History of the region
Official Nature Reserve
In 1970, the Morvan was proclaimed official nature reserve, the ‘Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan’. With this initiative, the 64 participating municipalities aimed to protect the fauna and the wonderful nature, as well as the historic traditions of this rural Burgundy region. The Parc du Morvan counts approximately 36.000 inhabitants in a 175.000 hectare area, so less than 5 inhabitants per hectare.
The Morvan has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Era (80.000 to 30.000 BC). During the Roman times, the armies of Julius Caesar defeated the Gauls at Alesia (52 BC). The region was annexed by the Roman Empire, with Autun, a city founded by Emperor August as Augustodunum, becoming the area’s capital. Villages on the edge of the Morvan Parc, such as Vézelay, Saulieu, Autun and Avallon prospered during the Middle Ages thanks to the success of the pilgrim churches. However, people in the more barren areas hardly benefitted from this prosperity. From the 16th century onwards, some income could be derived from the so called flottage, the transport of wood from the Morvan woods destined for the fireplaces in the Parisian houses. Several channels were dug in that period in throughout the Burgundy area. Flottage lost its purpose at the end of the 19th century, when Paris switched from burning wood for heating to burning coal. Another source of income was the galvache, transport by ox cart of all kind of products to lower areas. Also in the 19th century, ‘nourrices’ or wet nurses rented their services to rich Parisian ladies, who did not want to feed their babies themselves.