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Savoy

Savoy (səvoiˈ) [key], Fr. Savoie, Alpine region of E France. The boundaries of old Savoy have changed with time, but presently the region comprises the departments of Savoie and Haute-Savoie. It is bounded on the N by Lake Geneva, on the W by the Rhône River, on the S by Dauphiné, and on the E by the Alpine crest on the Swiss and Italian borders. Chambéry is the historic capital of French Savoy. The region commands many important passes connecting France and Italy (notably the historic Little Saint Bernard and the Mont Cenis) and includes the French portion of the highest Alpine peak, Mont Blanc. Agriculture and dairying have long been the region's chief occupations. Tourism is also important, and there are many spas, the most notable at Évian-les-Bains. Savoy was inhabited by the Allobroges at the time Julius Caesar conquered the region. It became part of the first kingdom of Burgundy (5th cent.) and later of the kingdom of Arles (10th cent.), after which it was ceded to the Holy Roman Empire. In the 11th cent., Humbert the Whitehanded, a lord of Arles, consolidated the various feudal territories of the region, and from then on the region's history is closely linked with the house of Savoy (see Savoy, house of). Under Amadeus VIII, Savoy became (early 15th cent.) a duchy extending far into France, Italy, and Switzerland. By the beginning of the 16th cent. the rule of the dukes had grown weak, and Savoy fell under French and Swiss dominance. Emmanuel Philibert greatly restored the territory and fortunes of the region and moved the ducal residence to Turin (1559), after which Savoy became essentially an Italian rather than a French state. When Victor Amadeus II became king of Sardinia in 1713, Savoy became a part of that new state (see Sardinia, kingdom of). Annexed by France in 1792, Savoy was returned to Sardinia in 1815. Finally, by the Treaty of Turin (1860), Piedmont, then the ruling part of Savoy, ceded French Savoy to France. The region was annexed after a plebiscite.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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