Economic History
First posted on June 6th 2008

Demographic History of Alsace-Lorraine

Note : this page is conceived telegram-style and selective (lists of wars deemed destructive, lists of epidemic diseases, years of famine etc.)
The data given below refer to Alsace-Lorraine in her 1871-1918 borders, including historical events pertaining to the territory further back in history / after 1918.

Aging Society
Deportation & Genocide
Ethnic Groups : Speakers of French, Alsatian, German
Ethnic Minorities : Roma (Gypsies)
Religious Minorities : Anabaptists, Lutherans, Jews, Muslims
Metropolis Strasbourg
Epidemic, Pandemic Diseases
Labour Migration : Immigration, Emigration
Political Refugees : Emigrants, Immigrants
Rural Population
Population Figures
Wartime Destruction : Battleground NRW

Aging Society
Due to a decrease in the birth rate and increasing life expectancy, since the 1960es the average age of the Alsace-Lorraine citizen has gradually increased.

Deportation & Genocide
1793-1794 Terror Phase of the French Revolution
1914-1918 Prisoners of War held in the region
1939 During the Phoney War, 1/3 of the Alsatian population evacuated to other regions of France
1940-1944 Jews, Gypsies from Alsace-Lorraine deported; many fell victim to the Holocaust

Ethnic Groups : Speakers of French
The language border separating Romance speaking and Germanic speaking peoples had been formed in the 8th century and has seen few changes until into the 19th century. At the time of the German annexation of Alsace-Lorraine in 1871, German patriots outside of Alsace-Lorraine widely regarded this language border as justification for the aforementioned annexation; the border of 1871 claimed mainly territory, where the vernacular was a German dialect, for Germany; only in the immediate vicinity of the city of Metz, in 1871, the vernacular was French.
France gradually acquired the territory which from 1871 to 1918 formed Alsace-Lorraine, the years 1552 (establishment of a protectorate over the diocesis of Metz), 1648 (begin of the acquisition of Alsace), 1681 (annexation of Stassburg), 1766 (annexation of Lorraine) and 1798 (completion of the acquisition) being milestones. During the period of French rule over part of the area / the entire area immigration of Frenchmen into the region took place. Alsatians and Lorrainers took up service in France's administration and army; schools which taught in French were opened in the region. By 1871 the majority of Alsatians and of the inhabitants of the part of Lorraine France ceded to Germany that year spoke a German dialect, but those who had received a higher education, spoke French as a second language, as did many who lived in an ethnically mixed environment.
In 1871 Germany demanded the people of Alsace-Lorraine to accept German nationality; those who did not want to, were given the option of emigration; c.100,000 left.
In 1918 France reannexed Alsace-Lorraine; from 1940 to 1944 the area again was under German administration, to return to France in 1944. Since 1918 persons from other parts of France moved in; compulsory education made sure that every child learned French at school.

Ethnic Groups : Speakers of Alsatian and Moselle Franconian
While German Nationalism was a strong movement throughout the 19th century, grammar and spelling of High German (as opposed to the traditional regional dialects) was only defined in several steps, Luther's bible translation (1522-1523), the efforts of the novelists of the Romanticist period (c.1770-1815) and Konrad Duden's Dictionary (1880-). German unification was the political goal of the educated bourgeoisie of most German states from 1809 to 1871, and they accepted replacing the traditional regional vernacular with High German, as a step toward the achievement of a post-feudal German nation-state with a liberal constitution.
The inhabitants of Alsace-Lorraine by 1871 were part of a country which already had achieved a liberal constitution; therefore German national sentiment was less fervent in the region. To those who spoke Alsatian or Moselle Franconian, it was not difficult to learn read and speak High German. However, the fact that Alsace-Lorraine had been annexed without the population having been asked for her opinion caused resentment; Prussia's anti-Catholic policies, Alsace-Lorraine being denied self-government, and Germany's militarism caused further resentment. Compulsory education ensured that every child which went to school between 1871 and 1918 learned High German.
Until today, Alsatian and Moselle Franconian have survived in the private sphere; in recent decades the regional vernaculars are on the retreat as media are more and more intrusive.

Ethnic Groups : Speakers of German
With German annexation in 1871 came the influx of Germans from other parts of the Reich, some of whom saw a career opportunity in the administration of the region. Four decades of German education turned some Alsatians and Lorrainers into German patriots. When France reannexed Alsace-Lorraine, the French administration discriminated against the part of the population which had moved into the region from other parts of the Reich after 1871, causing some to emigrate.
World War II saw a brief repetition of German rule, the exodus of Frenchmen and influx of Germans, and an exodus of Germans and influx of Frenchmen 1944 and after.
The establishment of the Common Market (1957) and of the Schengen Zone (1985/1990) made the state border separating Germany and France irrelevant; the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 provided Frenchmen the freedom to take up residence in Germany, Germans the freedom to take up residence in France. As to the Alsatians, many are trilingual (foreign languages not counted).

Ethnic Minorities : Sinti and Roma (Gypsies)
Present in the region from the 15th century. In 1940-1944 exposed to deportation and genocide.

Religious Minorities : Anabaptists
Anabaptism spread from Zürich to Strassburg in 1524; the city expelled Anabaptists. Communities, despite massive persecution in consequence of the German Peasants War, continued to exist. From c.1650 immigration of Swis Anabaptists. From 1681 in the French-controlled regions subject to persecution; from the 1690es emigration to the Dutch Republic or Pennsylvania.

Religious Minorities : Lutherans
Strassburg was a major center of the Protestant Reformation (Joh. Bucer); the Alsatian reformed church (except for the Anabaptists) accepted the Augsburg Confession of 1530 and thus joined the Lutheran church. Under French rule subject to state repression (Dragonnades 1681-), which caused many to emigrate; in 1787 granted toleration, in 1789 freedom of religion.

Religious Minorities : Jews
Pogroms against Alsatian Jews recorded 1337-1339, 1349, 1381-1383; Expulsion from Lorraine 1477. In the 16th century the region saw a gradual recovery of Jewish communities. Perhaps the most famous Alsatian Jew French army officer Alfred Dreyfus. In 1940-1944 the Jewish community of Alsace-Lorraine was exposed to deportation and Holocaust.

Religious Minorities : Muslims
Most came into the country in 1962 and after, moving to France when Algeria became independent.

Metropolis Strasbourg
Strasbourg, as seat of a famous university and of Europe's Parliament, has attracted scholars and politicians from all over Europe and beyond, giving the city a cosmopolitan character.

Epidemic, Pandemic Diseases
1348-1349 Black Plague in Strassburg
1500-1502 Black Plague in Strassburg
1507 Plague in Chatenois, Lorraine
1522 Plague in Strassburg
1541 Plague in Strassburg
1552 Plague in Strassburg
1585-1595 Plague in Chatenois, Lorraine
1630-1637 Plague in Chatenois, Lorraine
1918 Spanish Influenza

1338 Locusts caused Famine
1511 Famine in the Alsace
1816-1817 Great Famine
1845-1847 Famine caused by Potato Blight
1914-1918 Food Rationing during World War I
1940-1944 Food Rationing during World War II
1944-1947 Post-War Food Crisis

Labour Migration : Immigration 1650-1730 Immigration, mainly of German-speakers from Switzerland, further from Tyrol, Hither Austria, Lorraine.

Labour Migration : Emigration
1730 First cases of emigrants; numbers increased c. 1750, to Banat, Russia (Erbe p.91)
1847- Emigration to America

Political Refugees : Emigrants
1349 expulsion of the Jews from trhe cities of Alsace
1477 expulsion of the Jews from the Duchy of Lorraine
1575 Catholics in Colmar persecuted
1681-1787 Lutherans, Anabaptists
1871 exodus of c.100,000 Frenchmen
1918 exodus of 200,000 Germans

Political Refugees : Immigrants (in part temporary)
1525-1535 Anabaptists persecuted elsewhere, to Strassburg
1650-1730 Immigration of Anabaptists from Switzerland, of Jews.

Rural Population
Viticulture was established in the Alsace by the Romans; it is believed that it was terminated by the Alemannic conquerors, but was reestablished by the 9th century. Peasant revolts are recorded for 1286, 1337, 1511, 1524-1525. Alsace went through periods when dense population, in years of misharvest, caused famine (which caused unrest) and, in consequence of plague or warfare, devastation which left farms untended and provided room for immigrants, such as in consequence of the German Peasants Revolt, the Thirty Years' War, the French establishment of control over the region 1670-1681. France provided pol;itical stability 1681-1871; in the 18th century the population of the Alsace recovered and high population density was achieved again. The French Revolution brought the liberation of the serfs. The early 19th century saw rural poverty, occasional misharvests, emigration of Alsatian peasants to Russia, later to the United States.

Population Figures
Alsace 1618 c.350,000 1700 c.250,000 (Erbe p.90), 1,074,000 in 1887, 1,199,000 in 1905, 1,829,000 in 2007
Alsace-Lorraine 1866 1,579,000, 1871 1,549,000 (Meyers), 1900 1,794,000

Argentorate (Strassburg, Strasbourg) seat of a bishop since the 6th century, Metz since the 10th century. Hagenau walled city since 1164, immediate city since 1255. Schlettstadt (Selestat) 1216 walled city. Colmar 1220 walled city, 1226 immediate city. Mülhausen (Mulhouse) 1224 walled city, 1308 immediate city. Weissenburg (Wissembourg) 1306 immediate city. Türkheim (Turckheim) immediate city 1312, Rosheim walled city 1262, immediate city 1303, Oberehnheim (Obernai) walled city early 13th century, immediate city 1240, Münster (Munster) 1308 walled city, Kaisersberg city privilege 1293, immediate city 1353.
When the city of Strassburg established her independence from the Bishop (1308), the latter established his residence in Molsheim, which became the center of the Counterreformation in the Alsace in the 16th and 17th century (1617 university).
Today Strasbourg, Mulhouse, Metz, Colmar most important urban centers.

Wartime Destruction : Battlefield Alsace-Lorraine
926 Magyars raided the Alsace
929 Magyars raided the Alsace
1228 Dagsburg War of Succession
1261 City of Strassburg in Feud with Bishop
1286 Revolt against the Provost of Colmar
1337 Anti-Semitic Pogroms
1365 Intrusion of the Armagnacs
1381-1383 Anti-Semitic Pogroms
1439 Intrusion of the Armagnacs
1469-1470 Weissenburg War
1473-1477 Burgundian Wars
1511 Peasant Unrest at Pfirt
1524-1525 German Peasants War
1524-1530 Iconoclasm in Strassburg
1552-1555 Habsburg-Valois War
1592-1604 War between City & Cathedral Chapter and Bishop of Strassburg
1618-1648 Thirty Years War
1670-1681 French campaigns in the Alsace
1681 French conquest and annexation of Strassburg
1689-1697 War of the Grand Alliance
1701-1714 War of Spanish Succession
1741-1748 War of Austrian Succession; Alsace battleground 1744
1792-1994 War of the First Coalition
1813-1814 Allies invaded Alsace
1870-1871 Franco-German War
1914-1918 World War I
1940-1945 World War II

Tony L. Kamins : Strasbourg, from The Jewish Virtual History Tour
Pascal Curin, History of the Jewish Community in Alsace-Lorraine
Michel Hau, Nicolas Stoskopf, Labour Intensive Industrialization : the Case of Alsace during the 19th Century, from EH Net
Die Entstehung der Amish-Gemeinden im Elsass, from Musee Virtuel du Protestantisme Français, in German
Die Pest : Das Grosse Sterben um 1500, by C. Baumbusch, O. Schulze
Tabellarische Geschichte Elsass-Lothringens
Bauernrevolten, Bauernunruhen, Bauernaufstände im Mittelalterlichen Europa und bis zum Jahr 1789
Zeittafel der Heidelberger Geschichte 1300-1399
Article Histoire de Mulhouse, Metz : Histoire, Histoire de Strasbourg, from Wikipedia
The Alsace Wine Region, a History of Success, from ABC of France
Histoire du Haguenau, from Ville du Haguenau
Wikipedia German edition articles Kaysersberg (Haut Rhin), Haguenau, Colmar, Mülhausen, Munster (Haut Rhin), Obernai, Rosheim, Selestat, Turckheim, Wissembourg
Article Alsace, from Encyclopedia of the 1848 Revolutions
Article Alsace-Lorraine, from Wikipedia French edition
List of Epidemics of Plague, from Speedy Look; data mainly on France
DOCUMENTS Article Elsass-Lothringen, from Meyers Konversationslexikon 1885-1892
REFERENCE B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics 1750-1988 [G]
Michael Erbe (ed.). Das Elsass. Historische Landschaft im Wandel der Zeiten (Alsace, Historic Landscape in the Course of Time), Stuttgart : Kohlhammer 2002, in German [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted om June 6th 2008

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