A port under transformation


Although intercontinental relations were very much affected at the beginning of the century by the loss of Saint-Domingue and maritime wars during the Revolution and the Empire, they were gradually re-established and the port, which experienced a boom period from the 1820s, was to remain the driving force behind the city’s economy.

The port of Bordeaux, J-J Alban Lesgallery
1830, Municipal Archives Bordeaux

1. Major urban development projects were undertaken with the creation of vertical quaysides, inner docks, hangars and warehouses (the Entrepôts Lainé, for example). The construction of the Pont de Pierre (stone bridge) marked the start of the development of the right bank by opening up new communication routes. Important figures from the world of politics and economics, like Claude Deschamps, Joseph Laîné, Pierre Balguerie Stuttenberg, were behind these major developments.


2. River navigation increased considerably with the construction of steamships in Bordeaux, which meant that river traffic was much more regular, carrying goods such as wine, stone, coal, timber and foodstuffs.


3. As world trade opened up, a major shipbuilding industry developed in Bordeaux: the city became one of the three world leaders in building clippers and then at the end of the century expanded to produce tugs, cargo ships, liners and also warships (torpedo boats, battleships, submarines).


4. Throughout the century, the “Port de la Lune” became an industrial highway. There was constantly a multitude of dockworkers at work on the banks and in the workshops. A working-class culture grew up, and there were many social conflicts around dockers’ working conditions.


5. New development prospects started to open up, especially with the arrival of the railway in 1841. Bordeaux became a railway hub, and this was to disrupt some of the city’s traditional activities.

The stone bridge, Pierre-Louis Cazaubon, 1910 al. Aquitaine Museum

The stone bridge, Pierre-Louis Cazaubon, 1910 al. Aquitaine Museum