Région Alsace

 - Total
 - Density

1 734 145 (1999)
209 /km²
Area8 280 km²
President of the
regional council
Adrien Zeller
Bas-Rhin (67)
Haut-Rhin (68)

Alsace (German Elsaß, Latin Alsatia) is a région of France, located on the German border between Switzerland and Belgium. The primary city in the region is Strasbourg (German Straßburg). The Rhine runs along its border with Germany.

Table of contents
1 Administration
2 History
3 Economy
4 Demographics


The present région comprises two départements: Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin.


In prehistoric times, Alsace was inhabited by nomadic hunters, but by 1500 B.C Celts began to settle in Alsace, clearing and cultivating the land. By 58 B.C, the Romans had invaded and established Alsace as a center of viticulture. To protect this highly valued industry, the Romans built fortifications and military camps that evolved into various communities which have been inhabited continuously to the present day.

With the decline of the Roman Empire, Alsace became the territory of the Alamanni. The Alamanni were an agricultural people, and their language formed the basis of the modern-day Alsace dialect. The Franks drove the Alamanni out of Alsace during the 5th century, and Alsace then became part of the Kingdom of Austrasia. Alsace remained under Frankish control until the Frankish realm was formally dissolved in 843 by virtue of the Treaty of Verdun.

In time, Alsace became part of the Holy Roman Empire and was under the administration of the Habsburgs of Austria when all claims to Alsace were ceded to France at the conclusion of the Thirty Years War in 1648. Meanwhile, Alsace experienced great prosperity during the 12th and 13th centuries under the Hohenstaufen Emperors, but this prosperity was terminated in the 14th century by a series of harsh winters, bad harvests, and the bubonic plague. These hardships were blamed on Jews, leading to the vicious pogroms of 1336 and 1339. During the Renaissance, prosperity returned to Alsace under the administration of the Habsbourgs.

Alsace, along with Lorraine has long been contested territory between France and Germany. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the area was predominantly populated by Germans and they fought efforts to have French language and customs imposed upon them. Both Alsace and Lorraine were annexed by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 causing an estimated 50,000 people (of a total population of about a million) to emigrate into France, and Alsace remained a part of Germany until the end of World War I, when Germany ceded it back to France. Some, however, as at the time United States President Woodrow Wilson, believe that the region should have been legally self-ruling, as its Constitution stated it was bound to the sole authority of the Kaiser and not to the German State.

The re-establishment of German identity was reversed following the German surrender in 1918. Policies of forbidding the use of German and requiring that of French were then begun. Curiously, the region was not considered to be subject to some changes in French law from 1871 to 1919, such as the Law of Separation of the Church and the State.

The region was again occupied by Germany in 1940 during World War II. The occupation subjected the region to the Nazi dictatorship, which was loathed by most of the people, including those Alsatians who were of German ancestry. The war-torn area was given again in 1944 to France, which had then free hands to restore its policies. For instance, from 1945 to 1984 the use of the German language in newspapers was restricted to a maximum of 25%. In latter years, as the national conscience became diluted, cultural freedom has been gradually restored.


Alsace is noted for some of its wines, which have a very strong Germanic influence. Alsace produces some of the world's most noted dry Rieslings and is the only region in France to produce mostly varietal wines, typically from grapes also used in Germany.


Historically, the region has passed between French and German control numerous times, resulting in a rich cultural blend. The local Germanic dialects are Allemanic (which covers Alsace, Baden and Switzerland) and Frankish, a West Franconian dialect spoken in Lorraine, Luxemburg and the Rhineland). Both are referred to as Alsacien in French, and neither have any form of official See: Alsatian language.

See also wine producing regions.