Lauragais: steeped in history, soaked in blood


Colin Duncan Taylor has written a fascinating book about Lauragais, Haute-Garonne.  We have a treat for you in store, as we are going to be featuring some extracts from the book in the following weeks.  Before we do that, here is what Colin told us about his book.

By Colin Duncan Taylor

I first discovered the Lauragais twenty years ago when I was looking to buy a French home somewhere more peaceful than Provence. Situated in the heart of Occitanie, the Lauragais is a rural land of rolling hills largely ignored by the millions who visit its neighbours each year – Toulouse and Carcassonne.

A few years after my first visit, I was able to settle here permanently and devote myself to exploring the Lauragais by car, bicycle, horse, plane and my own two feet. I gradually discovered an area which, in times gone by, had rarely escaped the attentions of the great and the good, or the ambitious and the avaricious. Simon de Montfort, the Black Prince, Thomas Jefferson and the Duke of Wellington all left their mark, and in a more literal sense so too did Pierre-Paul Riquet with his Canal du Midi.

​The more I learned and the more I read about the Lauragais, the more I realised that although much had been written about its history in French, there was virtually nothing in English, and I decided to redress this imbalance.

Before retiring to the Lauragais, my career had included spells as a naval officer, management consultant and business owner. But researching this book was undoubtedly one of the greatest intellectual challenges of my career, There were the obvious linguistic difficulties of interpreting ancient French texts whose bizarre spelling would mystify many a Frenchman; there were the dubious pleasures of interviewing elderly inhabitants whose accent sometimes made it hard to know if they were speaking Occitan or French; and there were encounters with charming and seemingly-reliable sources who turned out to have more in common with fantasists rather than historians.

Fortunately, by now I had many friends whose roots in the Lauragais are much deeper and more ancient than my own. Some of them come from families that have lived in the same home or village for hundreds of years, and with their help, I was able to bring the past back to life through a work that is not a history book. Instead, it is a tale of exploration, the discovery of people, places and events in the present as well as the past, a book that tells the story of a land where, if you scratch below the surface, the soil is steeped in history and soaked in blood.

You can buy Colin’s book in print or ebook format from the main online retailers worldwide. It is also on sale in numerous bookshops, tourist offices and museums in Carcassonne, Toulouse and the Lauragais. Visit his website for a full listing of sales outlets.

Watch this space next week for the first extract.