Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Maps and Questions

France in about 1035. Toulouse, Mirepoix and Leran are part of the County of Toulouse. Across the Pyrenees is the County of Barcelona. This is the first I've seen France broken down into counties. Is this because it was produced by English speakers or were there counties in France at that time? Anyone know? The legend breaks down the Counties, Duchys, Kingdoms, Maquisates, Seigniorys and Viscountys. Most of the south of France is designated as "Other fiefs held of the Crown". In other words, irrelevant, backwater, not worthy of our attention. It also shows the boundaries of the Roman Empire of the German Nation, or the Holy Roman Empire. Our neck of the woods was not part of that empire but Provence was. Hmmm. What's up with that? It's not a particularly old map; my guess is that it was produced in the early 20th century.
What jumps out at me on this map is the mountainous topography in the eastern half of France, and down near the Pyrenees, while it is relatively flat in the north and west. No other map I've seen shows this as readily. Now look at the previous map. Did topography dictate those politics? I'm forced to look at this from a perspective of geography because that's my background. I had only one semester, perhaps two, of Western Civilization and we might have discussed Southern France for 5 minutes. What do you think? Was there some historical event that made the south irrelevant? Or was it topography?

Here's France in 1791 showing the Departments and former Provinces. The French Revolution wasn't over yet. Ariege shows up on the map, the Aude is there too. What I like is the nomenclature of "Seine Inferieure" just to the north of Department of the Seine-et-Oise which is no doubt "Superior". Not too different from today, but I would bet that someone who intimately knows French history and geography, well, like a Frenchman, could pick out lots of differences. What interesting things do you see?

These next two maps are totally correlated. Population pretty much follows industry, or perhaps industry follows population. Again, the people and goods are in the north and the swath along the Pyrenees is blank, irrelevant. You can look at the map below and see where the money and influence are, and they are not in the Ariege. The industrial and population centers generally have easy access to transportation. Paris has the Seine as an easy route to the sea. Bordeaux has an easy outlet to the sea and has always shipped lots of wine. Marseille is the French window onto the Mediterranean. Toulouse had the Canal du Midi but it must have had only regional impact. Lille and Metz puzzle me but I can only guess that population and industry there must be related to the coalfields, the Rhine and the industrial powerhouse of the Ruhr Valley of Germany. Can someone enlighten me? In any case, the striking thing to me is the lack of population to the south of Bordeaux. Another map claims it is heavily forested, the biggest patch of green in all of France, so there must be little in the way of agriculture. The topography map shows it is relatively flat. What is the story of that huge flat triangle?

Allright class, that's it for today. Answer my questions and get those term papers on my desk right now. And remember, click on 'em to enlarge 'em.


Anonymous said...

My first thought about counties in that a county would be property held by a count, as with the other titles you named, the duchy for the Duke etc. I didn't study much French history, maybe now would be a good time to start. I think that the Romans and the Greeks before them settled the area around the Mediterranean chiefly for the produce, Provence has always been the breadbasket for Europe. I imagine that the closer you were to water the more easily the products could be transported back to Rome, hence the reason the area around Leran was the backwoods.

North of Andorra said...

I didn't pick up on this til just now, but I believe the County of Barcelona is, in the first map, property of the French. N'est pas.

Anonymous said...

Oui, je pense que les territoires ont change mains (hands) souvent. Et tu as de la raison, Je pense aussi que les montanges decide comment les territories sont divises. Il y a difficile de passer les montagnes et a la fin les ducs et les autres defendent lesquelles qui sont le plus pres. Can you understand that in French? The mountains were formidable barriers, if you look at the country demarcations, it seems to me that the lines are some geological barrier, ie, mountains, rivers, oceans. A tout a leur. Leslie