History of Avignon: from 19th to 21th century

From the Restoration to 1914

From 1815 on Avignon no longer played an important political role in France. However, she kept her position as regional economic capital, thanks to the silk and madder root trade in the beginning of the 19th century. Parallel to the development of rail transport, the region became the principal provider of fresh market goods in France.

She was also a cultural capital, cradle of a renewal of Provençal culture and the felibriges - the renowned poets Theodore Aubanel, Joseph Roumanille, and Frederick Mistral (Nobel prize of literature) At this time, Avignon counted as many printers as Paris.

The city was transformed, modernized often to the detriment of its heritage. Squares and streets were enlarged. The Rue de la Republique (initially called Bonaparte Street) was opened to aerate the city center. The Popes' Palace was a military barracks. But Avignon grew as well. The population increased from 20,000 in 1801 to 48,000 in 1906.

The 20th Century

The first world war bled the French population. The city lost 1200 of its sons in battle. World War Two was even more terrible. The city was occupied by the German army on November 11, 1942. The months preceding the liberation were the most painful. The first allied bombings, aimed at railroad and bridges, caused 450 deaths, 1200 wounded and 3000 disasters. The bombings continued until the city's liberation, by franco-american troops, with no enemy resistance, on the 25th of August, 1944.

From the end of the war to the 1970's - a period of unprecedented economic growth - Avignon and the region profit from a developing industry based on tourism, fresh produce and wine. Its image as a cultural city was propagated throughout the world thanks to the Theater Festival created in 1946 by Jean Vilar. Its climate and unparalleled heritage make Avignon a European tourist and culture capital. Being elected European City of Culture in the year 2000 - along with 8 other cities : Prague, Krakow, Saint Jaques de Compostello, Helsinki, Bologna, Brussels, Reykjavik, Bergen - can be seen as a consecration. It is also a wonderful springboard into the 21st century.

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