The Département des Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (04) is in inland southeastern France and was called BASSES-ALPES until 1970. In the northeast, where it borders on Italy, is the valley of the Ubaye; in the southeast, where once it bordered on the Kingdom of Sardinia, is that of the Verdon; in the west is the valley of the Durance, the river which also forms part of the northwestern border.
Its territory had been part of Provence, though the valley of the Ubaye belonged to Savoy, 1382-1713. In the 12th and 13th centuries the town of Forcalquier, in the west, was capital of one of the counties into which Provence was divided among heiresses.
In the Second World War the Basses-Alpes was in the unoccupied zone, 1940-2, except for a small area occupied by Italian troops during the brief fighting in 1940 and annexed by Italy. In 1941 the Vichy régime placed it under the authority of the Regional Prefect at Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône) for police and economic matters. With the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, the department was occupied by the Italians, replaced by Germans in 1943.
Since 1964 the department has belonged to the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. When it was renamed in 1970, it became the first department to include the name of an old province of royal France and so broke the revolutionary taboo.
The capital is Digne, which is also the see of the Bishop. The sub-prefectures of the other arrondissements are Barcellonette (in the northeast), Forcalquier (southwest) and Castellane (southeast – interrupted, 1926-42). Sisteron, in the west, was another sub-prefecture until 1926.