Identification. Provence is one of the twenty regions that constitute the Republic of France. These regions correspond to the pre-1789 division of the country into provinces. Provence refers to a region in the southeasternmost part of France and it includes the departments of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, the Hautes-Alpes (also known as the Basses-Alpes), the Alpes-Maritimes, the Bouches-du-Rhône, the Var, and the Vaucluse.
Location. The region is delimited on the north by the departments of the Rhône-Alpes region and on the west by the departments of the region of Languedoc. The southernmost departments of Provence touch the Mediterranean Sea, and the principality of Monaco in the southeastern corner of Provence is generally considered part of the region. The Italian border represents the eastern boundary of the region. Provence is located approximately at 44° N and 6 to 8° E. Topographically, Provence can be divided into three zones—an alpine zone in the northeast, an intermediate zone of hills between the mountains, and a third zone of river Valley plains in the west and the coast in the south. The hills and highlands are cut by gorges, rocky plateaus, and valleys of the Rhône, the Durance, and the Verdun rivers. Extending from the delta of the Rhône through Monaco to Italy is the famous narrow strip of coastline called the Côte d'Azur. The port cities of Marseille and Toulon and the well-known cities of the French Riviera, Cannes, Saint Tropez, and Nice, are all situated on this coast. The climate of the coast is Mediterranean in character consisting of long hot and dry summers, warm autumns, and relatively mild winters, though the mistral, a chilly wind from the inland mountains, prevails in the winter months. The interior of Provence has a climate that is more continental in character. Average annual precipitation ranges from 50 to 150 centimeters. The annual temperatures vary from highs averaging in the upper 20s to lower 30s Celsius. The average low temperatures for the region range from 15° C on the coast to 5° C in the interior.
Linguistic Affiliation. Within Provence, French represents the official language; however, Provençal is often spoken for everyday purposes, especially among the rural elderly of the region. Provençal is a dialect of Languedoc or the Occitan language, a Romance language once spoken throughout southern France. "Languedoc" comes from the langue d'oc, a language using oc for "yes" (from the Latin hoc ille ). The langue d'oïl was once spoken only in northern France. The Occitan dialects are more closely related to Spanish than to French. Provençal refers both to the dialect of Languedoc spoken in the region of Provence and to the literary language, the language of the troubadours of medieval twelfth-to fourteenth-century France and northern Spain. There is some degree of controversy over the extent to which Provençal is used in contemporary France. Recently, However, intellectuals and some politicians have launched campaigns to preserve local culture and language. So Provençal has come to be taught in schools, and Provençal history, Literature, poetry, and festivals are all undergoing revival.
Demography. The population of Provence in 1990 exceeded 4 million, with about 75 percent concentrated along the coast. The rapid growth in population after World War II (from 2 million in 1950 to the current total) is attributed to the large numbers of immigrants who have settled in the Provence area. In the immediate post-World War II period, immigration from Italy and Spain rose to meet the demand for labor in reconstructing France. More recently, with the collapse of the French colonial empires in Indochina and North Africa, colonial subjects came to France in search of work. Many residents of Provence issue from the former French colonies in North Africa. In Marseille, for example, roughly one-sixth of the population is Muslim Arab, and a large number among them are recent immigrants to France. Refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia, and Palestine have come also to settle throughout France and in Provence.