Saint-Quentin is a commune in the Aisne départment in Picardie in northern France. It has been identified as the Augusta Veromanduorum of antiquity. It is named for Saint Quentin, who is said to have been martyred here in the 3rd century.
|march 1995||Not finished||Pierre André||Conservative|
|1989||1995||Daniel Le Meur||Communist|
|1977||1983||Daniel Le Meur||Communist|
During the early Middle Ages, a major monastery which develops through the pilgrimage to the tomb of Quentin, a Roman Christian came to evangelize the region and martyred in Augusta, gives birth to a new agglomeration which was named after the famous saint.
From the ninth century, Saint-Quentin is the capital of Vermandois County. From the tenth century, the counts of Vermandois (issued of the Carolingian, then Capetian families) are very powerful. The city is growing rapidly: the "bourgeois" organize themselves and obtain, in the second half of the eleventh century (a very early date), a municipal charter which guarantees their commune a large degree of autonomy.
At the beginning of the thirteenth century, Saint-Quentin enters the royal domain. At that time, it is a thriving city, because of its wool textile industry (city “drapante”). It is also a center of commerce boosted by its position on the border of the kingdom of France, between the Champagne fairs and the cities of Flanders (wine exportation, etc.): its annual fair has a certain importance. It also benefits from its location in the heart of a rich agricultural region (trade of grain and “guède”, woad, a high-value blue colouring pigment).
From the fourteenth century, Saint-Quentin suffers from this strategic position: it undergoes the French-English wars (Hundred Years' War). In the fifteenth century, it is disputed to the king of France by the dukes of Burgundy (it is one of the "cities of the Somme"). Ravaged by the plague on several occasions, its population is decreasing, while its economy is in crisis: its fair is increasingly irrelevant, agricultural production is diminished, and so on. His declining textile industry turns to the production of flax canvas. Meanwhile, it faces major expenses to maintain its fortifications and armed troops.
Between the end of the fifteenth century until the mid-seventeenth century, this strategic position is a source of terrible misfortunes. In 1557, the Spanish army siege ends with the looting of the city and its desertion for two years. Given back to France in 1559, it experienced intense activity fortification: the medieval wall is protected by many new advanced fortifications, redesigned several times. Two districts are razed to make them up. In the mid-seventeenth century, the city escapes the sieges, but suffered the horrors of wars ravaging the Picardie region, accompanied by the plague (in 1636, three thousand people died, from, perhaps, ten thousand inhabitants) and famine.
In the second half of the seventeenth century, the conquests of Louis XIV away it from the border, and it loses much of its strategic role. At the end of the sixteenth century, its textile production specializes in fine flax canvas (“batiste” and lawn). This brings prosperity, particularly in the eighteenth century, where these textiles are exported across Europe and the Americas.
During First French Empire, the exportation difficulties brings an economic decline. At the request of the municipality, Napoleon authorizes to raze the fortifications, to allow the city to grow out of its old boundaries. In 1814-1815, Saint-Quentin is occupied by the Russian army, without damage.
In the nineteenth century, it has been a great development in becoming a thriving industrial city, thanks to entrepreneurs constantly on the lookout for new techniques. The productions are varied, but the mechanical construction and especially the textile prevail.
In 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, the population rejects the invader October 8, but the city fell during the second offensive. That hopeless but heroic action had national repercussions: Saint-Quentin was decorated with the Legion of Honour. In 1871, on January 19, the French army is defeated near the town.
The First World War brought it a terrible blow. Since September 1914, the city faces a harsh occupation. Starting from 1916, it lies at the heart of the war zone, because the Germans had integrated it into the Hindenburg Line. After the evacuation of the population in March, the town is systematically looted and industrial equipment washed away or destroyed. The fighting ruins it: 80% of buildings (including the Basilica) are damaged.
Despite the national support, the reconstruction is long and the city struggling to regain the dynamism prior to 1914. The demography is explicit: the level of 55000 residents reached in 1911, is found back only in the mid-1950s, in the favourable context of general economic expansion. The development of the city has taken over the textile and mechanical industry. This prosperity continue until mid-1970, when the French textile industry began to suffer from developing countries competition.