DOMBES, a district of eastern France, formerly part of the province of Burgundy, now comprised in the department of Ain, and bounded W. by the Saône, S. by the Rhone, E. by the Ain and N. by the district of Bresse. The region forms an undulating plateau with a slight slope towards the north-west, the higher ground bordering the Ain and the Rhone attaining an average height of about 1000 ft. The Dombes is characterized by an impervious surface consisting of boulder clay and other relics of glacial action. To this fact is due the large number of rain-water pools, varying for the most part from 35 to 250 acres in size which cover some 23,000 acres of its total area of 282,000 acres. These pools, artificially created, date in many cases from the 15th century, some to earlier periods, and were formed by landed proprietors who in those disturbed times saw a surer source of revenue in fish-breeding than in agriculture. Disease and depopulation resulted from this policy and at the end of the 18th century the Legislative Assembly decided to reduce the area of the pools which then covered twice their present extent. Drainage works were continued, roads cut, and other improvements effected during the 19th century. Large numbers of fish, principally carp, pike and tench are still reared profitably, the pools being periodically dried up and the ground cultivated.
The Dombes (Lat. Dumbae) once formed part of the kingdom of Arles. In the 11th century, when the kingdom began to break up, the northern part of the Dombes came under the power of the lords of Baugé, and in 1218, by the marriage of Marguerite de Baugé with Humbert IV. of Beaujeu, passed to the lords of Beaujeu. The southern portion was held in succession by the lords of Villars and of Thoire. Its lords took advantage of the excommunication of the emperor Frederick II. to assert their complete independence of the Empire. In 1400, Louis II., duke of Bourbon, acquired the northern part of the Dombes, together with the lordship of Beaujeu, and two years later bought the southern part from the sires de Thoire, forming the whole into a new sovereign principality of the Dombes, with Trévoux as its capital. The principality was confiscated by King Francis I. in 1523, along with the other possessions of the Constable de Bourbon, was granted in 1527 to the queen-mother, Louise of Savoy, and after her death was held successively by kings Francis I., Henry II. and Francis II., and by Catherine de' Medici. In 1561 it was granted to Louis, duke of Bourbon-Montpensier, by whose descendants it was held till, in 1682, "Mademoiselle," the duchess of Montpensier, gave it to Louis XIV.'s bastard, the duke of Maine, as part of the price for the release of her lover Lauzun. The eldest son of the duke of Maine, Louis Auguste de Bourbon (1700-1755), prince of Dombes, served in the army of Prince Eugene against the Turks (1717), took part in the War of the Polish Succession (1733-1734), and in that of the Austrian Succession (1742-1747). He was made colonel-general of the Swiss regiment, governor of Languedoc and master of the hounds of France. He was succeeded, as prince of Dombes, by his brother the count of Eu (q.v.), who in 1762 surrendered the principality to the crown. The little principality of Dombes showed in some respects signs of a vigorous life; the prince's mint and printing works at Trévoux were long famous, and the college at Thoissey was well endowed and influential.
See A. M. H. J. Stokvis, Manuel d'histoire (Leiden, 1889); Guichenon, Histoire de Dombes (1863, 1872); and various works by M. C. Guigue, including Bibliotheca Dumbensis (with Valentin Smith) (1856-1885).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)