1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Hautes Alpes

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HAUTES ALPES, a department in S.E. France, formed in 1790 out of the south-eastern portion of the old province of Dauphiné, together with a small part of N. Provence. It is bounded N. by the department of Savoie, E. by Italy and the department of the Basses Alpes, S. by the last-named department and that of the Drôme, and W. by the departments of the Drôme and of the Isère. Its area is 2178 sq. m., its greatest length is 85 m. and its greatest breadth 62 m. It is very mountainous, and includes the Pointe des Écrins (13,462 ft.), the loftiest summit in France before the annexation of Savoy in 186o, as well as the Meije (13,081 ft.), the Ailefroide (12,989 ft.) and the Mont Pelvoux (12,973 ft.), though Monte Viso (12,609 ft.) is wholly in Italy, rising just over the border. The department is to a large extent made up of the basins of the upper Durance (with its tributaries, the Guisane, the Gyronde and the Guil), of the upper Drac and of the Buech—all being to a very large extent wild mountain torrents in their upper course. The department is divided into three arrondissements (Gap, Briançon and Embrun), 24 cantons and 186 communes. In 1906 its population was 107,498. It is a very poor department owing to its great elevation above the sea-level. There are no industries of any extent, and its commerce is almost wholly of local importance. The prolonged winter greatly hinders agricultural development, while the pastoral region has been greatly damaged and the forests destroyed by the ravages of the Provençal sheep, vast flocks of which are driven up here in the summer, as the pastures are leased out to a large extent, and but little utilized by the inhabitants. It now forms the diocese of Gap (this see is first certainly mentioned in the 6th century), which is in the ecclesiastical province of Aix-en-Provence; in 1791 there was annexed to it the archiepiscopal see of Embrun, which was then suppressed. There are 114 m. of railway in the department. This includes the main line from Briançon past Gap towards Grenoble. About 16½ m. W. of Gap is the important railway junction of Veynes, whence branch off the lines to Grenoble, to Valence by Die and Livron, and to Sisteron for Marseilles. The chief town is Gap, while Briançon and Embrun are the only other important places.

See J. Roman, Dictionnaire topographique du dép. des Htes-Alpes (Paris, 1884); Tableau historique du dép. des Htes-Alpes (Paris, 1887–1890, 2 vols.); and Répertoire archéologique du dép. des Htes-Alpes (Paris, 1888); J. C. F. Ladoucette, Histoire, topographie, &c., des Hautes-Alpes (3rd ed., Paris, 1848).  (W. A. B. C.)