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In 1793, the foreign enclaves of Manderen , Lixing-lès-Rouhling , Momerstroff , and Créhange (Kriechingen), all possessions of princes of the German Holy Roman Empire, were annexed by France and incorporated into the Moselle département.
By the Treaty of Paris of 1814 following the first defeat and abdication of Napoleon, France had to surrender almost all its conquests since 1792. On the northeastern border, France was not restored to its 1792 borders, but a new border was established to put an end to the convoluted nature of the border, with all its enclaves and exclaves. As a result, the French exclave of Tholey (now in Saarland, Germany) as well as a few communes near Sierck-les-Bains (both territories until then part of the Moselle département) were ceded to Austria. On the other hand, the French annexations of 1793 were confirmed, and what's more the south of the Napoleonic département of Sarre was ceded to France, including the town of Lebach, the city of Saarbrücken, and the rich coal basin around it. France was thus a net beneficiary of the Treaty of Paris, all the new territories ceded to her being far larger and more strategic than the few territories ceded to Austria. All these new territories were incorporated into the Moselle département, and so Moselle had now a larger territory than ever since 1790.
However, with the return of Napoleon and his final defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the Congress of Vienna in 1815 imposed much harsher conditions on France. Tholey and the communes around Sierck-les-Bains were still to be ceded as agreed in 1814, but the south of the Sarre département with Saarbrücken was withdrawn from France. What's more, France had to cede to Austria the area of Rehlingen (now in Saarland) as well as the strategic fort-town of Saarlouis and the territory around it, all territories and towns which had been French since the 17th century, and which were part of the Moselle département since 1790. In the end of 1815, Austria gave all these territories to Prussia, and it is from them that Prussia invaded France in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.
Thus, by the end of 1815, the Moselle département had finally the limits that it would keep until 1871. It was slightly smaller that at its creation in 1790, the incorporation of the Austrian enclaves not compensating the loss of Saarlouis, Rehlingen, Tholey, and the communes around Sierck-les-Bains. Between 1815 and 1871, the département had an area of 5,387 km² (2,080 sq. miles). Its préfecture (capital) was Metz. It had four arrondissements: Metz, Briey , Sarreguemines , and Thionville.
After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871, almost all of the Moselle département, along with Alsace and portions of the Meurthe and Vosges départements, were annexed to the German Empire by the Treaty of Frankfurt on the ground that the population in those areas spoke Germanic dialects. Only one-fifth of Moselle (arrondissement of Briey in the extreme west of the département) was spared annexation by Bismarck, as it was a French-speaking area. Bismarck later regretted bitterly his decision when it was discovered that the region of Briey and Longwy was rich with iron ore. The Moselle département ceased to exist on May 18, 1871, and the territories annexed to Germany became part of the Reichsland of Elsaß-Lothringen. The remaining area of Briey was merged with the amputated Meurthe département to create the new Meurthe-et-Moselle département (a new name chosen on purpose to remind people of the lost Moselle département) with its préfecture at Nancy.
In 1919, with the French victory in the First World War, Alsace-Lorraine was returned to France by Germany at the Treaty of Versailles. However, it was not decided to recreate the old départements of Meurthe and Moselle by reverting to the old département borders of before 1871. Instead, Meurthe-et-Moselle was left untouched, and the four-fifth of Moselle that had been annexed by Germany in 1871 were merged with the one-third of Meurthe also annexed in 1871 to create a new département of Moselle. Thus, the Moselle département was reborn, but its borders were quite different from those before 1871. Having lost the area of Briey, it had now gained the areas of Château-Salins and Sarrebourg which before 1871 were in the Meurthe département (being one-third of it) and which had been part of the Reichsland of Elsaß-Lothringen since 1871.
The new Moselle département now had its current area of 6,216 km² (2,400 sq. miles), larger than the old Moselle because the areas of Château-Salins and Sarrebourg were far larger than the area of Briey and Longwy.
Moselle was liberated by the American army in 1944 and returned to France, with the same limits as in 1919. As a consequence of these German annexations, the population of Moselle is known to be fiercely patriotic (French patriotism); and anti-German feelings remained in Moselle for a much longer time than in the rest of France, despite the fact that originally the inhabitants of Moselle were Germanic dialect speakers.
The important rivers are the following:
The inhabitants of the département are called Mosellans in French.
If the Moselle département still existed in its limits of between 1815-1871, its population at the 1999 French census would have been 1,089,804 inhabitants. The current Moselle département, whose limits were set in 1919, had less population, with only 1,023,447 inhabitants. This is because the industrial area of Briey and Longwy lost in 1871 is more populated than the rural areas of Château-Salins and Sarrebourg gained in 1919.
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