- With the exception of Vienna, Vorarlberg is the smallest in territory of the nine Austrian federal provinces. Local language usage is also exceptional. Its inhabitants largely speak an Alemanic form of German, more akin to the idiom of Swiss German and Swabian than the Bavarian-based dialect found throughout the rest of Austria.Only modestly endowed with natural resources and arable land, the area has made manufacturing its chief livelihood since the 19th century. Taking advantage of the power supply offered by abundant streams and rivers, it developed a varied textile industry after long experience in domestic production of linen. At first concentrating on cotton, the factories of the Vorarlberg today turn out a number of products made of synthetic fabrics. The Vorarlberg also has a significant dairy industry. The capital is Bregenz, the Brigantium Municipium of the Romans.Some form of settlement of the Vorarlberg took place in the Old Stone Age. Its copper deposits were exploited during the Early Bronze Age as well. The Celts appeared around 400 BCE; the Romans occupied the area after 15 BCE, about when they moved into many other regions of the Austrian lands. Vorarlberg was part of the Roman province of Raetia. Indeed, some elements of the population became so romanized that it was not until the 17th century that the language of the area acquired its overwhelmingly Alemanic character. Christianity came to the Vorarlberg at the beginning of the seventh century. St. Columban and St. Gallus both reached the area around Lake Constance.From the eighth century until the 14th, local dynasties and new settlers ruled the various lands that made up the Vorarlberg. Perhaps the most significant of these were the Alemanic Walser, or Free Walser, who came from what is today the Swiss Canton of Wallis in the 14th century and gradually settled around a quarter of the Vorarlberg. Around 1160, Hugo of Tübingen, the son-in-law of the last count of Bregenz, assumed that title. His younger son, also Hugo, called himself Count of Montfort in 1260. The coat of arms of modern Vorarlberg is that of the house of Tübingen-Montfort. Through aggressive promotion of new settlements and opening up new roads through the alpine valleys, the dynasty did much to consolidate the territory. The Habsburgs began to acquire territory in the area in the first decades of the 14th century. Though they had taken over a great deal of the area by the 16th century, it took them 300 more years to complete the process. Until 1752 Vorarlberg was governed from offices in Innsbruck. For the next 30 years, its affairs were administered from Freiburg im Breisgau, which was ruled directly from Vienna until 1782. After that, the Habsburg government in the Tyrol resumed its former responsibilities.With a tradition of peasant and middle-class representation in the estates reaching back to the 14th century, Vorarlberg had more experience in democratic deliberative settings than did most of the other regions of the Habsburg Austrian patrimony. In 1861, Vorarlberg was granted its own provincial parliament. In 1918, it separated its government from the Tyrol and became a province of Austria in its own right. Economic considerations led a substantial portion of the population to advocate secession from Austria altogether and incorporation into Switzerland. More than 80 percent of those who voted in a plebiscite held in May 1919 endorsed such a proposition. Only vehement opposition from the government in Vienna and the refusal of the victorious allies blocked the move. There was substantial support for unification with Germany in the region as well.See also Habsburg Empire.
Historical dictionary of Austria. Paula Sutter Fichtner. 2014.
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