ALLIER, a department of central France, formed in 1790 from the old province of Bourbonnais. Pop. (1906) 417,961. Area, 2849 sq. m. It is bounded N. by the department of Nievre, E. by Saone-et-Loire, from which it is divided by the river Loire, S.E. by Loire, S. by Puy-de-Dome, S.W. by Crouse and N.W. by Cher. Situated on the northern border of the Central Plateau, the department slopes from south to north. Its highest altitudes are found in the south-east, in the Bois-Noirs, where one point reaches 4239 ft., and in the Monts de la Madeleine. Plains alternating with forests occupy the northern zone of the department, while the central and western regions form an undulating and well-watered plateau. Entering the department in the south, and, like the other chief rivers, flowing almost due north, the Allier drains the central district, receiving on its left the Sioule. East of the Allier is the Bebre, which joins the Loire within the limits of the department; and on the west the Cher, with its tributary the Aumance. Rigorous and rainy in the south-east, the climate elsewhere is milder though subject to sudden variations. Agriculturally the department is flourishing, the valleys of the Allier and the Sioule known as the Limagne Bourbonnaise comprising its most fertile portion. Wheat, oats, barley and other cereals are grown and exported, and owing to the abundance of pasture and forage, sheep and cattle-rearing are actively carried on. Potatoes and mangels yield good crops. Wines of fair quality are grown in the valley of the Sioule; walnuts, chestnuts, plums, apples and pears are principal fruits. Goats, from the milk of which choice cheese is made, and pigs are plentiful. A large area is under forests, the oak, beech, fir, birch and hornbeam being the principal trees. The mineral waters at Vichy (q.v.), Neris, Theneuille, Cusset and Bourbon l'Archambault are in much repute. The mineral wealth of the department is considerable, including coal as well as manganese and bituminous schist; plaster, building stone and hydraulic lime are also produced. Manufactories of porcelain, glass and earthenware are numerous. Montlucon and Commentry are ironworking centres. There are flour mills, breweries and saw-mills; and paper, chemicals, wooden shoes, wool and woollen goods are produced. Besides the products of the soil Allier exports coal, mineral waters and cattle for the Paris market. Building materials, brandy and coal are among the imports. The railways belong chiefly to the Orleans and Paris-Lyons-Mediterranean companies. The lateral canal of the Loire, the Berry Canal and the canal from Roanne to Digoin together traverse about 57 m. in the department. Allier is divided into the arrondissements of Moulins, Gannat, Lapalisse and Montlucon (29 cantons, 321 communes). It forms the diocese of Moulins and part of the ecclesiastical province of Bourges, and falls within the academie (educational division) of Clermont-Ferrand and the region of the XIII. army-corps. Its court of appeal is at Riom. Moulins, the capital, Montlucon and Vichy, are the principal towns. Souvigny possesses the church of a famous Cluniac priory dating from the 1ith-12th and 15th centuries, and containing the splendid tombs (15th century) of Louis II. and Charles I. of Bourbon. At St Menoux, Ebreuil and Gannat there are fine Romanesque churches. Huriel has a church of the 11th century and a well-preserved keep, the chief survival of a medieval castle. St Pourcain-sur-Sioule has a large church, dating from the 11th to the 18th centuries. The castle of Bourbon l'Archambault, which belonged to the dukes of Bourbon, dates from the 13th and 15th centuries. The Romanesque churches of Veauce and Ygrande, and the chateaus of Veauce and Lapalisse, are also of interest, the latter belonging to the family of Chabannes.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)