It is remarkable how the history of Aquitaine – “Land of water” has succeeded the history of France, or in fact preceded it…
In the 4th century, the famous poet Ausone (309-394) – land owner in Bordeaux – recognized the region as his “Homeland known for Bacchus (Roman god of wine), its rivers and great men.”
After the Fall of Rome (476) the catholic church erupted in Aquitaine and the local citizens participated in the building of palaces for the bishops, monasteries and abbeys. This evolution continued with the development of several pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostella in Spain.
In the 10th and 11th century the area was re-partitioned, this time between the dukedoms of Aquitaine and Gascogne, before it was united to one state to serve as the dowry for Eleanor, duchess of Aquitaine.
Nevertheless the war was not endless and the period was also marked by a certain level of welfare. A growing population established itself in the fortified new cities, called ‘bastides’. It was also a time of growing commerce and the first successes of the Bordeaux wines. No less than 100.000 barrels, equaling 85 million liters of wine, were exported to England in 1308!
In the 18th century, the merchants from Bordeaux were among the wealthiest, as Bordeaux had its economical peak and established itself as the most important city in Aquitaine. The beautiful architecture dating back from this period witnesses a golden era. The merchants imported exotic products (coffee, chocolate, cotton) and exported products to the US and Russia. There were even supporters of their compatriot Montesquieu (1689-1755) who refused to take part in the notorious slave trade. These were times where new ideas came to exist and gave rise to the French Revolution, after which the province was abolished and divided into five departments: Gironde, Dordogne, Lot & Garonne, Lot and Aveyron.
Aquitaine’s previously dynamic economy was badly hit in the 19th century, first of all by blockades and levies during the Napoleontic wars. Later on by the increasing English maritime predominance and finally because the global industrial revolution was not felt in the area. The situation improved in the 20th century with the expansive growth of agriculture, wine and food industry and tourism.