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Marseille

MARSEILLE

MARSEILLE. Overlooking the Mediterranean, and located not far from the mouth of the Rhône River, the port city of Marseille linked the economy of France to Italy, Spain, the Ottoman Empire, and North Africa. A city conscious of, indeed proud of, its Greek origins and its ancient lineage, Marseille entered the realm of France in 1481 when control of Provence passed by inheritance from the Angevin counts to the kings of France. Despite Marseille's recent incorporation, it rapidly became one of the crown's bonne villes ('good cities'), a city that enjoyed a special relationship with the monarchy based on its strategic position and its resolute Catholicity.

The population and economy of Marseille grew substantially over the early modern period. In 1524, approximately 15,000 people lived in the city; by 1698, inhabitants numbered about 65,000; and, during the French Revolution, Marseille's population fluctuated between 93,000 and 110,000. Earlier, its economy was based on its position as a regional commercial center, and later as a Mediterranean entrepôt (warehouse). In the late sixteenth century, Marseille succeeded in dominating Europe's trade with the Levant and the Barbary Coast, but, until 1660, this trading nexus experienced spurts of growth tempered by periods of contraction. Under King Louis XIV (ruled 16431715) and Jean Baptiste Colbert (16191683), the king's finance minister, royal policies ensured more sustained growth for the city and its ties to the Levant. In 1669, the crown created tariffs that discouraged any trade with the Levant that did not occur under the auspices of Marseille merchants and their enterprises. Henceforth, most of the wheat, sugar, coffee, and cotton textiles that entered France from the Levant would pass through Marseille, the bonne ville.

The families that prospered by this privileged trading position had long dominated urban society and municipal politics. In a number of cases, their elite status was reinforced by claims to nobility, since it was possible in Marseille to engage in commerce and to call oneself noble or écuyer (literally, 'horseman' or 'squire'). This merchant aristocracy was organized into factions by marriage connections and ties of patronage, and it was through such factions that aristocrats controlled the municipal council and acted as major players in provincial politics (though the seat of provincial and royal government was in nearby Aix-en-Provence). In the process, they competed to manipulate the masses of fishermen and laborers who made up the majority of Marseille's population.

Factional struggle characterized, and explains, much of the political narrative of early modern Marseille. Even during the period of the Wars of Religion (15621598), politics and factionalism constituted far greater sources of instability than Protestantism because Marseille always remained a staunchly Catholic city. Indeed, reformed Catholicism became deeply associated with the communal values of the city, and Marseille's numerous confraternities (all-male lay religious organizations) provided a vehicle for a new style of religious life. This local revival of Catholicism began in the early sixteenth century, long before the era of religious conflict in France, and the fact that Protestantism and religious violence were notably absent in Marseille suggests the extent to which Catholic reform succeeded. Like the city itself, reform and the confraternities fell under the control of the merchant aristocracy.

But reform, albeit Catholic, was not entirely without conflict. In the 1580s the reform movement in Marseille developed connections to the Catholic League throughout France, whose political goal was to maintain a limited monarchy in which power was shared by the king and the nobility. In 1591 Charles de Casaulx (15471596), with a good deal of popular support, seized control of Marseille's government and initiated a more radical agenda that served the goal of France's Catholic League. His dictatorship and Leaguer program set the city in opposition to Henry IV, thereby jeopardizing its status as one of the monarchy's bonnes villes. After Henry's conversion to Catholicism, Casaulx sought an alliance with Philip II of Spain. By refusing to accept France's first Bourbon monarch, Casaulx and supporters discredited the city and this phase of its Catholic mission. As a result, Casaulx was assassinated in 1596 by an elite conspiracy, and his demise opened the way for control by elites more willing to comply with the absolutist vision of Henry IV. In this way, Marseille, ever the bonne ville, became a cornerstone of Bourbon policies in Provence.

See also Catholic League (France) ; Confraternities ; Henry IV (France) ; Levant ; Louis XIV (France) ; Wars of Religion, French .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Emmanuelli, François-Xavier. Vivre à Marseille sous l'Ancien Régime. Paris, 1999.

Schalk, Ellery. "Marseille and the Urban Experience in Sixteenth-Century France: Communal Values, Religious Reform, and Absolutism." Abridged and edited by Raymond A. Mentzer. Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques, 27 no. 2 (2001): 241300.

Donna Bohanon

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Marseilles

Marseilles (märsā´), Fr. Marseille, city (1990 pop. 807,726), capital of Bouches-du-Rhône dept., SE France, on the Gulf of Lions, an arm of the Mediterranean Sea. It is the second largest city of France and one of its most important seaports; an underground canal (see Rove Tunnel) links it with the Rhône River. Marseilles is a major industrial city where flour, vegetable oil, soap, cement, sugar, sulfur, chemicals, and processed foods are produced. The city opened a subway system in 1977, and is connected to most major European cities by rail, road, air, or boat. There is also a history of organized crime and drug traffic in Marseilles, particularly with the Corsican Mafia. The city has a large immigrant population, predominantly North and West Africans who have arrived since the 1970s.

The oldest town of France, it was settled by Phocaean Greeks from Asia Minor c.600 BC Known as Massilia, it became an ally of Rome, which annexed it (49 BC) after it supported Pompey against Julius Caesar. Although the city retained its internal autonomy, it was of secondary importance during the Middle Ages. The upper city was ruled by its bishops from AD 539 until 1288, when it was reunited with the lower city, which had been governed independently by a city council since 1214. During the Crusades (11th–14th cent.) Marseilles was a commercial center and a transit port for the Holy Land. The city declined commercially in the first half of the 14th cent. Marseilles was taken by Charles of Anjou (13th cent.) and then absorbed by Provence and bequeathed (with Provence) to the French crown in 1481. In the 1700s commerce revived, mainly with the Levant and the Barbary States; although the plague wiped out almost half its population in 1720, Marseilles continued to enjoy prosperity until the civil strife of the French Revolution. In the 19th cent. the French conquest of Algeria and the opening of the Suez Canal led to a tremendous expansion of the port of Marseilles and to the city's industrialization.

The sight of Marseilles from the sea, a gleaming white city rising on a semicircle of bare hills, is famous. The Canebière, the principal thoroughfare, is one of the great avenues of the world. The science and medical schools of the Univ. of Aix-en-Provence are in Marseilles, as are industrial and engineering schools, the National School of Marine Commerce, a number of museums, and an observatory. A landmark of Marseilles harbor is the Château d'If castle. Excavations in 1966–67 uncovered what are believed to be vestiges of the ramparts of ancient Massilia.

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Marseilles

Marseilles (Marseille) City and seaport on the Gulf of Lyon, and connected to the River Rhône by an underground canal; capital of Bouches-du-Rhône department, se France. The oldest city in France, Phocaean Greeks founded the settlement in 600 bc. During the Crusades, Marseilles was a commercial centre and shipping port for the Holy Land. The 19th-century French conquest of Algeria and the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) brought great prosperity to the city. Industries: flour milling, soap, vegetable oil, cement, sugar refining, chemicals, engineering. Pop. (1999) 807,071.

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Marseilles

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