From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Dordogne (Template:Lang-oc) is a départment in south-west France. The départment is located in the region of Aquitaine, between the Loire valley and the High Pyrénées named after the great river Dordogne that runs through it. It roughly corresponds with the ancient county of Périgord.
The county of Périgord dates back to when the area was inhabited by the Gauls, it was home to four tribes, the name for "four tribes" in the Gaulish language was "Petrocore". The area eventually became known as the county of Le Périgord and its inhabitants became known as the Périgordins (or Périgourdins). There are four Périgords in the Dordogne: the "Périgord Vert" (Green Périgord) with its main town of Nontron, consists of verdant valleys in a region crossed by many rivers and streams; the "Périgord Blanc" (White Périgord) situated around the department's capital of Périgueux, is a region of limestone plateaux, wide valleys and meadows; the "Périgord Pourpre" (Purple Périgord) with its capital of Bergerac, is a wine region; and the "Périgord Noir" (Black Périgord) surrounding the administrative center of Sarlat, overlooks the valleys of the Vézère and the Dordogne, where the woods of oak and pine give it its name.
The Petrocores took part in the resistance against Rome. Concentrated in two or three major sites are the vestiges of the Gallo-Roman period – the gigantic ruined tower and arenas in Périgueux (formerly Vesone), the Périgord museum's archaeological collections, villa remains in Montcaret and the Roman tower of La Rigale Castle in Villetoureix. The first cluzeaux, or artificial caves either above or below ground, are found throughout the Dordogne. These subterranean refuges and lookout huts could shelter entire populations. According to Julius Caesar the Gauls took refuge there.
Since the Guienne province had returned to the Crown under the Plantagenets following the re-marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152, Périgord passed by right into English suzerainty. Being situated at the boundaries of influence of the monarchies of France and England, it was to oscillate between the two dynasties for a long time. Over three hundred years of struggle until 1453 and the end of the Hundred Years' War were to tear apart and, as a consequence, model its physiognomy.
With the end of the Hundred Years' War, the Castillon plain on the banks of the Dordogne, during the calmer periods of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, saw a development in urban architecture. The finest Gothic and Renaissance residences were built in Périgueux, Bergerac and Sarlat. In the countryside, the nobility had the majority of our 1200 chateaux, manors and country houses erected. In the second half of the sixteenth century, however, they experienced attacks, pillaging and fires as the Wars of Religion reached a rare degree of violence in Périgord. At the time, Bergerac was one of the most powerful Huguenot strongholds, along with La Rochelle. Following these wars, Périgord, fief of Henry of Navarre. was to return to the Crown for good and suffer henceforth from the sudden political changes of the French nation, from the Revolution to the tragic hours of the Resistance. We also encounter the memory of its most illustrious literary figures: Bertran de Born, Michel de Montaigne, Etienne de La Boetie, Brantôme, Fenelon, Mahle de Biran, Eugene Le Roy and Andre Maurois; its great captains: Talleyrand, Saint-Exupery, Biron... and even Josephine Baker. A number of ruins (La Chapelle-Faucher, I'Herm...) have retained the memory of the tragedies which took place within their walls. Several of our castles and châteaux are open to visitors and some of them such as Bourdeilles and Mareuil, house remarkable collections.
In addition to its castles, chateaux, churches, bastides and cave fortresses, the Périgord region has preserved from centuries past, a number of wonderful villages which still have their market halls, dovecotes, tories (stone huts), churches, abbeys and castles. Saint-Leon-sur-Vezere, Connezac, Saint-Jean-de-Côle, La Roque-Gageac and many others are real jewels of architecture. As for the old quarters of Périgueux or Bergerac, restored and developed into pedestrian areas, they have regained their former charm. A number of small towns, such as Brantôme, Issigeac, Eymet and Mareuil, have withstood the often brash changes of modern times. A special mention should be made in this respect to Sarlat and its Black Périgord area.
During the next thee decades the departmental borders were changed several times.
- In 1793 the communes of Boisseuilh, Coubjours, Génis, Payzac, Saint-Cyr-les-Champagnes, Saint-Mesmin, Salagnac, Savignac, Saint-Trié and Teillots were transferred to Dordogne from Corrèze.
- In 1794 Dordogne ceded Cavarc to Lot-et-Garonne. Later in 1794 (albeit during the subsequent year under the Republican Calendar in use at the time) Dordogne gained Parcoul from Charente-Inférieure.
- Following the restoration, in 1819, the commune of Bonrepos was suppressed and merged with the adjacent commune of Souillac in Lot.
In 1870, shortly after France had been attacked by Prussia in a war which the enemy was believed to be winning, a young aristocrat called Alain de Monéys was savagely tortured by a crowd of between 300 and 800 people for two hours on 16 August in a public square in the village of Hautefaye in the north-west of the department. After this he was roasted. Details of the incident remain unclear: the leading participants appear to have been drunk and before the introduction of mass education most of the witnesses would have been unable (and possibly unwilling) to write down what they saw. But at some stage the victim died, and following a trial four individuals identified as culpable were in their turn condemned to die by guillotine. The sentence was carried out in the same public square on 6 February 1871.
It was suggsted that the victim had reported the (bad) news about the war in a way that implied support for the enemy, although subsequently it became clear that his patriotic credentials were beyond approach. It was also suggested that the mob had been antagonised when he called out, "Vive la République!" (Long live the republic) at a time when the patriotic villagers valued the imperial regime which the Prussians were even then in the process of destroying.
The incident was widely reported at the time and has been extensively researched subsequently. This summary leans on the work of Alain Corbin,<ref>Corbin Alain, Le village des "cannibales", Paris, Aubier, 1990, 204 p.</ref> a historian specialising in the nineteenth century who has carefully and objectively analysed the incident and the mass-psychology behind it.