In France, soap has been made by artisans since Antiquity. Initially created from basic ingredients such as ash and animal fats, it is in the region of Marseille, at the crossroad of trade of vegetable ingredients such as olive oil, argan oil and Mediterranean salts, where the Marseille soap, commonly known as French Milled, was born.
Medieval soap makers cutting the Marseille soap by hand.
In 1370, in the throes of the Middle Ages, Crescas Davin became the first and official Marseille soap master to be registered using the ancient artisan process.
By the 17th century, the Thirty Years War had caused major misery and shortages in soap for many European countries, such as Spain. Marseille had to pick up the pace to resupply those shortages so King Louis XIV, seeing the potential, enacted the Colbert Edict of 1688. This decree mandated that all Marseille soap only be manufactured in the Region of Marseille, and with local olive oil only.
After the French Revolution, the royal decree became forgotten and void. Making Marseille soap was no longer a geographically bound appellation. This allowed for various, more innovative types of vegetable oils to be used in addition to olive oil; as long as no animal by-products were used.
Marseille at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. 1860.
At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, Marseille, a major European port, strengthened and intensified its production allowing it to become a major soap manufacturing stronghold.
Today, it is a huge success with hundreds of thousands of tons of French Milled soap are produced every year. Marseille soap is known worldwide as the finest quality soap in the world.