ALAIS, a town of southern France, capital of an arrondissement in the department of Gard, 25 m. N.N.W. of Nimes on the Paris-Lyon railway, on which it is an important junction. Pop. (1906) 18,987. The town is situated at the foot of the Cevenues, on the left bank of the Gardon, which half surrounds it. The streets are wide and its promenades and fine plane-trees make the town attractive; but the public buildings, the chief of which are the church of St Jean, a heavy building of the 18th century, and the citadel, which serves as barracks and prison, are of small interest. Pasteur prosecuted his investigations into the silkworm disease at Alais, and the town has dedicated a bust to his memory. There is also a statue of the chemist J. B. Dumas. Alais has tribunals of first instance and of commerce, a board of trade-arbitrators, a lycee and a school of mines. The town is one of the most important markets for raw silk and cocoons in the south of France, and the Gardon supplies power to numerous silkmills. It is also the centre of a mineral field. which yields large quantities of coal, iron, zinc and lead; its blast-furnaces, foundries, glass-works and engineering works afford employment to many workmen.
In the 16th century Alais was an important Huguenot centre. In 1629 the town was taken by Louis XIII., and by the peace of Alais the Huguenots gave up their right to places de surete (garrison towns) and other privileges. A bishopric was established there in 1694 but suppressed in 1790.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)