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Brittany (brĭtˈənē), 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 Brest, Lorient, and Saint-Malo) 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 literature). 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 druids, dot the Breton landscape, notably at Carnac. 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 Wars and became part of the province of Lugdunensis (see Gaul). 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 Angevin, 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 Succession (1341–65), a part of the Hundred Years War (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 parlement 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 Chouans (anti-Revolutionary peasants) were never fully subdued, and in S Brittany and the neighboring Vendée 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. In 1972 Brittany was established as an administrative region of France. 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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


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
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The hillclimb or 'course de cote' as it is called in France was set in the beautiful Britanny countryside on closed narrow public roads set over a distance of 1.8km where drivers reach speeds of 130km/hr.
Britanny penned Shout Out in memory of her and Rachelle's friend, who took her own life last year.
Following Rankin, Jean-Luc Deuffic shows how there is still much to do on the different neumatic notations in Britanny, whereas Michel Huglo, in his second chapter in the volume, discusses the distinctive 'Aquitanian' notation, showing how it differs from manuscripts of the period written and notated elsewhere in France.
Brest have only lost once when he has scored but it's interesting to note that Ben Basat has to score away from home for his club this season and, like him, Brest are much better in Britanny.
Winner of the young citizen of the year was Britanny Byrnes, 13, of Lumley Street, Loftus, who is a young carer for her 14-year-old sister Paris who suffers from epilepsy and learning disabilities.
Frebourg's own recipe for "tholing it", as we Scots say, is a book-long dialogue with his favorite author, discovered at fourteen--"C'est apres la lecture de Madame Bovary a l'age de quatorze ans que j'ai decide de faire mon coup d'Etat interieur: devenir ecrivain"--and rediscovered in the Correspondance, his moral Bible, culminating--by this point it is clear that Gaston will survive-in a pilgrimage to Britanny, following in the footsteps of Flaubert and Maxime du Camp, as related in Par les champs, par les greves.
Music comes from across the globe via Australian duo Cloudbeat, and Britanny based band The Churchfitters.
The news comes as British Airways is about to start brand new services from the Docklands airport to Mahon in Menorca, Quimper in Britanny and Angers in the Loire Valley in France from May.
Emperor penguin Mumble (Elijah Wood) has grown up a bit and now has his own chick, Erik, with Gloria - Pink has replaced Britanny Murphy and brings an excellent singing voice to the role.
So we borrowed one from the Caravan Club and had a lovely holiday in Britanny. Then we discovered Biarritz - and we've been going there ever since.
GettingThere Russell Youll travelled courtesy of Siblu holidays and Britanny Ferries.