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Lorraine (lôrĕnˈ), Ger. Lothringen, former province and former administrative region, NE France, bordering in the N on Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, in the E on Alsace, in the S on Franche-Comté, and in the W on Champagne. It is now divided into four departments—Moselle, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, and Vosges. In Moselle dept., of which Metz is the capital, German is widely spoken along with French. The rest of Lorraine is French-speaking. Nancy is its economic and intellectual center.


Except for the Vosges Mts. in the southeast and the ridges paralleling the Moselle and Meuse rivers, Lorraine is a slightly rolling plateau with pastures and some agricultural districts. Hops are grown (Lorraine has large breweries), and there are numerous vineyards. In the east salt is mined; coal was formerly mined. The northeastern section of the region has turned into a rustbelt, with its mining and steel industries, once a mainstay of the economy, losing thousands of jobs since the early 1980s as the low-grade iron ore found near the Belgian and Luxembourg borders and near Nancy lost markets to low-cost high-grade iron ore from abroad. Lorraine is linked to Berlin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Milan, and Basel by rail.


Lorraine, as its name indicates, was in the 9th cent. part of the kingdom of Lotharingia; it became a duchy under the Holy Roman Empire. It passed in 1048 to the house of Alsace, which then became the house of Lorraine and controlled the duchy until 1738. Several fiefs emerged in the 12th–13th cent. that escaped the control of the dukes. Chief of these were the county of Barrois, later the duchy of Bar (see Bar-le-Duc), and the three bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun. Bar and Lorraine were reunited when Lorraine passed by marriage to René of Anjou, duke of Bar; the three bishoprics were finally annexed by France in 1552. René II of Lorraine helped (1477) to defeat, at Nancy, Charles the Bold of Burgundy, who had seized most of the duchy.

In the 16th cent. a cadet branch of the house of Lorraine, the Guise family, gained tremendous influence in France, while Lorraine itself, under Duke Charles II (1559–1608), enjoyed a period of relative order and prosperity amid a Europe torn by religious and imperialistic strife. Lorraine was occupied by France in the Thirty Years War (1618–48). Duke Charles IV spent most of his life trying to recover his lands, and his successor, Charles V, although he helped to recover Hungary from Turkey, never managed to recover Lorraine. At last, in the Treaty of Ryswick (1697), Leopold I was recognized in possession of the duchy.

Leopold's heir, Francis III, married Maria Theresa of Austria, became emperor as Francis I, and founded the house of Hapsburg-Lorraine. By an arrangement (1735) with Louis XV, he exchanged the duchies of Lorraine and Bar for Tuscany; Lorraine and Bar were given to Louis XV's father-in-law, Stanislaus I, ex-king of Poland, upon whose death (1766) they passed to France. As a French province, Lorraine continued to enjoy certain exemptions and privileges.

In 1871, as a result of the Franco-Prussian War, the eastern part of Lorraine was ceded to Germany and united with Alsace as the imperial land (Reichsland) of Alsace-Lorraine. Those parts of Lorraine remaining French were organized into the present department of Meurthe-et-Moselle. After World War I, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France, but it was again annexed (1940–44) by Germany during World War II. (The unique problems of Alsace-Lorraine are discussed in the article Alsace.) During both world wars Lorraine suffered heavily. Lorraine officially became a French administrative region in 1972. In 2016 it was merged, with Alsace and Champagne-Ardenne, into the region of Grand Est.

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



or Lotharingia, a historic region in the northeastern part of France. Lorraine includes the departments of Moselle, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, and Vosges. Area, 23,500 sq km. Population, 2.3 million (1975). The principal city is Nancy.

Lorraine is the iron-mining and metallurgical center of the country. (In official economic statistics it is identified as an economic planning region.)

The Lorraine iron-ore basin (Jurassic age; marine sedimentary type with oolitic ores), the largest in Western Europe, is located in Lorraine, mainly on the left bank of the Moselle River. Extractions of iron ore total 50-55 million tons annually; half of the iron ore is exported to Belgium, Luxembourg, the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), and other regions of France. The cities of Briey, Thionville, and Longwy are the leading centers of the iron-ore industry. Near the border of the FRG is the Moselle coal basin (the limnic variety with high carbon content and relative consistency of coal shelves; coal is generally confined to the Westphalian stage); it is a continuation of the Saar coal basin. Coal shelves being worked have an average thickness of 1.5-2.5 m. Coke, gas, and long-flame varieties predominate. The extraction of hard coal totals 12-15 million tons (about one-third of the national total). Forbach, Merlebach, and Petite-Rosselle are the main centers of the coal industry. Coal is used primarily for steam power plants, gas plants, and the production of coke. In the Nancy region there is extraction of rock salt (more than 1 million tons per year).

Lorraine accounted in 1971 for 70 percent of the smelting of pig iron (12.5 million tons) and 60 percent of steel production (13.3 million tons) in France. Metallurgical plants are generally situated in the river valleys of the Moselle, Orne, Fentsch, and Chiers, as well as in the vicinity of mines. The monopolistic groups Wendel-Sidelor and Lorraine-Escaut-Usinor dominate the various branches of the metallurgical industry. Machine building and other branches of metalworking are highly developed (Nancy, Thionville, and Luneville are the chief centers); the basic products are metal structural elements, equipment for mining and the metallurgical industry, agricultural machinery, transport equipment, and electrical engineering goods. In the Vosges area there are lumber and textile industries, a large chemical industry, and a petroleum refinery. Agriculture has no clear specialization; farmers raise grain crops, sugar beets, and potatoes and engage in the meat-dairy livestock industry. Transportation and transit routes are of considerable importance in Lorraine. The Marne-Rhine canal provides a water route from Lorraine to the Paris industrial region and to Alsace. The Moselle River and the canals built on it link Lorraine with the industrial areas on the Rhine.


Historical survey. During the Middle Ages various state and territorial formations were referred to as Lorraine (Lotharingia). From 855 to 900 the kingdom of Lorraine existed in the basin of the lower and middle Rhine. It emerged at the time of the collapse of the state of the Franks during the division of the holdings of King Lothair I and was named after the first king of Lorraine—Lothair II (reigned 855-69). Divided in accordance with the Mersen Treaty of 870 between the kingdoms of the West Franks and the East Franks, it was restored in 895. In 925 it joined the German kingdom as the duchy of Lorraine and was later divided (959) into two duchies—Lower and Upper Lorraine. During the 11th and 12th centuries the duchy of Lower Lorraine broke up into the counties of Louvain (Brabant from the end of the 12th century), Namur, Limburg, and others (the rulers of Brabant began to bear the title of duke). Lower Lorraine was subsequently joined to Belgium and the Netherlands. The duchy of Upper Lorraine (generally corresponding to the historic region of Lorraine) from the 12th century bore the name of the duchy of Lorraine.

Feudal relations developed early in Lorraine. By the end of the ninth century feudal classes had basically formed. The following century marked the beginning of feudal division, which reached its height in the early 12th century, when the dukes of Lorraine retained only a small amount of land with a center at Nancy. Thanks to its advantageous location on the border between the French and German lands and on the principal waterways in the basin of the middle Rhine, Lorraine had great commercial, economic, and strategic importance, which made it an object of contention between the German and French rulers and hindered unification of the area. Despite formal submission to the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, by the 13th century Lorraine’s economic, political, and cultural ties with France were growing stronger, and the dukes of Lorraine repeatedly acknowledged themselves to be French vassals. After the Burgundy Wars of 1474—77, French influence further increased (from the late 15th century). This was the time of the greatest political strengthening of the dukes of Lorraine; Rene II (reigned 1473-1508) and Antoine (reigned in 1508-44) succeeded in establishing the power of the dukes of Lorraine over a vast territory in the basins of the Moselle and Maas (including the duchy of Bar in 1480 and the duchy of Vaudemont in 1485) and virtually subjugating the bishoprics of Metz, Toul, and Verdun.

The unification of the lands of Lorraine with France began in the second half of the 16th century; Metz, Toul, and Verdun were taken in 1552. In 1633 (during the Thirty Years’ War France’s power spread throughout Lorraine. In accordance with the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, Toul and Verdun were attached to France. In 1697 the duchy of Lorraine was restored and became part of the Holy Roman Empire. By the terms of the Treaty of Vienna of 1738, Lorraine was made a lifelong possession of the French protege Stanislas Leszczynski; after his death in 1766, it became part of France, with the rights of a special province. When an administrative reorganization was carried out in France in 1790, Lorraine was divided into departments. During the 19th century Lorraine was one of France’s most economically developed regions and the main iron-ore base of the country. In accordance with the Treaty of Frankfurt of 1871, East Lorraine and neighboring Alsace, torn away from France, were joined to Germany, forming the imperial land of Elsass-Lothringen. They were again transferred to France in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. In 1940, Lorraine and Alsace were annexed by fascist Germany. After Germany was routed, Alsace and Lorraine were, once again returned to France.

IU. L. BESSMERTNYI [15-84-3; updated]

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. a region and former province of E France; ceded to Germany in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian war and regained by France in 1919; rich iron-ore deposits
2. Kingdom of. an early medieval kingdom on the Meuse, Moselle, and Rhine rivers: later a duchy
3. a former duchy in E France, once the S half of this kingdom
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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