Borders: the Savoy region, contended by four countries

Our Borders series today goes to Italy, or better to Spain, though it could count as Swiss, but it’s actually French: Savoy, the ultimate land on the borders, which has been switching from one country to the other until recently.

In a corner of the Alps between Switzerland, Italy, and France, originally, the region was occupied by the Allobroges, a Gaulish people that the Roman Republic subdued in 121 BC. The name Savoy stems from the Late Latin Sapaudia, referring to a fir forest, though the word is probably from Gaulish. By the 8th Century, the area was part of France; and in the 15th Century Sigismund, Holy Roman Emperor, made the County of Savoy an independent duchy. During the interminable wars between France and Spain over the control of northern Italy, Savoy was important to France because it provided access to Italy, and to Spain because it was a buffer area before the Spain-controlled territories of Northern Italy.

In 1714, as a consequence of the War of the Spanish Succession, Savoy was technically subsumed into the Kingdom of Sicily; between 1792 and 1815 it was occupied by the French Revolutionary forces; then, with the Restoration, it was annexed to the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, ruled by the Casa Savoia, the dynasty that led the Italian unification process. In fact, the unification of Italy actually started with a secession treaty: in March 1860, the Treaty of Turin ceded Nice and Savoy to France – it was followed by a mock referendum to ratify the treaty, which had a turnout of 99.8% votes in favor of joining France – which brought to many speculations about the referendum being rigged.

The pictures is a map of Savoy in 1860, held at the Archives départementales de la Savoie. You can find this and other maps on Archives Portal Europe:

(Carte de la savoie, du genevois et du pays de Gex, à l’occasion de l’annexion de la Savoie à la France). Frontière Auteur : J. Trésal dans “l’annexion de la Savoie”, supplément aux Nouvelles de la Savoie du 15 mars

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