Moselle is a department in the east of France named after
the river Moselle.
Moselle is one of the original 83 departments created during the
on March 4,
1790. It was created from the former province
the foreign enclaves of Manderen, Lixing-lès-Rouhling, Momerstroff, and Créhange
(Kriechingen), all possessions of princes of the German Holy Roman Empire, were annexed by France
and incorporated into the Moselle departement.
By the Treaty of Paris of
following the first defeat and abdication of Napoleon
, France had to surrender almost all its
conquests since 1792. On the northeastern border, France was not
restored to its 1792 borders, but a new border was established to
put an end to the convoluted nature of the border, with all its
enclaves and exclaves. As a result, the French exclave of Tholey (now in
Saarland, Germany) as well as
a few communes near Sierck-les-Bains (both territories until then part of the Moselle
departement) were ceded to Austria. On the other hand, the
French annexations of 1793 were confirmed, and furthermore, the
south of the Napoleonic departement of Sarre was ceded to France,
including the town of Lebach, the city of
Saarbrücken, and the rich coal basin nearby.
thus a net beneficiary of the Treaty of Paris, all the new
territories ceded to her being far larger and more strategic than
the few territories ceded to Austria. All these new territories
were incorporated into the Moselle department, and so Moselle had
now a larger territory than ever since 1790.
with the return of Napoleon and his final defeat at the Battle of
Waterloo, the Congress of
Vienna in 1815 imposed much harsher conditions on
Tholey and the communes around Sierck-les-Bains were
still to be ceded as agreed in 1814, but the south of the Sarre
department with Saarbrücken was withdrawn from France. In addition, France
had to cede to Austria the area of
Rehlingen (now in Saarland) as well as the strategic
fort-town of Saarlouis and the territory around it, all territories and
towns which had been French since the 17th century, and which were
part of the Moselle department since 1790.
In the end of
1815, Austria gave all these territories to Prussia
, and it is from them that Prussia invaded
France in the Franco-Prussian
Thus, by the end of 1815, the Moselle department had finally the
limits that it would keep until 1871. It was slightly smaller than
at its creation in 1790, the incorporation of the Austrian enclaves
not compensating for the loss of Saarlouis, Rehlingen, Tholey, and
the communes around Sierck-les-Bains. Between 1815 and 1871, the
department had an area of 5,387 km² (2,080 sq. miles).
prefecture (capital) was
Metz. It had four arrondissements: Metz, Briey, Sarreguemines, and Thionville.
French defeat in the Franco-Prussian
War of 1870-1871, almost all of the Moselle department, along
with Alsace and portions
of the Meurthe and Vosges departments,
were returned to the German Empire by the Treaty
of Frankfurt on the ground that the population in those areas
spoke German dialects.
one-fifth of Moselle (arrondissement of Briey in the extreme west
of the department) was spared annexation by Bismarck, as it was a
French-speaking area. Bismarck later bitterly regretted his
decision when it was discovered that the region of Briey and
Longwy was rich
with iron ore. The Moselle department ceased to exist on
May 18, 1871, and the territories returned to Germany became part
of the Reichsland of Elsaß-Lothringen. The remaining area of Briey was merged with
the truncated Meurthe department to create the new Meurthe-et-Moselle department (a new name chosen on purpose to remind
people of the lost Moselle department) with its préfecture
In 1919, with the French victory in the First World War
, Alsace-Lorraine was
returned to France by Germany at the Treaty of Versailles
. However, it was
not decided to recreate the old departments of Meurthe and Moselle
by reverting to the old department borders of before 1871. Instead,
Meurthe-et-Moselle was left untouched, and the four-fifths of
Moselle that had been annexed by Germany in 1871 were merged with
the one-third of Meurthe also annexed in 1871 to create a new
department of Moselle. Thus, the Moselle department was reborn, but
its borders were quite different from those before 1871.
lost the area of Briey, it had now gained the areas of Château-Salins and Sarrebourg which before 1871 were in the Meurthe department
(being one-third of it) and which had been part of the
Reichsland of Elsaß-Lothringen since
The new Moselle department now had its current area of
6,216 km² (2,400 sq. miles), larger than the old Moselle
because the areas of Château-Salins and Sarrebourg were far larger
than the area of Briey and Longwy.
During World War II
Moselle was again
stripped from France and became part of the Gau - Westmark
according to the armistice of June 22, 1940. Adolf Hitler
considered Moselle and Alsace part of Germany and as a result the
inhabitants were drafted into the German Wehrmacht.
was liberated by the American army in 1944 and returned to France, within the
same frontiers that it had had in 1919.
As a result of the
war and German aggression that led up to it, the Germanic heritage
of the region was shunned by the French government and the local
population as well. The dialect more or less fell into disuse in
the public realm. Recently, efforts have been made to revive the
dialect and distinct culture of the region as with the onset of
open borders and cordial Franco-German relations the language no
longer is associated with the war.
is part of the current region of
Lorraine and is surrounded by the French departments of
Meurthe-et-Moselle and Bas-Rhin, as well as
Germany (states of
Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate) and Luxembourg in the north.
The following are the most important rivers:
The inhabitants of the department are called Mosellans
population has remained relatively stable since World War II and
now exceeds 1 million, located mostly in the urban area around
Metz and along the river Moselle.
If the Moselle department still existed in its limits of between
1815-1871, its population at the 1999 French census would have been
1,089,804 inhabitants. The current Moselle department, whose limits
were set in 1919, had less population, with only 1,023,447
inhabitants. This is because the industrial area of Briey and
Longwy lost in 1871 is more populated than the rural areas of
Château-Salins and Sarrebourg gained in 1919.
A significant minority of inhabitants of the department (fewer than
100,000) speak a Germanic dialect known as platt lorrain
or Lothringer Platt
(see Lorraine Franconian
can be further subdivided into three varieties,
going from east to west: Rhenish
, and Luxembourgish