Alsace-Lorraine


Old France

Old France

Alsace-Lorraine is bounded on the west by France, on the north by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg and Germany, on the east by Germany, and on the south by Switzerland. The name Alsace-Lorraine is misleading. It was so called when the territory was annexed by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. In reality, Alsace and Lorraine are two distinct provinces.

The story of Alsace-Lorraine has been one of a long and bitter struggle between France and Germany for ownership of the region. The fact that Alsace-Lorraine was part of Gaul at the time of Julius Caesar would seem to give France the clearer title… Later, it was included in the empire of Charlemagne. After his death, Charlemagne’s empire was divided, and Alsace-Lorraine fell under the influence and became part of the German Roman Empire.

After the Thirty Years’ War, following the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Alsace became French, having been for almost seven centuries under German domination. Strasbourg, the chief city of Alsace, remained a free city and joined France in 1681. Lorraine became part of France in 1766.

From the end of the reign of Louis XIV to the time of the French Revolution, Alsace-Lorraine enjoyed a long period of peace. During the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, Alsace-Lorraine gave the bravest soldiers to France. Napoleon once remarked of the Alsatians: “Let them speak German as long as they fight in French.” After the Franco-Prussian War, Germany, contrary to the wishes of the population of these provinces, annexed all of Alsace and about half of Lorraine (1871). After the defeat of Germany in World War I, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France and the demonstrations which greeted the French liberators left no doubt as to the sentiments of the people. During World War II, Alsace-Lorraine was again taken over by Germany and stayed under German rule until it was liberated in 1945.

Source: Enclyclopedia Americana, 1966