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The first prehistoric human species, Homo erectus, appeared in the Périgord in the period 500,000 - 300,000 BC.

However, the creator of the famous cave drawings and paintings was Homo sapiens, who lived here in the Paleolithic (Old Stone Age). The Vézère valley in particular contains a large number of prehistoric sites from this period.

Some of the Homo sapiens who lived in the Périgord were the Neanderthal and the Moustérien (ca. 100,000 - 35,000 years ago). They made flint tools, travelled and lived from hunting and gathering food. They probably already buried their dead, as witnessed by the discovery of the abri of La Ferrassie.

From 33,000 to 10,000 B.C. (Young Paleolithic), the Cro-Magnon man lived in the Périgord, who was much further advanced than all his predecessors, both technologically and culturally. Especially in the Magdalenian, the quality of the rock drawings improved considerably.

From 6000 B.C. onwards, gatherers and hunters made way for Neolithic agricultural cultures, which began to cultivate the land. The first domesticated animals also appeared in this period and at the end of the Neolithic period (3500 - 2000 B.C.), megalithic tombs were also found in the area.


In the copper and bronze age (from 3000 B.C.), the Périgord was populated by new populations, including shepherds. The Bronze Age was also characterised by the development of international trade.

From the 6th century B.C., Celtic (Gallic) tribes settled in the Périgord, including the so-called Petrocorii (Celtic for 'four tribes') around Périgueux. These Celts built fortified fortresses, so-called 'oppida'. During the conquest of Gaul by the Romans (122 - 51 B.C.), these oppida formed obstacles even for the Romans.

In 27 BC, the Périgord was incorporated into the Roman province of Aquitaine. The Romans left behind thermal baths, aqueducts and amphitheatres in this area. Furthermore, they built roads, used iron ovens, exploited gold mines and planted vineyards. All this made the province of Aquitaine urbanised and economically prosperous. The Christianisation of the Périgord took place gradually between the 4th and 5th century.

However, this came to an end in the 5th century A.D. The decline began and the Western Roman Empire came to an end in 476.

In the period 235-284, there had already been invasions by Alemanni and Franks.

Middle Ages

At the end of the 5th century, the Visigoth kingdom came under the authority of the Merovingian king Clovis, the founder of the Frankish Empire. In 506, he had himself baptised in order to gain the favour of the bishops and the Christian population.

In the 8th century, the county of Périgord was created, which was then divided into four baronies (Mareuil, Bourdeilles, Beynac and Biron) in the 10th century and ruled by the families Turenne, Cardaillac and Castelnau. The county of Périgord came into the hands of the house of Talleyrand.

At the end of the 11th century, many knights left the Périgord to join the crusaders, who wanted to liberate the Holy Land which was occupied by the Turks. In the 12th and 13th century, it was mainly the monasteries who had a lot of money, land and power. This was also the time of the heretical Cathars, who spread all over southern France, fleeing from the army of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Hundred Years' War (1337-1453)

Between 1337 and 1453, a large part of the Hundred Years' War took place in the Périgord. At that time, the river Dordogne was the border between the fighting French and English.

The reason for this long conflict was the divorce between King Louis VII and his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152. She took her dowry, including the Périgord, and married Henry II Plantagenet in the same year. The latter thus obtained the Duchy of Aquitaine, and two years later also the English crown. In the following period, the English and French armies fought regularly on the territory of the Périgord. In 1259, Louis IX the Saint ceded the Périgord to the English by the Treaty of Paris, trying to put an end to the Franco-English disputes.

In 1340, the English King Edward III proclaimed himself King of France and subsequently defeated the French fleet and the army of Philip VI. In 1347, Edward finally settled on French territory.

The last decades of the Hundred Years' War were very hard for the French and were made famous by Joan of Arc. She took on the English and made sure that Charles VII was crowned king of France in 1429. In 1431, the "Virgin of Orleans" was burned at the stake. In 1453 the English definitively lost the war at the Battle of Castillon and a strong national French consciousness could develop. The French crown would only consolidate its authority in the Périgord at the end of the 16th, beginning of the 17th century.

Reformation and absolutism

Under the inspiring leadership of Calvin, the Reformation idea gained much support among the nobility of the Périgord. Around 1550, France was divided into two camps: the Protestants or Huguenots and the Catholics. In the Périgord, a city like Bergerac was completely in the hands of the Huguenots, while Périgueux, Sarlat and Cahors were Catholic strongholds. Until the end of the 16th century, a sometimes bloody battle raged and many Catholic buildings and statues were destroyed. In 1589, Henry IV ascended the throne and under his rule, the Périgord became part of the French kingdom. In 1594, a peasant uprising starts, who are fed up with the poverty, the hunger and the ever increasing taxes. The farmers ('croquants') of course lost the battle and were defeated in August 1595.

In 1598 the religious struggle came to a temporary end with the Edict of Nantes, in which the Catholic convert Henry IV regulated freedom of religion. As a direct result of this, the Périgord would from then on fall directly under the French crown.

However, the peace did not last long and hostilities between Catholics and Huguenots resumed. This time, the Huguenots quickly lost and in 1629, the last 'Protestant' cities, Bergerac and Montauban, surrendered.

Most Huguenots then fled to countries like the Netherlands and England.

From this time on, the regions of France had to deal with the absolute power of 'Paris'; dissent was no longer tolerated. The high point in this was Louis XIV's motto: 'L'etat c'est moi (the state is me)'. Nobility and clergy profited greatly from this, while the peasantry suffered from tax increases and was heavily oppressed. Peasant uprisings in the Périgord and elsewhere in France were still suppressed. But also the citizens in the cities had little or no say in the matter, so it was not surprising that eventually citizens and peasants rose up together against the king's regime.

In 1685, the Edict of Nantes was revoked by Louis XIV and many protestants from the Périgord fled France. In 1707, a new peasant revolt broke out in the Périgord and the Quercy, but this too was quickly nipped in the bud.

French Revolution

The revolution began with the storming of the Parisian prison Bastille on 14 July 1789. With reference to the slogan 'Liberty, Equality and Fraternity', rights were established for all French people.

However, this did not happen without a struggle. The heads of Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette were chopped off, as were those of many clergymen and noblemen. This was followed by much discord among the revolutionaries themselves, resulting in a period of terror and destruction. Add to this a serious economic crisis, and the call for a strong man was not surprising.

On 4 March 1790, the department of Dordogne was formed, and it was then assumed that the province of Périgord would be the same.


That strong man was Corsican-born Napoleon Bonaparte, at that time commander of the French army. He celebrated military successes in Italy and Egypt, among other places, and in 1804 he allowed himself to be crowned emperor. In regions like the Périgord, this step was welcomed by most people. The Périgord even became a stronghold of Napoleon's supporters. Several of his generals even came from this region.

In 1814, the Bourbons returned to the French throne and in 1815, after the defeat at Waterloo, Napoleon was exiled to Saint Helena, where he died in 1821.

In the period after Napoleon, the Industrial Revolution got off to a good start, with a major role for the bourgeoisie and the emergence of a working class.

The 19th, however, was far from a peaceful period. In 1830 and in 1848 new revolutionary uprisings broke out and after the last uprising the Second Republic was proclaimed. Also in 1871, the people revolted. The Franco-German war (1870-1871) resulted in France having to cede Alsace-Lorraine to Germany.

First and Second World War

After the First World War, France regained Alsace-Lorraine, but this was only a plaster on the wounds of the many dead and wounded that the war had cost France.

In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany and in 1940 France became entangled in the Second World War. The new government leader Pétain signed an armistice with Germany and was willing to cooperate with the Germans. At that time, France was divided into two zones, with the Périgord falling into the unoccupied part of southern France. However, the Germans did not keep their word and in 1942, the free zone was occupied by the Germans.

On 6 June 1944, the Allied invasion of Normandy began and France was liberated.

Post-war period

After the war, the various resistance movements formed a government, with Charles de Gaulle, the great man of the French resistance, in power. The Périgord declined economically, especially since the industrialisation of agriculture, which took place in the rest of France, passed this region by.

After the student revolt of 1968, De Gaulle was succeeded by Georges Pompidou. Pompidou was followed by Giscard d'Estaing (1974-1981), Mitterand (1981-1995) and Chirac (from 1995).

They all tried to give the regions more say, but in fact not much has come of it yet. Paris is still in charge, despite regular protests.

21th century

Nicolas Sarkozy has been president since 16 May 2007. The president has a relatively large amount of power, because he is head of state and government. In October 2008, the extent of the credit crisis became noticeable and in February 2009, the government pumped billions into the economy. In March 2010, the governing parties suffered a major loss in regional elections. In June 2010, the government announced drastic budget cuts to reduce the national debt. In May 2012, the socialist Francois Hollande takes office as president. In 2013, France sends an intervention force to the former colony of Mali. In March 2014, Manuel Valls becomes the new prime minister, after a rise of the National Front. The Front National also wins in the European elections in May.

The year 2015 is marked by terrorist attacks on French territory by Islamic State. In January, there are 17 victims, mostly employees of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. In November, 130 people are killed in various attacks in Paris. In February 2016 the clearing of the "jungle" of Calais, a large camp with illegal immigrants who want to cross to Great Britain, begins. On 14 July 2016, Islamic State struck again, a truck drove into a crowd during the bank holidays resulting in more than 80 deaths. In May 2017, the centre's candidate Emaunuel Macron wins the French presidential election over the ultra-right Marine Le Pen. His movement La Republique en Marche then wins an absolute majority in parliamentary elections in June.

At the end of 2018, large nationwide "yellow jacket" protests take place against attempts to curb the use of fossil fuels through price increases that turn violent, prompting government adjustments. The protests continue into 2019. In July 2020, President Macron appoints Jean Castex as Prime Minister, after Edouard Philippe resigned following a poor result for the ruling La République En Marche! party in local elections. In Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, a suburb northwest of Paris, a history teacher who shortly before had been showing caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in class was beheaded in the street. The 18-year-old Chechen perpetrator was shot dead by the police.

2021 and early 2022 will be marked by the upcoming elections in which Macron will face Valérie Pécresse of Les Républicains, Marine Le Pen of Rassemblement National and Éric Zemmour of Reconquête, among others. Emmanuel Macron wins French presidential election in April 2022. This will allow him to begin a second five-year term in office.


Best, J. / Dordogne, Limousin met Quercy en Berry

Denhez, F. / Dordogne, Lot, Périgord, Quercy

Dordogne en Lot-et-Garonne

Dordogne, Périgord : Périgueux, Bergerac, Cahors, Rocamadour

Graaf, G. de / Dordogne, Limousin

Hiddema, B. / Dordogne

Miller, N. / Dordogne

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info