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Poitou is a historic region in west central France. Poitiers, the former capital of the region, is its chief city. Farming is important to the economy; wheat, corn, and cattle are raised. Industries produce machinery, chemicals, and dairy products.

The region's first known inhabitants, the Pictavi, a Gallic tribe, were conquered in 56 BC by the Romans who incorporated the area into Gaul as part of the province of Aquitania. The Visigoths seized the region in AD 418, but it passed to the FRANKS in 507. In 732 or 733, CHARLES MARTEL ended the Muslim invasion of western Europe by his victory in the Battle of Poitiers. From the 10th to the mid-12th century, the counts of Poitou were also the dukes of AQUITAINE, and the city of Poitiers grew in importance. In 1152, Poitou came under English control through the marriage of ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE to Henry II (later king of England). The region was reunited with the French crown in 1416 and was a province of France until the Revolution (1789-95), when it was divided into three departments, Vienne, Deux-Sevres, and Vendee.


Angoulême {ahn-goo-lem'} is the capital of Charente department in western France. Situated on the Charente River, it is about 100 km (60 mi) northeast of Bordeaux. Its population is 42,876 (1990). Angoulême manufactures a wide variety of goods, such as machinery, carpets and textiles, and paper products. It is also a center for the wine trade. The city has many Romanesque buildings, including the Cathedral of Saint Pierre (built 1105-28). Angoulême was taken by Clovis, king of the Franks, in AD 507 and became the seat of the counts of Angoulême in the 9th century. The city was much fought over and damaged during the Wars of Religion of the 16th century.


A city in west central France with a population of 78,894 (1990), Poitiers {pwah-tee-ay'} is an agricultural, industrial, and administrative center. Occupied since prehistory, Poitiers was called Limonum by the Romans, and in the Middle Ages it became the capital of the historic region of Poitou. The city's long history can be seen in the Roman baths and amphitheaters, the Baptistery of Saint John (4th-12th century), the Cathedral of Saint Pierre (12th-14th century), and the palace of the counts of Poitou. The University of Poitiers was founded in 1431.

La Rochelle

La Rochelle {lah roh-shel'} (1990 pop., 71,094) is the capital city of Charente -Maritime department in western France. Located on the Bay of Biscay, it is an important Atlantic coast fishing port and a popular summer resort. Major industries include petroleum refining and chemical, aircraft, and automobile manufacturing.

La Rochelle was made a commune in 1199 when it was already a busy port. During the 16th century it was a center of Huguenot resistance to the crown. Conceded by treaty to the Huguenots in 1573, the city was besieged by Cardinal Richelieu in 1627-28. During the 18th century La Rochelle's port handled most of France's trade with Canada, but with the loss of Canada port activity declined. The old section of the city contains the 16th-century town hall and 14th-century towers guarding the harbor entrance. Occupied by the Germans during World War II, La Rochelle withstood an Allied siege from September 1944 to May 1945.

Bibliography: History intro, Angoulême, Poitiers, La Rochelle, 1997 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia v9.0.1., Grolier Interactive Inc., Danbury, CT. Fodor's 99 France, Editor: Natasha Lesser, Fodor's Travel Publications, New York.

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