The mountainous Cevennes region of southern France was one of the most important silk-producing areas in Europe in the nineteenth century. The mulberry tree flourishes in the Cevennes, and silk was produced on a domestic process from the thirteenth century, but about 1810 the ‘Gensoul’ proce was introduced, using batteries of earthenware or metal pans to boil the silkworm larvae before winding off the silk thread, which stimulated the concentration of production in factories, something that was accelerated by the introduction of steam power about 1840. Some silk was used to make hosiery, but much of what was produced in the Cevennes was despatched for further processing to throwing mills in the Ardeche. Silk production ceased in the 1960s, but some 150 mill buildings, large and small, remain in the region.
The industry is commemorated in the museum at Saint Hippolyte du Fort, a small town on the River Vidourie, which provided power for throwing mills. The museum portrays all the processes involved in the manufacture of silk fabrics, and its exhibits include looms and clothing, as well as items relating to the initial stages of production in which the region specialised.