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Approximately 450,000 years ago Homo erectus settled near Les Eyzies (Périgord) and lived in and around the caves which are numerous in this part of France.

Homo erectus was followed by Neanderthal man, also a cave dweller, who lived in tribes and appeared in this region about 120,000 years ago. The Cro Magnon, a homo sapiens, also lived in this region about 50,000 years ago. Our direct ancestors appeared in Lot about 40,000 years ago and about 4000 BC these people started to engage in agriculture and livestock breeding. The end of prehistory was thus a fact and this transition is also called the Neolithic Revolution.


Around 500 BC, Lot was inhabited by a Celtic tribe, the Cadurci, who founded Divona (now Cahors). From 56 BC, the Cadurci were colonised by the Romans under the leadership of Julius Caesar. The Cadurci were eventually defeated at Uxelldunum, in the north of Lot. The defeated Cadurci made a virtue of necessity and tried to profit as much as possible from the Romans' presence. They introduced, among other things, viticulture and thus Lot developed into an urbanised, rich region. In 28 BC, the southern part of Gaul, to which Lot belonged, became the province of Aquitaine.

Middle Ages

Between the 4th and 5th centuries AD, Lot was gradually Christianised. In 813, the province of Quercy, to which Lot belonged, was elevated to a county under the kingdom of Aquitaine. This kingdom was ruled by a vassal of the Frankish king and in 849 Quercy was annexed to the county of Toulouse. Until the middle of the 10th century, Quercy was plagued by endless quarrels between local rulers. Only the bishop of Cahors managed to escape the constant squabbling; as count he represented the highest noble authority.

In 1152, Eleanor of Aquitaine divorced Louis VII, king of France and remarried Henry of Plantagenet, who became king of England two years later. As a result, large parts of France became the property of England, including Guyenne (Aquitaine). Quercy was at the time a border area between the kingdoms of England and France, but was ceded to the English in 1190. However, in the period 1294-1296, the area was conquered for France by Philip IV the Fair, from the family of the Capetians. Philip died in 1314 and his three sons not long afterwards. There were no male successors to the throne and, according to the law, the throne could not fall to the female line. From 1328 the throne of France was unoccupied. Finally, a nephew of Philip, Philip VI of Valois, was elected king of France. However, problems arose again when a grandson of Philip the Handsome, Edward III of England, laid claim to the French throne. Philip VI of Valois, of course, did not accept this and not long afterwards, the Hundred Years' War broke out.

Hundred Years' War, religious wars and peasant wars

In 1360, the Treaty of Brétigny was concluded, by which France ceded about half of its territory to England. In return, France received Guyenne, including Lot. The 14th century was also marked by great famines and the plague, which almost completely depopulated the population of Lot. Immigration from the Auvergne and the Rouergue ensured that the population recovered somewhat. Quercy (including Lot), remained loyal to the King of France throughout the Hundred Years' War and caused many problems to the English occupying forces. In 1369, the French succeeded in driving the English out of Cahors. At the end of the war, in 1453, Quercy officially reverted to France.

In 1540, Lot had to face the advance of the Reformation from the south. This, of course, to the great displeasure of the Catholic bishops, who regarded Protestantism as an aberration. Cahors sided with the Catholic Church, and in 1562, many Protestants were brutally murdered in this town. In retaliation, hundreds of farmers were burned alive by a Protestant army. In 1572, it was already so far that all Catholics in the area were hunted down by the Protestants. Even entire cities were burned to the ground for this purpose. In 1577, a peace agreement was signed in Bergerac, but already in 1580, Cahors was taken by the Protestant Geoffroy de Vivans. In 1598, hostilities ceased with the Edict of Nantes, which allowed Protestants to practise their faith freely. In effect, this meant that Quercy was divided into a Catholic part, Lot, and a Protestant part, Tarn-et-Garonne. In 1629, the Edict of Nantes was ratified by the Peace of Alès.

Because of the religious wars, especially the peasants of Lot had suffered a lot, not only because of the fighting but also because of the ever increasing taxes, which were necessary for the wars. By the end of the 16th century, the peasants had had enough and raised their own army which, after initial successes, was defeated. In 1637 another peasant revolt (révolte des croquants) against tax increases took place, and also in 1707 and 1789 the peasants went to war.

Birth and development of the Lot

In 1790, the Périgord became the department of Dordogne and Haut-Quercy and Bas-Quercy were merged into the department of Lot. At the same time, Cahors became the new capital of the department, replacing Montauban. The whole of the 19th century was still a difficult time for the farmers due to the depopulation of the countryside and a phylloxera epidemic. However, by the end of the 19th century, the situation began to improve with the construction of railways and the canalisation of part of the Lot. These developments led to an economic boom that was further strengthened at the beginning of the 20th century.

The First World War caused a setback, but the Second World War did not have such consequences for Lot, which was located in the unoccupied Vichy-France of Marshal Pétain. The forests and the 'causses' proved to be excellent hiding places for the underground (maquis), and in 1943, Lot had more than forty resistance units.

After the war, Lot's economic situation worsened, and it completely missed out on the industrialisation of the countryside. However, in the last decades, this became a great asset for the development of tourism in this area. Tourists appreciate the unspoiled landscape very much and attract massively to Lot and its surroundings.

See also the history of Franceb.


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

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

Dordogne, Périgord : Périgueux, Bergerac, Cahors, Rocamadour

Graaf, G. de / Dordogne, Limousin

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated April 2024
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