirsty English drinkers.
Development through the years
The Bastides were the new towns of the 13th and 14th centuries and were originally founded for economic and political reasons throughout southwestern France.
The creation of these cities was expected to increase the area of land that could be farmed and used to support a growing population, however their importance became increasingly military as tensions between the French and English increased.
Apart from their feudal style of government, the bastides were defined by the layout of their city. Mainly square in shape with streets dissecting at right angles, the market square was often in the central square.
The expansion of the area was slowed down by the Hundred Years’ War, after which the city of Bordeaux and its surroundings came under French rule. The French victory over the English at Castillon in 1453 is still celebrated and re-enacted to this day. It benefited from French colonial expansion that opened trade routes across the Atlantic and into Africa.
Many of the city’s medieval walls were demolished in the 18th century and replaced by ornate buildings and stately squares. Interestingly, the first bridge over the Garonne was only completed at the time of Napoleon.
But the establishment of a French empire throughout the world in the 18th century brought a change of fortune and the city of Bordeaux expanded and prospered, becoming one of the wealthiest trading centers in France. This corner of the southwest supported Napoleon Bonaparte’s wars in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and suffered greatly after his defeat.
Export businesses flourished in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the region benefited from its location on rivers that flow into a seaport. Among the main exports are wine, tobacco and cereals.
Bordeaux became the seat of the French government when the First and Second World Wars began. The Germans held Bordeaux and the Atlantic coastal region of France for much of World War II until they were defeated by the Allies in 1944.
Much of Bordeaux’s recent regeneration has been spearheaded by the city’s mayor, Alain Juppe (who took office in the late 1990s), focusing primarily on the waterfront.
A new tramway, new parks and green areas, pedestrian areas, building renovations and the recovery of the Flot Basins and the Marina are some of the measures that have been taken for the cultural, social and economic development of the city.
Along the quays in summer, people flock to the area to walk, run, skate, bike, and enjoy the many bars, cafes, restaurants, and markets that can be found there.
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