Bastides are fortified new towns built in medieval Languedoc, Gascony and Aquitaine during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, although some authorities count Mont-de-Marsan and Montauban, which was founded in 1144, as the first bastides. In an effort to colonize the wilderness especially of southwest France, almost seven hundred new towns were built between 1222 (Cordes-sur-Ciel, Tarn) and 1372 (La Bastide d'Anjou, Tarn).
Bastides began to appear in numbers under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1229), which permitted Raymond VII of Toulouse to build new towns in his shattered domains, though not to fortify them. When the Capetian Alphonse of Poitiers inherited, under a marriage stipulated by the treaty, this "bastide founder of unparalleled energy" consolidated his regional control in part through the founding of bastides. The bastides were also an attempt by landowners to generate revenues from taxes on trade rather than tithes (taxes on production). Farmers who elected to move their families to bastides were no longer vassals of the local lord — they became free men; thus the creation of bastides was a force in the waning of feudalism. The new inhabitants were encouraged to work the land around the bastide, which in turn attracted trade in the form of merchants and markets. The lord taxed dwellings in the bastides and all trade in the market. The legal footing on which the bastides were set was that of paréage with the local ruling power, based on a formal written contractual agreement between the landholder and a count of Toulouse a king of France or a king of England. The landholder might be a cartel of local lords and the abbot of a local monastery.
Responsibilities and benefits were carefully framed in a charter that delineated the franchises ("liberties") and coutumes ("customs") of the bastide. Feudal rights were invested in the sovereign, with the local lord retaining some duties as enforcer of local justice and intermediary between the new inhabitants— required to build houses within a specified time, often a year— and the representatives of the sovereign. Residents were granted a houselot, a kitchen garden lot (casale) and a cultivable lot (arpent) on the periphery of the bastide's lands. First constructions of the hall and the church were often of carpentry: stone constructions came after the successful founding of the bastide.
Structure and location 
There has been some scholarly debate about the exact definition of a bastide. They are now generally described as any town planned and built as a single unit, by a single founder. The majority of bastides have a grid layout of intersecting streets, with wide thoroughfares that divide the town plan into insulae, or blocks, through which a narrow lane often runs, and a central market square surrounded by arcades (couverts) through which the axes of thoroughfares pass, with a covered weighing and measuring area. The market square often provides the module into which the bastide is subdivided. The Roman model, the castrum with its grid plan and central forum, was inescapable in a region where Roman planning precedents remained in medieval cities like Béziers, Narbonne, Toulouse, Orange and Arles. The region of the bastides had been one of the last outposts of Late Antiquity in the West. Ease of tax collection is another reason for the grid layout, taxable module by module, and the organized central area; the bastides' forms result from "the friction engendered by interaction, expedience, pragmatism, legal compromise, and profit," Adrian Randolph observed in 1995. Rarely these little ideal cities have a circular plan. Some bastides were not so geometrically planned: "The block geometry of the bastides was not a rigid framework into which a town was squeezed; it resembles more closely a net, thrown upon the site and adapting to its nuances," Randolph remarks.
Most bastides were built in the Lot-et-Garonne, Dordogne, Gers and Haute-Garonne départements of France, because of the altitude and quality of the soil, and some were placed in important defensive positions. The best-known today is probably Andorra la Vella, but the most populated is Villeneuve-sur-Lot, the "new town on the River Lot".
See also 
- This heritage has an important role in the tourism in the southern regions.
- Bastide emphasises the "built" nature of the enterprise; in spite of the fortified connotations of Bastille, most of the present town walls were not built initially, though their strategic location was a consideration from the start, in part through contractual promises of future military support from the new occupants. (Adrian Randolph, "The Bastides of southwest France" The Art Bulletin 77.2 (June 1995, pp. 290-307) pp 291 note 11 and 303.
- There is little consensus on whether Montauban should be counted as a bastide (Randolph 1995:291 note 11).
- Bastide in the French Wikipedia, retrieved March 8, 2007.
- Randolph 1995:290f.
- Randolph 1995:303f.
- Randolph 1995:292.
- Other planned new towns of Languedoc-Roussillon, built instead on a circular plan, are now being called circulades.
- Randolph 1995:297
- C. Goudineau, P.A. Février and M. Fixot, "Le réseau urbain" in Georges Duby, ed. Histoire de la France urbaine Paris 1980, pp 71-137.
- Randolph 1995:291.
- K. Pawloski, "Villes et villages circulaire du Languedoc" Annales du Midi 9 (1987) pp 407-28.
- Randolph 1995:301.
- Randolph, Adrian, "The Bastides of southwest France" The Art Bulletin 77.2 (June 1995), pp. 290-307.
Further reading 
- Bentley, James (1994). Fort Towns of France: The Bastides of the Dordogne and Aquitaine. Tauris Parke. ISBN 1-85043-608-8.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Bastide.|
- History of the Bastide Towns
- Bastides - mediaeval planned towns Where, when and why they were built.
- (French) Musée des bastides, in Monflanquin, France
- (French) Site du Centre d'études des bastides