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(brĭt`ənē), Breton Breiz, Fr. Bretagne, region and former province, NW France. It is a peninsula between the English Channel (N) and the Bay of Biscay (S) and comprises four departments, Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-d'Armor, Finistère, and Morbihan. Historically the duchy and province of Brittany also included the Loire-Atlantique dept.

Land and People

The coast, particularly at the western tip, is irregular and rocky, with natural harbors (notably at BrestBrest
, city (1990 pop. 153,099), Finistère dept., NW France, on an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. It is a commercial port, an important naval station, and the seat of the French Naval Academy.
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, LorientLorient
, town (1990 pop. 61,630), Morbihan dept., NW France, a port and naval station on the Atlantic Ocean. A great shipbuilding center, Lorient also produces textiles, furniture, and navigational equipment. Established (17th cent.
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, and Saint-MaloSaint-Malo
, town (1990 pop. 49,274), Ille-et-Vilaine dept., NW France, on the English Channel. Built on a rocky promontory, Saint-Malo is a fishing port and one of the great tourist centers of Brittany.
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) and numerous islands. Important rivers include the Odet and Vilaine. The emigration of the young has resulted in a serious decline in the region's population. Brittany and the Breton people have retained many old customs and traditions. Breton, their Celtic language (akin to Welsh), is spoken in traditionalist Lower (i.e., western) Brittany outside the cities (see Breton literatureBreton literature
, in the Celtic language of Brittany. Although there are numerous allusions in other literatures of the 12th to 14th cent. to the "matter of Brittany," which includes the stories of Tristan and King Arthur, no Breton texts remain from this period.
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). Brittany has remarkable stone calvaries, some built at the close of the 16th cent. to ward off the plague. Many megalithic monuments, formerly ascribed to the druidsdruids
, priests of ancient Celtic Britain, Ireland, and Gaul and probably of all ancient Celtic peoples, known to have existed at least since the 3d cent. BC. Information about them is derived almost exclusively from the testimony of Roman authors, notably Julius Caesar, and
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, dot the Breton landscape, notably at CarnacCarnac
, town (1993 est. pop. 4,322), Morbihan dept., NW France, in Brittany, at the foot of the Quiberon peninsula. It is the site of remarkable megalithic monuments, particularly the menhir.
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. These sights and the local traditions (old-fashioned peasant dress and high lace headgear, processions, and pilgrimages), which its inhabitants jealously maintain, have made Brittany an outstanding tourist attraction.


The economy of the region is based on agriculture, fishing, and tourism. Apples, from which the distinctive Breton cider is made, are grown extensively inland. Industry includes food processing, and automobile manufacturing. A major space telecommunications center is at Pleumeur-Bodou. There is a nuclear power plant in the Arrée Mts. and a tidal power station at Rance.


A part of ancient Armorica, the area was conquered by Julius Caesar in the Gallic WarsGallic Wars
, campaigns in Gaul led by Julius Caesar in his two terms as proconsul of Cisalpine Gaul, Transalpine Gaul, and Illyricum (58 B.C.–51 B.C.). Caesar's first campaign was to prevent the Helvetii (who lived N of the Lake of Geneva) from crossing the Roman
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 and became part of the province of Lugdunensis (see GaulGaul
, Lat. Gallia, ancient designation for the land S and W of the Rhine, W of the Alps, and N of the Pyrenees. The name was extended by the Romans to include Italy from Lucca and Rimini northwards, excluding Liguria.
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). It received its modern name when it was settled (c.500) by Britons whom the Anglo-Saxons had driven from Britain. Breton history is a long struggle for independence—first from the Franks (5th–9th cent.), then from the dukes of Normandy and the counts of Anjou (10th–12th cent.), and finally from England and France.

In 1196, Arthur I, an AngevinAngevin
[Fr.,=of Anjou], name of two medieval dynasties originating in France. The first ruled over parts of France and over Jerusalem and England; the second ruled over parts of France and over Naples, Hungary, and Poland, with a claim to Jerusalem.
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, was acknowledged as duke. King John of England, who presumably murdered him (1203), failed to obtain the duchy, which passed to Arthur's brother-in-law, Peter I (Peter Mauclerc). The extinction of his direct line led to the War of the Breton SuccessionBreton Succession, War of the,
1341–65, an important episode of the Hundred Years War. Duke John III of Brittany died in 1341 without heirs. The succession was contested by his half-brother, John de Montfort, who was backed by Edward III of England, and by Charles of
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 (1341–65), a part of the Hundred Years WarHundred Years War,
1337–1453, conflict between England and France. Causes

Its basic cause was a dynastic quarrel that originated when the conquest of England by William of Normandy created a state lying on both sides of the English Channel. In the 14th cent.
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 (1337–1453). With the end of the Breton war, the dukedom was won by the house of Montfort. The dukes of Montfort tried to secure Brittany's neutrality between France and Britain during the remainder of the Hundred Years War.

The unsuccessful rebellion of Duke Francis II against the French crown led to the absorption of Brittany into France after the accession of his daughter, Anne of Brittany, in 1488. King Francis I formally incorporated the duchy into France in 1532. Brittany's provincial parlementparlement
, in French history, the chief judicial body under the ancien régime. The parlement consisted of a number of separate chambers: the central pleading chamber, called the Grand-Chambre; the Chambre des Requêtes
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 met at Rennes, and its provincial assembly remained powerful until the French Revolution.

The 16th and 17th cent. were generally peaceful in Brittany, but the region, never reconciled to centralized rule, became one of the early centers of revolt in 1789. However, its staunch Catholicism and conservatism soon transformed it into an anti-Revolutionary stronghold; the ChouansChouans
[Norman Fr.,=owls], peasants of W France who rose against the French Revolutionary government in 1793. One of their first leaders was Jean Cottereau, traditionally nicknamed Jean Chouan, marquis de La Rouerie [John the owl, marquess of Mischief], and the Chouans
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 (anti-Revolutionary peasants) were never fully subdued, and in S Brittany and the neighboring VendéeVendée
, department (1990 pop. 509,356), W France, on the Bay of Biscay, in Poitou. The offshore islands of Noirmoutier and Yeu are included in the department. Largely an agricultural (dairying, cattle raising) and forested region, the Vendée has many beach resorts
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 the Revolutionary government resorted to ruthless reprisals.

Breton nationalism grew in the 19th cent. and was fueled by the anticlericalism of the Third Republic. The Breton autonomists, long successfully repressed by the French government, nevertheless resisted German bids for collaboration in World War II. During the 1970s, Breton nationalists once again protested the French repression of Breton culture. Groups such as the Breton Revolutionary army and the Movement of National Liberation by Socialism committed sporadic acts of violence, such as the exploding of a bomb in the palace of Versailles in June, 1978.


See N. Lands, Brittany (1986); E. Baclone, The Appointed Hour (1989).



a historical region in the extreme northwest of France on the Brittany Peninsula. It occupies an area of 35,300 sq km and has a population of 3.3 million (1968). The chief city is Rennes. The territory of Brittany comprises the departments of Ille-et-Vilaine, Côtes-du-Nord, Finistère, Morbihan, and Loire-Atlantique. The first four departments form the official economic region of Brittany. Agriculture is the region’s economic base; more than 30 percent of the working population is employed in it, compared with 25 percent in industry (1962 census). The main branch of agriculture is livestock raising, mostly cattle and pigs. The region has large grain and potato crops and forage cultivation. Fruits are also grown, related to the traditional production of cider. Early vegetables are grown in the coastal zone. There is also fishing. Industry includes shipbuilding, fish processing, and the processing of agricultural products. Industry is concentrated in the coastal city-ports of Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, Lorient, Brest, Concarneau, and Saint-Brieuc. Rennes has automobile production. Tourism is also developed.


Brittany received its name from the Britons, who populated it in the fifth and sixth centuries, taking refuge from the Anglo-Saxons in Britain. In the late eighth century the Britons recognized Charlemagne as their suzerain but freed themselves of vassal dependency on the Franks as early as the middle of the ninth century. In 845-49 an independent Duchy (or kingdom) of Brittany was formed. After the devastating Norman occupation of 919-37, Brittany was restored as a duchy, with Rennes becoming its capital at the end of the tenth century. The feudal fragmentation of Brittany intensified in the 11th century; the destructive barons’ wars raged between 1040 and 1223. From the second half of the 12th century to the end of the 13th century Brittany was a vassal of the English kings, later becoming a vassal of the French kings. In 1491 a personal union between Brittany and France was established, and in 1532 Brittany was finally annexed by France, becoming a province. Brittany retained its provincial states until the French Revolution (1789). A large peasant uprising caused by oppressive taxation broke out in Brittany in 1675. The territory of Brittany was divided into departments during the French Revolution.


Rebillon, A. Histoire de Bretagne. Paris, 1957.


a region of NW France, the peninsula between the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay: settled by Celtic refugees from Wales and Cornwall during the Anglo-Saxon invasions; disputed between England and France until 1364
References in periodicals archive ?
It makes no sense at all and doubtless, when the news filtered through to Brittanny of this emphatic victory, a confused Paul Le Guen would have been left feeling so emasculated that it may even have driven him to uncork the vin rouge.
The students and cities of residence are Catherine Perez Fountain, Calabasas; Amber Goodrich, West Hills; Brittanny Dipla, Encino; Brianna Parisian, Woodland Hills and Lisa McFadden, Oak Park.
You're room's a mess, but it's all right,'' Frank O'Hanlon shouted at his daughter Brittanny when she went to pick up an award for highest overall individual score for her level, adding to her cache of nine individual medals.