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Originally, the eastern border of Rhône was the city of Lyon itself, so that the communes immediately east of Lyon depended from neighboring départements. With the growth of Lyon and the spilling of the urban area over the suburban communes of Lyon, the limits of the département were judged impractical as they left the suburbs of Lyon outside of the Rhône département. Thus, Rhône was enlarged several times to incorporate into it the suburbs of Lyon depending from the neighboring départements:
- In 1852, 4 communes from the Isère département were incorporated into Rhône.
- In 1967, 23 communes of Isère and 6 communes of the Ain département were incorporated into Rhône.
- In 1971, 1 commune from Isère was incorporated into Rhône.
With these enlargements, the area of the Rhône département increased from 2,791 km² to the current 3,249 km² (16.4% larger). At the 1999 French census, the original Rhône département would have had only 1,071,288 inhabitants, which means that the population in the territories added in the last two centuries was 507,581 inhabitants in 1999.
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