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Burgundy (bûrˈgəndē), Fr. Bourgogne (bo͝orgôˈnyə), historic region, E France. The name once applied to a large area embracing several kingdoms, a free county (see Franche-Comté), and a duchy. The administrative region of Burgundy established in 1972 was identical with the province of of the same name of the 17th and 18th cent., and was administratively divided into the departments of Yonne, Côte-d'Or, Saône-et-Loire, Ain, and Nièvre. In 2016 Burgundy was merged, along with Franche-Comté, into the administrative region of Burgundy-Franche-Comté. Dijon is the historic capital; other cities are Autun, Auxerre, Beaune, Bourg-en-Bresse, Chalon-sur-Saône, and Mâcon.

Burgundy west of the Saône River is generally hilly; the southeast includes the southern spurs of the Jura Mts.; the center is a lowland, extending south almost to the junction of the Saône and Rhône rivers (see Bresse). A rich agricultural country, Burgundy is especially famous for the wine produced in the Chablis region, the mountains of the Côte d'Or, and the Saône and Rhône valleys. There is some heavy industry and mechanical equipment manufacturing.


The territory, conquered by Caesar in the Gallic Wars, was divided first into the Roman provinces of Lugdunensis and Belgic Gaul, then into Lugdunensis and Upper Germany (see Gaul). It prospered, and Autun became a major intellectual center. In the 4th cent. Roman power dissolved, and the country was invaded by Germanic tribes. It was finally conquered (c.480) by the Burgundii, a tribe from Savoy. The Burgundii accepted Christianity, established their Lex Burgundionum, and formed the First Kingdom of Burgundy, which at its height covered SE France and reached as far south as Arles and W Switzerland.

Conquered (534) by the Franks, it was throughout the Merovingian period subjected to numerous partitions. Burgundy nevertheless survived as a political concept, and after the partitions of the Carolingian empire two new Burgundian kingdoms were founded, Cisjurane Burgundy, or Provence, in the south (879) and Transjurane Burgundy in the north (888). These two were united (933) in the Second Kingdom of Burgundy (see Arles, kingdom of). A smaller area, corresponding roughly to present Burgundy, was created as the duchy of Burgundy by Emperor Charles II in 877. In 1002, King Robert II of France made good his claim to the duchy, but his son, Henry I, gave it in 1031 as a fief to his brother Robert, whose line died out in 1361.

The golden age of Burgundy began (1364) when John II of France bestowed the fief on his son, Philip the Bold, thus founding the line of Valois-Bourgogne. Philip and his successors, John the Fearless, Philip the Good, and Charles the Bold, acquired—by conquest, treaty, and marriage—vast territories, including most of the present Netherlands and Belgium, the then extensive duchy of Luxembourg, Picardy, Artois, Lorraine, S Baden, Alsace, the Franche-Comté, Nivernais, and Charolais.

In the early 15th cent. the dukes of Burgundy, through their partisans in France, dominated French politics (see Armagnacs and Burgundians). England, at first supported by Burgundy in the Hundred Years War, suffered a crucial setback when Philip the Good withdrew that support in the Treaty of Arras (1435). A great power, Burgundy at that time had the most important trade, industry, and agriculture of Europe. Its court, a center of the arts, was second to none.

The wars of ambitious Charles the Bold, however, proved ruinous. Charles, opposed by the determined and resourceful Louis XI of France, was defeated by the Swiss at Grandson, Morat (1476), and Nancy (1477), where he lost his life. His daughter, Mary of Burgundy, by marrying Emperor Maximilian I, brought most of the Burgundian possessions (but not the original French duchy) to the house of Hapsburg. The duchy itself was seized by Louis XI, who incorporated it into the French crownlands as a province, to which Gex, Bresse, and Charolais were added later by Henry IV and Louis XIV.


See studies by O. Cartellieri (1929, repr. 1972), R. Aldrich (1984), E. Fried (1986), and C. Cope (1987).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Bourgogne), a historic province in eastern France in the basin of the Saône River. Includes the departments of Côte d’Or, Saône-et-Loire, Ain, and part of Yonne. Area, over 30, 000 sq km; population, about 1.5 million (1968). The main city is Dijon.

Burgundy occupies the southeastern border of the Paris basin, the northeastern spurs of the Massif Central (the Charoláis and Côte d’Or mountains and the Morvan plateau, with elevations of up to 902 m), the valley of the Saône River (right tributary of the Rhône), and the surrounding western slopes of the Jura. The chief rivers of France come together in Burgundy: the upper course of the Seine and its tributary, the Yonne; the Saône and its tributary, the Doubs; and the Arroux, a tributary of the Loire. The rivers are all connected by canals.

Industry employs 25 percent of the economically active population of Burgundy; agriculture employs 38 percent (1962). The major industrial region is around Le Creusot, where the coal of the south Burgundy coal basin (Blanzy) has led to the development of ferrous metallurgy as well as metalworking and machine building. Uranium ore is mined in the west at Grury. Dijon has machine building and food industry. Burgundy is famous for its grapes and wines. The Côte d’Or, Mâcon, and Chablis areas boast of the best strains. Wheat and fodder crops are grown, and cattle, pigs, and poultry are raised. Dijon is an important transportation center.

History. In the Middle Ages the name Burgundy was borne by different states and territorial structures. In the fifth century the Burgundian kingdom, with Lyon as its center, arose on the territory where the Burgundians, a Germanic tribe, had settled. In the sixth century this kingdom became part of the Frankish state but retained the name Burgundy. In the ninth century, during the disintegration of the Frankish state, two kingdoms, separated by the Jura, were formed on part of the territory of the former Burgundian kingdom: Upper (or Transjura) Burgundy and Lower (or Cisjura) Burgundy, which in 933 united in the single Burgundian kingdom, or Arélate, with Aries as its center. After 1032-34 it was part of the Holy Roman Empire; in the 14th century most of its territory was incorporated into the kingdom of France. The northern part became part of the Swiss Confederation. In the ninth century the duchy of Burgundy, with Dijon as its center, was formed from the part of the kingdom of the Burgundians that had been incorporated into the western Frankish kingdom in 843. The duchy was in vassal dependency on the French kings and belonged to a branch of the French dynasty of the Capetians from 1032 to 1361. In the 14th and 15th centuries the Burgundian dukes, relying on the support of the cities and taking advantage of the difficult economic and political situation of France as a result of the Hundred Years’ War of 1337-1453, made the duchy of Burgundy virtually an independent state. Duke Philip the Bold (reigned 1364-1404), the founder of a new dynasty of Burgundian dukes, the Valois, added Flanders, Artois, and Franche-Comté (or the Free County of Burgundy) to his possessions. The dukes John the Fearless (reigned 1404-19) and Philip the Good (reigned 1419-67) were the leaders of a feudal clique that fought for power in France in the first third of the 15th century. John the Fearless concluded an alliance with England and helped it in the war against France; Philip the Good went over to the side of France and received Picardy and several other French lands in compensation (1435). He added to his possessions Hainaut, Holland, Zee-land, Namur, Brabant, Limburg, and Luxembourg. The annexations in the 14th and 15th centuries led to the formation of a vast Burgundian state that became a strong European power. The economically advanced Dutch possessions—above all Brabant and Flanders, with their highly developed cities—were its economic and political base; the duchy of Burgundy proper played the subordinate role of a springboard used by the dukes to weaken royal power in France by fanning feudal and separatist rebellions. The dukes tried to unify and centralize the numerous and scattered possessions. Estates General of the whole country were regularly convoked after 1463, and a system of estate monarchy was formed. Duke Charles the Bold (reigned 1467-77) wanted to annex new lands, in particular Lorraine and Alsace, but came up against the unification policy of the French kings (Louis XI) and was completely defeated in this struggle. The Burgundian wars of 1474-77 ended with the death of Charles the Bold and the disintegration of the vast but economically and ethnically heterogeneous Burgundian state. The territory of the Burgundian duchy proper, as well as Picardy, was incorporated into the French kingdom, forming the self-governing province of Burgundy (Bourgogne); in 1790 it was divided into the departments of Saône-et-Loire, Ain, Côte d’Or, and Yonne. The Dutch possessions passed to the Hapsburgs (definitively in 1482, after the death of Charles the Bold’s daughter, Mary of Burgundy, which ended the Burgundian dynasty).

Architecture and art. In the Middle Ages Burgundy played an important role in the development of European architecture and fine arts. In the 11th and 12th centuries the duchy of Burgundy was one of the important centers of Romanesque architecture. The basilica of the Cluny Abbey, which after the reconstructions of 1088-1130 presented a majestic and solemn appearance and had a spacious interior spanned by vaults and a complex construction (five aisles, two transepts, and a choir with ambulatory and radiating chapels), served as a model for many churches in France, Germany, and Burgundy itself (the churches of St. Lazare in Autun, c. 1120-32, and of La Madeleine in Vézelay, 1096-1132). In the reliefs that ornamented the Romanesque churches of Burgundy, conventional forms and an abundance of grotesque and fantastic personages were sometimes combined with a vivid spirituality of image (Eve from a cathedral in Autun, c. 1135-40, sculptor Gislebertus). In the 14th and 15th centuries Burgundy was not only a center of refined court and knightly late Gothic artistic culture but also the focal point of advanced French and Dutch art, since the dukes of Burgundy invited the best of the Dutch masters to Dijon. Claus Sluter and his collaborators Jean de Marville and Claus de Werve made a bold step in freeing European sculpture from the arbitrariness of late Gothic art and introduced into it a severe realism and powerful plastic expression. Jean Malouel, Henri Bellechose, and Melchior Broederlam strove in their altar paintings toward realism of figures, correct construction of space, and a realistic interpretation of landscapes and interiors. The art of Burgundy at the turn of the 15th century in many ways anticipated the realist searches of the 15th-century Dutch and French masters.


Gratsianskii, N. P. Burgundskaia derevnia v X-XII st. Moscow-Leningrad, 1935.
Drouot, H., and J. Calmette. Histoire de Bourgogne, 5th ed. Paris, 1928.
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Oursel, C. L’art de Bourgogne. Paris-Grenoble, 1958.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


region of France that produces fine wines. [Fr. Hist.: NCE, 2989]
See: Wine
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a region of E France famous for its wines, lying west of the Saône: formerly a semi-independent duchy; annexed to France in 1482
2. Free County of. another name for Franche-Comté
3. a monarchy (1384--1477) of medieval Europe, at its height including the Low Countries, the duchy of Burgundy, and Franche-Comté
4. Kingdom of. a kingdom in E France, established in the early 6th century ad, eventually including the later duchy of Burgundy, Franche-Comté, and the Kingdom of Provence: known as the Kingdom of Arles from the 13th century
a. any red or white wine produced in the region of Burgundy, around Dijon
b. any heavy red table wine
6. a blackish-purple to purplish-red colour
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005