[key], city, capital of Gironde dept., SW France, on the Garonne River.
Bordeaux is a major economic and cultural center, and a busy port accessible
to oceangoing ships from the Atlantic through the Gironde River. Although
Bordeaux has important shipyards and industries (machines, chemicals, and
airplanes), its principal source of wealth is the wine trade. Bordeaux wine
is the generic name of the wine produced in the Bordelais region, which is
dotted with châteaux that give their names to many vineyards. Known
as Burdigala by the Romans, Bordeaux was the capital of the province of
Aquitania and a prosperous commercial city. It became an archepiscopal see
in the 4th cent. Bordeaux's importance declined under Visigothic and
Frankish rule (c.5th cent.), but was revived when the city became (11th
cent.) the seat of the dukes of Aquitaine. Eleanor of Aquitaine, who
was born there, precipitated through her successive marriages to Louis VII
of France and Henry II of England the long struggle between the two nations.
As a result of these wars Bordeaux came under English rule, which lasted
from 1154 to 1453. The city's commercial importance dates from this period.
Reconquered by France, Bordeaux became capital of the province of Guienne.
Louis XI established the powerful parlement of Bordeaux and granted great
privileges to the university founded (1441) by Pope Eugene IV. The
intellectual reputation of Bordeaux was made by Montaigne and Montesquieu,
who were born nearby and who were both magistrates in the city. Bordeaux
reached the height of its prosperity in the 18th cent. Its relations with
England were always close; many English firms exporting wine and spirits
established themselves in the city. Bordeaux was the center of the Girondists in the French Revolution and
the site of the National Assembly of 1871 that established the Third
Republic. In 1914 and again in 1940, at the onset of the World Wars, the
city was the temporary seat of the French government. The Place des
Quinconces, with its statues of Montaigne and Montesquieu, dominates the
center of the city. Other points of interest are the Gothic Cathedral of St.
André, several art museums, and some elegant 18th-century buildings
designed by Victor Louis and Jacques Gabriel. An engineering school and a
research center studying mass-media communications are also in Bordeaux.
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