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The Region of Languedoc-Roussillon 
is composed of five Départements.  They are Aude [11], Gard [30], Herault [34], Lozere [48] and Pyrenees-Orientales [66].

Introduction to the Region of Languedoc-Roussillon 

The Location of the Region of Languedoc-Roussillon
The region of Languedoc-Roussillon encompasses the southern French départements of Aude, Gard, Hérault, Lozère and Pyrénées-Orientales.  The region is roughly the same as the former province of Languedoc, plus the former province of Roussillon [which is now roughly the département of Pyrénées-Orientales].  Montpellier is the region’s capital.  The region is bounded by the region of Auvergne, to the north, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, to the east, the Mediterran to the southeast, Spain to the south, and the region of Midi-Pyrénées to the west.

The Massif Central marks the northwestern borders of the départements of Gard, Hérault, and Aude.  It also extends into the département of Lozère.  The plain of Languedoc faces the Mediterranean.  The plain of Roussillon is to the southwest.  It is separated from the plain of Languedoc by the Corbières mountains.  The Pyrénées mountains are to the south.  A Mediterranean climate prevails along the coast and a mountain climate is found in Lozère and the Pyrénées. 

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Languedoc was an old province of France.  Its name was derived from the name of the traditional language of southern France, Occitan.  Specifically, the name is
derived from the phrase ‘langue d'oc’, where the word ‘oc’ means ‘yes’, [in contrast to ‘oïl’, in old French or ‘oui’, in modern French].  From the 13th century the name applied to the entire area in which the Languedoc, or Occitan, language was spoken.  It came to apply specifically to the territory of the feudal county of Toulouse.  The Languedoc area is still a center of a distinctive civilization in the south of France.

The boundaries of the old province of Languedoc were in a constant state of flux.  Generally, they encompassed the southwestern part of France that lies south of the Dardogne River and north of Gascony, the eastern Pyrénées and the Mediterranean lowlands of France.  The province stretched as far to the east as the Rhône River, a distance of approximately 125 miles.  The eastern boundary then ran north, along the river, to the junction of the Isère River, nearly to the city of Lyon.  Languedoc’s capital was Toulouse.

The Cévennes Mountains cover much of the old province.  They reach their highest elevations in the province’s northeast.  The southern part, of the old province, is a low coastal plain that extends along the Mediterranean Sea.

Malaria was prevalent in the extensive Camargue coastal marshes of the Rhône delta.  The disease discouraged the development of the coast well into the 19th century.  Consequently, the older villages tend to be inland.  The traditional farmsteads, around Toulouse, have only one story and are built of rough brick.

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The old province of Roussillon is also an historical and cultural region.  It comprised what is now the southern French département of Pyrénées-Orientales.  Roussillon encompassed an area made up of the eastern extremity of the French Pyrénées and the Mediterranean coastal lowlands adjoining them to the east.  Its capital was Perpignan.

The area near Perpignan, which is known as Ruscino, was settled by a people with markedly Iberian affinities.  During the period, from the 7th century BC to the latter part of the 3rd century BC, the area came under the control of Gallic peoples.  In the 2nd century BC, Ruscino was conquered by the Romans.  The Visigoths conquered the area in AD 462 and the Arabs took control of it in about 720.  In the 750s the Carolingian kings began to rule it.

In 865, Septimania, which was part of the future Languedoc to the north, and Frankish Catalonia, to the south, gave rise to hereditary countships in the area, most of which were held by relatives of the contemporary counts of Barcelona.  The latter dynasty acquired direct rights to Roussillon in 1172, and Roussillon thus became part of Aragon, which the counts of Barcelona had also acquired.

There was a great flowering of monasticism in Roussillon from the 10th century on.  This resulted in the area becoming rich in Romanesque architectural remains.

The house of Barcelona-Aragon granted privileges to the towns, and commerce benefited from the integration of Roussillon with neighboring Catalonia to the south.  In the 13th century, Roussillon formed the core of the kingdom of Majorca, an amalgamation formed by James I of Aragon and Majorca.  The house of Aragon continued to hold Roussillon until the 1640s, when, during the Thirty Years' War, France occupied Spain's lands north of the Pyrénées.  The town of Perpignan fell to the French in 1642, and in 1659 Spain formally ceded the province to France by the Treaty of the Pyrénées.

Throughout Roussillon, Catalan is widely spoken.  French, the official language, is spoken with a heavy Catalan accent.  The population is concentrated in the irrigated plains.  Roussillon is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.  Protestants in Perpignan tend to be immigrants, and many Jews, living in Roussillon, are repatriates from Algeria.  There are numerous families of Catalan Gypsies.

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The History of Languedoc-Roussillon
The western part of the Roman province of
Gallia Narbonensis is the territory that ultimately constituted Languedoc.  This land strip, which connected Italy to Spain, was strongly influenced by Roman culture.  Under Emperor Diocletian, the province was divided into Narbonensis Prima and Narbonensis Secunda.  The former’s capital was at Narbonne, with the latter’s capital at Aix [now known as Aix-en-Provence].  Roman civilization brought economic prosperity and a wealth of monuments to the region.  With the decline of the Roman Empire, in the 5th century, the region fell under the control of the Visigoths.

The area was partially conquered by the Franks in the 6th century.  Septimania [so called because it comprised the seven cities of Agde, Beziers, Lodeve, Maguelonne, Nîmes, Toulouse and Uzes], the coastal strip, came under Arab rule in the early 8th century and was ravaged.  50 years later, Septimania was not conquered by the Carolingian Franks under Pepin the Short  The Carolingians formed it into a march for the protection of Aquitaine.

Toulouse was united with the March in 924, the date marking the origin of the county of Toulouse.  By 1050 the counts of Toulouse were suzerains not only of Toulousain and Septimania but also of Quercy, Rouergue, and Albi to the north, making the county one of the great fiefs of France. The power of the counts, over much of this territory, was largely nominal.  Their power was limited by the independence of their vassals, by the large ecclesiastical estates, and by the self-government of the towns.

In the 11th century the county of Toulouse, under Count Alphonse Jourdain, absorbed the region of the Languedoc.  As a direct consequence, the city of Toulouse grew in power and independence.

From the mid-12th century, the Albigenses, a religious sect that the Roman Catholic Church considered heretical, won wide support from the people and the nobles of Languedoc.  Pope Innocent III preached a crusade against them, precipitating an invasion of Languedoc by a northern French army, lead by Simon IV de Montfort, in 1209.  The crusade nearly destroyed the country of Toulouse, along with the civilization of southern France.

After Simon’s death, in 1218, the county of Toulouse passed to Count Raymond VII [count of Toulouse from 1222 to 1249].  Raymond built the University of Toulouse and encouraged the development of industrial cities.

In 1229, Louis IX acquired the eastern part of the Country of Toulouse from local monks.  These were the country lands east of the city of Carcassonne.  He then built the fortified harbor town of Aigues-Mortes from which he set out on two Crusades.

Raymond VII’s daughter, and heiress, Jeanne married Alphonse of Poitiers, the brother of King Louis IX.  In 1271, Alphonse and Jeanne died without heirs.  Thus, the rest of Languedoc was added to the holdings of the French crown and the French province of Languedoc was formed.

During the Hundred Years’ War, 1337 to 1453, Languedoc was exposed to invasion from the west.  It was also subjected to the rapacity of the French king's own representatives.  Their extortions provoked riots in the towns which were followed by the peasant rebellion of the Tuchins in1382-83.

From its inception, the province had institutions that insured its local autonomy.  During the Hundred Years’ War, Languedoc’s estates, or assembly, gained prominence for their taxing power over the south of France.  The estates continued to function until the French Revolution.  The Toulouse Parliament, which was created in 1443, was a high court that was second only to that of Paris.

In the 16th century Languedoc became a Center of French Protestantism.  In the early 18th century, the government attempted to impose Catholicism.  This gave rise to the peasant insurrection of the Huguenot Carmisards [Fr. Dialect ‘camisa’ meaning shirt].  In 1702, they rebelled against King Louis XIV, demanding the restoration of the Edict of Nantes.  They conducted guerrilla warfare, burned Catholic churches and killed the priests or forced them to flee.

Pope Clement XI issued a papal bull against the Camisards.  The bull was followed by the razing of more than 450 villages, and the killing of their inhabitants, by the Catholics.  The uprising lasted until 1710.

With the French Revolution, 1789 to 1799, Languedoc lost its distinctive institutions and was divided into the departments of Aude, Ardèche, Gard, Haute-Garonne, Haute-Loire, Hérault, Lozère and Tarn.

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The People of Languedoc-Roussillon 

The area covered by the Pyrénées Mountains is the home of a variety of peoples.  They include the Andorrans, the Catalans, the Béarnais, and the Basques.  Each group speaks its own dialect or language, and each desires to maintain and even augment its own autonomy.  At the same time, these diverse groups manifest a general unity.  Even though Andorra is an autonomous principality, there are still close ties to both Spain and France.

The best known peoples of the Pyrénées are the Basques.  They speak a language that is non-Indo-European.  They have a long tradition of fiercely defending their autonomy.

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The Languages of Languedoc-Roussillon
The Occitan language continues to be widely spoken around Nîmes and Uzès and in Haute-Loire and Ardèche.

The Occitan Language, which is also called Languedoc or Provençal, is a Romance language spoken by about 1,500,000 people in the south of France.  Although Occitan speakers use French as their official and cultural language, Occitan dialects are used for everyday purposes and show no signs of extinction.  Occitan is spoken in the area once known as Occitania.  This includes the present day regions of Limousin, Languedoc-Roussillan, the old province of Aquitaine, and the southern part of the French Alpes.

The name Languedoc comes from the old term langue d 'oc.  This term referred to a language that used ‘oc’, a derivative of the Latin word ‘hoc’ to mean "yes".  This usage was in contrast to the old French language, which was referred to as the langue d 'oïl’, which used the old form ‘oïl’ instead of the modern ‘oui’ for "yes". The name Languedoc refers to a linguistic and political-geographical region of France’s southern Massif Central.

The name Provençal originally referred to the Occitan dialects of the
Provence region.  It is also used also to refer to the standardized medieval literary language based on the Provence dialect.

Occitan literature is plentiful.  This is because, in the 12th to 14th century, Provençal was a standard and literary language in southern France and in northern Spain and was widely used in poetry.  The medieval troubadours used it as their primary language.  The earliest written material in Occitan is a refrain attached to a Latin poem said to date from the 10th century.

Although the modern Occitan dialects are constantly exposed to French, they have barely changed from the Middle Ages.  The major dialects are those of Auvergnat, Languedoc, Limousin and Provence.  Gascon, a Romance dialect of southwestern France, is usually classified as a dialect of Occitan, although it is sometimes considered a distinct language because it differs a great deal from the other, more or less uniform, Occitan dialects.  Occitan is closely related to Catalan, and, although strongly influenced in the recent past by French, its phonology and grammar are more closely related to Spanish than to French.

The langue d'oc has contributed about 500 words to modern French.  Such words as ‘bague’, meaning ring, ‘cadeau’, meaning gift, and ‘velours’, meaning velvet, have come into the French language from the langue d’oc.

Catalan, the language of the Spanish northeastern coast, is widely spoken in Pyrénées-Orientales.  It is a Romance language, thought by some philologists as merely a dialectal offshoot of Provençal and by others as a completely independent Hispanic language.

The French that is spoken in the Pyrénées-Orientales has a heavy Catalan accent.

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The Gastronomy of Languedoc-Roussillon 

  • The Cuisine
    Regional cuisine relies heavily on olive oil and garlic.  Pork fat is widely used in the preparation of Cévennes.  The soups include the garlic based aigo bouillido and oulade, which is made with potatoes and seasoned with pickled pork and various herbs.  Aligot is a puree.  It is made with potatoes and cheese and is seasoned with garlic.  A beef stew, called Ollada, or ouillade, is cooked in a heavy pot.  Cargolada is a regional escargot plate.

  • The Wine
    The lowland, warm in winter and hot and dry in summer, produces vast quantities of inexpensive wine.  Béziers is the Center for the wine trade in
    Hérault département.

    • Côtes-du-Rhône and Tavel are among the quality wines produced in the département of Gard.

    • The wine of Corbières is bottled for local consumption in the département of Pyrénées-Orientales.  The aperitifs, such as Byrrh, Banyuls, and Rivesaltes, have a nationwide market.

    • Fine muscatels result from the vineyards that are located on the Languedoc plains.  A sweet wine, called Blistelle, is also produced there.  Its fermentation is artificially stopped and new cultures are added before the wine is allowed to age.

    • Other notable wines come from Banyuls-sur-Mer, Rivesaltes and Maury.

  • The Cheese

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The Economic Activity of Languedoc-Roussillon 

The Agriculture
Viticulture is concentrated in the plains of
Aude, Hérault, and Gard, which produce about one-half of France's grapes. Animal husbandry predominates in the Causses region.

The agriculture of the Hérault département is a monoculture based on wine.  The irregation canals, that were recently built, have mainly fallen short of diversifying agriculture.   The exception is locally grown vegetables and fruits.  The Compagnie Nationale d'Aménagement de la Région du Bas-Rhône et du Languedoc ("National Company for the Development of the Region of the Lower Rhône and Languedoc") has brought approximately 500,000 acres (200,000 hectares) under irrigation in an effort to diversify agricultural output.

Sheep are raised in the north of Hérault.  Some of Hérault’s ewes' milk is sent to the cheese factories at Roquefort, in the neighbouring département of Aveyron.

Cultivation of vines, fruit, and vegetables in the plain of Pyrénées-Orientales has been pushed up into the mountain valleys; apricots, peaches, and cherries are specialties.

The Perpignan is an important center for trade in fruit, vegetables, and wine, and also has factories making clothing, processed food, and building materials.

Nîmes has long been known as a farm-trade and manufacturing center.  Apart from textiles, its products include shoes, clothing, processed food, brandy, footwear, machinery, and chemicals.  It is also an especially important market town for wine.  The city is an important crossroads for road and rail transportation.

Narbonne is a wine-trade center for Aude wines.  It is also a major road and rail junction and a manufacturing center.  Its products include clothing, pottery and tile, machinery, and fertilizer.  In 1959, a uranium processing plant was built just outside the town.

Today, Montpellier is a commercial and manufacturing center.  Its industries include food processing, textiles, metallurgy, electronics, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and textile weaving.  The modern city is a tourist Center and the seat of the annual International Vine and Wine Fair.

Carcassonne engages in some clothing manufacturing.  It is also a trade center for wine, grain and fruit that is produced in the region.  Today, Carcassonne is a popular tourist attraction.

Aigues-Mortes, fishing is a source of revenue, although the port long ago silted up.  The principal industries are tourism and the extraction and processing of marsh salt.

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The Industry
Manufacturing is underdeveloped outside the lower Rhône.  Plutonium is processed at Marcoule in
Gard, while Ardoise in Gard is the site of the electrometallurgical center of Ugine-Kuhlmann.  Tourism is being developed along the Mediterranean.

Minerals are scarce, with some sulfur mined at Malvési and iron ore at Leucate on the coast.  Quillan, in the foothills of the southwest, has an important plastics industry.

In the areas around Nîmes and Alès industries such as steel, aluminum, textiles, and electrical equipment have been established.  A former coal mining center, on the Gard, has been transformed into a tourist Center. The oldest of France's nuclear power plants is situated at Marcoule.  The irrigation projects, of the 1960s, transformed poor and infertile land into a rich agricultural region.

The Mediterranean littoral is being developed for tourism by the creation of beach resort towns.  The main harbor at Sète has been transformed into one, of several, prominent seaside resorts.

The area’s traditional industry has been viticultural implements, but there are also important refineries and chemical plants.

The département of Lozère has little industry.  Farming has been the principal economic activity, devoted almost entirely to sheep and cattle raising.  This animal husbandry is difficult except in the valleys.  Increasing tourism has not arrested the exodus of the rural populace.

In Canigou The high-grade iron ore is still worked.  Light industries have been developed around Perpignan, which is also a tourist Cente  

The seaside resorts of Languedoc-Roussillon have become popular and its winter sports are attracting large numbers of visitors.  Summer music festivals, given by the cellist Pablo Casals, served to popularized Prades. 

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