This essay focuses on the political, economic, and cultural history of Provence – a region of southeastern France that today houses 5 million residents, 2 million of them in Marseilles. It is based on three lectures that I presented on a Stanford walking trip in Provence in 2014.
Those talks were inspired by an excellent historical novel, The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears, which contrasts events in Provence during three key periods of Provencal history – the fall of the Roman Empire in the late 5th century, the devastation of the Black Death (bubonic plague) in the mid-14th century, and the rule of Vichy France, puppets to Nazi Germany, during the Second World War (1940-1944). I begin by summarizing the fall of the Roman Empire in Provence and the Germanic invasions and takeover in the late 5th century. I then discuss Provence in the 14th century – why the papacy was moved from Rome to Avignon, how the plague in 1348 devastated the population, and why the papacy moved from Avignon back to Rome. I move on to examine how Nazi Germany overwhelmed France in June 1940 and why the Vichy government collaborated with the Nazis and persecuted the Jews. I append a time line, a bibliography, and a description of sites that I visited in Provence.
Provence Walk, Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gaugin, Glanum and Les Baux-de-Provence, Joucas and Sénanque Abbey, Vaison-la-Romaine, Avignon, Pont du Gard, Nîmes,