Artois: A Historic and Cultural Region of Northern France

Artois: A Historic and Cultural Region of Northern France

Artois is a region that covers an area of about 4,000 km and has a population of about one million. Its principal cities are Arras, Saint-Omer, Lens, and Béthune. It is also the eponym for the term artesian, which refers to a type of well that taps groundwater under pressure.

The history of Artois is rich and complex. It was inhabited by the Celtic tribe of the Atrebates during Julius Caesar’s time, and later became part of the county of Flanders. It was annexed by France in 1180 as a dowry of a Flemish princess, Isabelle of Hainaut, and was made a separate province in 1237 for her grandson, Robert. Artois then came under the rule of the dukes of Burgundy in 1384, and passed to the Habsburgs in 1500. It was involved in the religious wars of the 16th century, and joined the Union of Atrecht in 1579, which recognized the sovereignty of Spain over the southern Netherlands. Artois was conquered by France during the Thirty Years’ War, and its annexation was confirmed by several treaties in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Artois was a prosperous trading and manufacturing region associated with the fortunes of Flanders, but it suffered greatly from the destruction brought by World War I. Many towns were extensively damaged and had to be rebuilt after 1918. Artois also faced economic decline due to the closure of coal mines in the 20th century. Today, Artois is part of the Hauts-de-France region, and is known for its cultural heritage, its cuisine, and its beer.


Cuisine and Culture of Artois

Artois is not only a region with a rich history, but also a region with a distinctive cuisine and culture. The cuisine of Artois reflects its geographic location, its agricultural products, and its historical influences. It is characterized by hearty dishes, such as potjevleesch (a terrine of meat in jelly), waterzooi (a stew of chicken or fish with vegetables and cream), carbonade flamande (a beef stew with beer and onions), and hochepot (a soup of meat and vegetables). Artois is also known for its cheese, such as maroilles and boulette d’Avesnes, its bread, such as cramique (a sweet bread with raisins) and pain d’Artois (a round loaf with a cross on top), and its desserts, such as gaufres (waffles) and tarte au sucre (a pie with brown sugar and cream).

Artois is also a region with a strong cultural identity, marked by its traditions, its festivals, and its language. The language of Artois is a dialect of Picard, a Romance language closely related to French. It is spoken by some people in rural areas, and has influenced the local French accent. Artois has many traditions, such as the géants (giant figures representing historical or mythical characters that are paraded during festivals), the carnaval (a celebration before Lent with costumes and music), and the ducasse (a fair with rides and games). Artois also has a rich musical heritage, with genres such as chanson (song), fanfare (brass band), and musette (accordion music).


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