Its inhabitants are called the Bas-Alpins or Bas-Alpines referring to the department of Basses-Alpes which was the former name of the department until 13 April 1970.
Nord-de-Provence was one of the 83 original departments created during the French Revolution on 4 March 1790 under the Act of 22 December 1789. It was renamed Haute-Provence then Basses-Alpes.
On 12 August 1793, the department of Vaucluse was created from parts of the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône, Drôme, and Basses-Alpes. Basses-Alpes lost the canton of Sault to Vaucluse at this point. Seventeen years later, in 1810, the canton of Barcillonnette was transferred over to Hautes-Alpes.
The department of Basses-Alpes was occupied by fascist Italy from November 1942 to September 1943.
On 13 April 1970, the department of Basses-Alpes was renamed Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.
Here is an unflattering excerpt from an article called "Basse Alpes" from the Atlas Larousse published at the beginning of the 20th century:
"Scattered whitish rocks stand out like bones, a thin topsoil where bushes languish, some mountain flowers and stunted trees ... these mountains form almost everywhere a dreadful desert which will not have more inhabitants: this is the Sahara without the sun of Africa, with the snows of Siberia." (P. Joanne).
On these steep slopes deforestation and flooding have resulted in a lack of fertile soil and agriculture has been the most miserable. There is a small harvest of wheat, wine in small quantities (but good), and truffles in large numbers. In the southern part, which has the climate of Provence, there are olive trees, mulberry trees, and orange trees. Aromatic plants abound, and there are 250,000 beehives. Manosque because its location is by far the second largest city of the department (with 5,500 inhabitants). Near Manosque are the lignite and gypsum mines. Despite a fairly active trade in olive oil, wine and raw silk, this department is also one of the least populated. (Larousse Illustrated Atlas, Printing Larousse, Paris, 1900).