History of Bordeaux

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The first traces of the town of Bordeaux date from the first century AD. Burdigala, founded by the Biturgies Vivisques in the first century, quickly became a prosperous town. This prosperity was upset by a succession of barbaric invasions - by the Vandals, Wisigothics, Francs and Normans - until the twelfth century.

With the marriage of Aliénor d'Aquitaine and Henri II Plantagenet in 1154, Bordeaux returned to peace. The town came under English control, which lasted for three centuries. During this period the town began to grow. The exportation of wine to England in the thirteenth century gave Bordeaux its reputation in the wine trade. The town reached its apogee under Edouard de Woodstock. English ownership gradually dwindled, and by 1453 represented only a small band which extended from Bordeaux to Biarritz. After the Hundred Years War, as a result of the battle of Castillon, Bordeaux fell back under the authority of the king of France. The town only regained its sovereignty in 1462. Louis XIV gave Bordeaux the definitive status of a town in the kingdom of France.

Bordeaux enjoyed a second boom as a result of the wine trade, its main activity, but the colonial trading quickly increased. From 1660, trade between France and the West Indies intensified and flourished even more in the eighteenth century. As with Spain, the trading route was essentially triangular in nature: export of manufactured products and hardware from Nantes, Bordeaux, and Rouen. In Senegal or Guinea, hardware was exchanged for slaves who were transported to Santo Domingo, Guadeloupe and Martinique. The ships brought back sugar, coffee and indigo. In 1774 562 ships from the West Indies came back to France and almost half of them came into Bordeaux.

The town was hit by revolution, empire and the Terror. Trade was therefore affected and did not get back into full swing until the middle of the nineteenth century with the sale of groundnuts. Once again Bordeaux became a commercial and industrial centre. Unfortunately, phylloxera, a disease which infects vines, had devastating consequences on Bordeaux's vineyards. At the beginning of the twentieth century the town experienced resurgence as a result of weaponry. Then during the Second World War Bordeaux was affected by a series of troubles, e.g. the ones caused by Maurice Papon.

At the end of World War II, Jacques Chaban-Delmas, the radical socialist MP from Gironde, became the mayor of Bordeaux in 1947 and remained in the position until the town elections of 1995, when Alain Juppé succeeded him. Jaques Chaban Delmas was mayor of the town for almost fifty years. The Bordeaux of Today reflects the stages of his political office. Bordeaux also became a large urban area, and its existence was recognised and organised by the creation of the Town Council of Bordeaux (bill of 31st December 1966). In 1990, the town proper of Bordeaux consisted of 210 428 inhabitants, while the town together with its suburbs counted 696 587 inhabitants.