A brief history of Alsace until 1940

The early days

Alsace is a rich farming area along an incomparable line of communication, the Rhine river. The climate is not extreme in any way and the fertile plain is lined with forests rich in game. Therefore it is natural that Alsace has always been attractive to nomads and farmers, settlers and noblemen.

Alsace found itself in the midst of action already in Roman times. At that time, the region was on the border between the Roman Empire and the Germanic areas, called Prima Germania. .

Close to Year 0, Emperor Augustus decided to build a city on an ancient Celtic settlement. Is was named Argentoratum, later Strateburghi. Today we know it as Strasbourg, interpreted as "the town were the roads cross". The town had a strategic position Germania superior and was the place were the roads and rivers met.

As usual, the roman legions needed wine. Soon enough, it was discovered that the sun-drenched hillsides could give great wines. Already in the 3rd century, the forests were cleared and large scale wine growing was initiated.

The Alemanni

The Alemanni was a germanic people that entered history in the 3rd, century. At that time they lived in Franconia.

In 357 A.D., the fought the Romans at Argentoratum. The invaders lost Kulianos Apostat, and their king Chonodomarius was imprisoned. But already ten years later, the Alemanni crossed the Rhine on the ice in such largest numbers that Argentoratum fell. The Roman Empire, beginning to dissolve, could not recapture the town. In the beginning of the 5th century, the Alemanni were well established in Alsace and a large part of what we know as Switzerland.

At the end of the 5th century, the Alemanni had lost their power and disappeared into the darkness of history. However, the language of the Alemanni still exists as the High-German local language, Alemannic, of Alsace. This old form of "German" is very similar to the some ancient Swiss dialects.

The Francs

Alsace was invaded by the Francs in 496 A.D. Under the Merovingian superiority, the population was gradually Christianized.

As a consequence of treaty of Versaille of 843 A.D., the empire created by Charles the Great was split into three parts. The western part eventually became France, while the eastern part was the basis for the German-Roman empire. The central part included what we now now as the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxenbourg, Nordrhein-Westphalen, Alsace and Lorraine.

During this period, the church grew in strength. Several monasteries were founded, among the one in Turckheim 742 A.D. and in Andlau in 880 A.D. As usual, winegrowing expanded and improved close to the monasteries.

The region became part of Eastern Francia in 921 A.D..

The middle ages

There still many signs of the activities during the Middle ages. Castle ruins provide evidence of an unstable period. Some can still be seen, such as the ones overlooking Husseren-les-Chateaux. During the 13th and the 14th centuries, Colmar was fortified and the wine trade was intense. A major part of the wine was shipped to the Netherlands. The volume shipped from Colmar alone was 100 000 hl, which is an impressive 40% of total amount produced today.