- Estimated Gypsy population: 310,000. The first Gypsies came to France, to the town of Colmar, in 1418. In 1419 more arrived in Provence and Savoy. Nine years later the first Gypsies were recorded in Paris. In 1504 Louis XII issued the first of many decrees ordering the expulsion of the Gypsies. Further decrees followed in 1539, 1561, and 1682. In the latter year, Louis XIV recognized that it had been impossible to expel the Gypsies because of the protection they had received from nobles and other landowners.During the 18th century, there were reports of armed Gypsies resisting arrest and expulsion. Others served in the French Army as soldiers and musicians. Often this was the only alternative to imprisonment. Jean de la Fleur, born in Lorraine, served as a mercenary in several armies.In 1802 there was a determined campaign to clear Gypsies from the French Basque provinces. More than 500 were captured and imprisoned pending their planned deportation to the French colony of Louisiana. The colony was, however, sold in 1803 to the United States. It was 1806 before the last of the captives were released, after four years during which many had died from disease and malnutrition.Gypsies, such as Liance, were well known in France as dancers and are mentioned several times by the playwright Molière. In 1607 they danced before King Henri IV at Fontainebleau Castle, although legally they had no right to be in France at all. It was not until the 20th century that Django Reinhardt and other instrumentalists again attained the fame of the Gypsy dancers.The very first Romanies to come to France appear to have merged over the years with indigenous nomads to form the community known today as Voyageurs (Travelers). They no longer speak Romani but a variety of French with Romani words. In the south of France, many families speak Caló. There have been two migrations from Germany of families of the Sinti and Manouche clans. Vlah Gypsies arrived from the end of the 19th century on, both from Romania directly and via Russia.It was probably the Vlah newcomers that led the French government to introduce new measures to control the nomadic population.In 1898 a report gave the exaggerated figure of 25,000 persons traveling in bands with caravans. As a result, in 1912 the authorities introduced a special identity card-the carnet anthropométrique-for nomads. This carried the photograph and fingerprints of the owner and other details such as the length of the right ear. It was not abolished until after 1945.In 1915 during World War I, the government arrested all the Gypsies in the disputed territory of Alsace-Lorraine-159 men, women, and children. They were interned in Crest, in the Department of the Drome.At the beginning of World War II, Gypsies were again interned- this time from the whole of France. They were held in some 27 camps run by the French police even after the German occupation of the country. The camps at Jargeau, Les Alliers, Montreuil-Bellay, Rennes, and St. Maurice held internees for most of the war. Conditions in the camps were poor, and many prisoners died from disease and malnutrition. Some camps were closed as the conditions in them worsened, and the prisoners were transferred from camp to camp. In some places, Gypsies were allowed out to work under supervision. Small numbers were deported to concentration camps in Poland. Others who had Belgian nationality were released, only to be rear-rested by the Germans in Belgium and northern France and sent to Auschwitz. House-dwelling Romanies were not affected by any special regulations.The years following 1945 witnessed the arrival of large numbers of Gypsies from eastern Europe, in particular from Yugoslavia. They came as factory workers and settled in houses and flats in Paris and elsewhere. Meanwhile, nomadic Gypsies found that there were few official campsites, and many districts prohibited the stationing of caravans. It was on French territory that Vaida Voevod III and Vanko Rouda founded the first international Gypsy organization, while the Études Tsiganes association pioneered serious research into Romany history and culture. There are writers who have written in French, such as Matéo Maximoff and Sandra Jayat. In France, too, Pente-costalism first took hold among the Gypsies.The 1999 Loi Besson encouraged the provision of council-run campsites, and in 2003 a new internal security act set fines of 3,750 euros for Travelers who occupy land belonging to someone else. In practice few sites have been built and in October 2002 a delegation representing a dozen Gypsy organizations met Minister of Home Affairs Nicola Sarkozy to press for more sites and better conditions on those that have been built.See also Etape 29.
Historical dictionary of the Gypsies . Donald Kenrick.