town, Gard departement, Languedoc-Roussillon region, southeastern France. It lies along a bend of the Gardon d'Ales River, at the foot of the Cevennes mountains, north-northwest of Nimes. The town's name meant "industry" in the language of its 10th-century-BC Phoenician founders. Alestium was its Roman name, and until 1926 the French called it Alais. Chartered in 1200, it became part of the kingdom of France in 1243. The Peace of Alais (1629) ended the French Wars of Religion, in which the town had been seriously damaged. Completed in 1788, a fort designed by Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban, the celebrated military engineer, is now a museum and library. Although Ales was traditionally an area of textile production, coal mining and metallurgy became the basis for industrial development in the town. Since the 1960s, however, these activities have been in decline (accompanied by a loss of population), prompting the restructuring of the local economy. New industries, such as mechanical engineering, were introduced; central areas of the town were refurbished; and attempts were made to develop tourism. Pop. (1990) 41,037; (1999) 39,346.
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