Toulouse (locally: ; , , medieval Tholoza) is a city in the department of Haute-Garonne in southwestern France. It lies on the banks of the River Garonne, from the Mediterranean Sea and from the Atlantic Ocean, and away from Paris. With 1,202,889 inhabitants as of 1 January 2008, the Toulouse metropolitan area is the fourth-largest in France, after Paris (12.1 million), Lyon (2.1 million), and Marseille (1.7 million).
Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus, Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system, EADS, ATR and the Aerospace Valley, considered as a global cluster.
The city also hosts l'Oncopole de Toulouse, the largest cancer research centre in Europe, the European headquarters of Intel and CNES's Toulouse Space Centre (CST), the largest space centre in Europe. Thales Alenia Space, and Astrium Satellites, EADS's satellite system subsidiary, also have a significant presence in Toulouse. Its world renowned university is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229) and, with more than 119,000 students, is the third-largest university campus of France after Paris and Lyon.
Toulouse was the capital of the former province of Languedoc (provinces were abolished during the French Revolution), the former Visigothic Kingdom and was the capital of the historical region of Occitania (Southern France). It is now the capital of the Midi-Pyrénées region, the largest region in metropolitan France. It is also the capital of the Haute-Garonne department.
A city with a typical architecture of Southern France, Toulouse has two historic sites added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Canal Du Midi (shared with other cities), since 1996, and the Basilica of St. Sernin under the description: World Heritage Sites of the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France, since 1998.
Culturally, Toulouse is home to the Galerie du Château d'eau, one of the oldest places dedicated to photography in the world, the Académie des Jeux floraux, the oldest literary society of the Western World and, according to many historians, was one of the places where capitalism was invented.
The Garonne Valley was a focal point for trade between the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic since at least the Iron Age. The historical name of the city, Tolosa (Τώλοσσα, and of its inhabitants, the Tolosates, first recorded in the 2nd century BC), it is of unknown meaning or origin, possibly from Aquitanian, or from Iberian, but has also been connected to the name of the Gaulish Volcae Tectosages.
Tolosa enters the historical period in the 2nd century BC, when it became a Roman military outpost. After the conquest of Gaul, it was developed as a Roman city of Gallia Narbonensis. In the 5th century, Tolosa fell to the Visigothic kingdom and became one of its major cities, in the early 6th century even serving as its capital, before it fell to the Franks under Clovis in 507 (Battle of Vouillé). From this time, Toulouse was the capital of Aquitaine within the Frankish realm.
In 721, Duke Odo of Aquitaine defeated an invading Umayyad Muslim army at the Battle of Toulouse. Odo's victory was a significant setback to Muslim expansion into Christian Europe, and historians generally agree that it gave Charles Martel adequate time to prepare militarily for his success a decade later at the more renowned Battle of Tours.
County of Toulouse
In the 12th century, consuls took over the running of the town and these proved to be difficult years. In particular, it was a time of religious turmoil. In Toulouse, the Cathars tried to set up a community here, but were routed by Simon de Montfort's troops. The subsequent arrival of the Inquisition led to a period of religious fervour during which time the Dominican Couvent des Jacobins was founded. Governed by Raimond II and a group of city nobles, Toulouse's urban boundaries stretched beyond its walls to the north and as far south as Saint Michel.
In the Treaty of Paris of 1229, Toulouse formally submitted to the crown of France. The county's sole heiress Joan was engaged to Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, a younger brother of Louis IX of France. The marriage became legal in 1241, but it remained childless so that after Joan's death the county fell to the crown of France by inheritance. Also in 1229, University of Toulouse was established after the Parisian model, intended as a means to dissolve the heretic movement. Various monastic orders, like the congregation of the order of frères prêcheurs, were started. They found home in Les Jacobins. In parallel, a long period of inquisition began inside the Toulouse walls. The fear of repression obliged the notabilities to exile, or to convert themselves. The inquisition lasted nearly 400 years, making Toulouse its capital. Count Raimond VII was convicted of heresy and died in 1249 without an heir.
Within the Kingdom of France
In 1271, Toulouse incorporated within the kingdom of France and declared a "royal city". With this accolade, it started to transform itself into an intellectual and artistic centre. But the 14th century was to mark a downturn in the city's fortunes. First came outbreaks of plague, then the Hundred Years' War. Famine and floods also took their toll on the city. Despite strong immigration, the population lost 10,000 inhabitants in 70 years. Toulouse only had 22,000 people in 1405. In 1323 the Consistori del Gay Saber was established in Toulouse to preserve the lyric art of the troubadours. Toulouse became the centre of Occitan literary culture for the next hundred years; the Consistori was last active in 1484.
It was not until the 15th century that Toulouse started to enjoy a 'golden age'. Reinforcing its place as an administrative center, the city grew richer, participating in the trade of Bordeaux wine with England, as well as cereals and textiles. A Parliament was set up here by Charles VII and the city's merchants grew ever wealthier. Their economic well-being was mostly based on a plant-based blue dye known as pastel, which they exported throughout Europe. These pastel merchants built grand town houses and, before long, both architecture and the fine arts flourished in the city as never before.
The bubble finally burst in the mid-16th century. Another blue dye arrived from America, known as indigo. It wiped out the pastel trade in one fell swoop. Religious conflict broke out between the Catholics and the Calvinists. During the same time, buildings were destroyed by fire and there were yet more outbreaks of famine and plague.
During the remainder of the 18th century, the city was slowly modernised. This included a period of urban rebuilding, which began in earnest from 1750. New projects included the building of the Jardin Royal. The Grand Rond also dates to this period, along with the Canal de Brienne and the Quai Dillon.
Within the French Republic
The Battle of Toulouse (1814) was one of the final battles of the Napoleonic Wars, four days after Napoleon's surrender of the French Empire to the nations of the Sixth Coalition. Toulouse, the regional capital, proved stoutly defended by Marshal Soult.
In 1856, the Matabiau Station was opened, launching a new age in transportation. Other transport improvements included the widening of streets to form more spacious boulevards. Gradually, Toulouse emerged as a modern French city.
During the early decades of 20th-century history, Toulouse witnessed the mass arrival of immigrants from northern France, Italy and Spain. New industries arrived in the city, including aircraft manufacturing and chemical factories. The French airmail service was set up here too, while in the Second World War, Toulouse played a vital role in the Resistance movement.
In the 1960s, a new wave of immigrants arrived in the city, this time from Algeria. New homes were built and the city's boundaries were extended yet further. Toulouse's industry interests have more recently reached out to include space exploration and electronics, and today, this is France's fourth-largest city.