Poitou (pwätōˈ) [key], region and former province, W France, stretching from the Atlantic coast eastward beyond the Vienne River. It now includes three departments—Vendée in the west, Deux-Sèvres in the center, and Vienne in the east, as well as small areas of several other departments. Poitiers, the historic capital, is the chief industrial center. Other industrial towns are Châtellerault, Niort, La Roche-sur-Yon, and Les Sables-d'Olonne. The Vendée region, or Lower Poitou, extends beyond the departmental boundary of Vendée; it is mostly a pastoral hedgerow country (the bocages ), with swamps in the west and in the south. A narrow strip, the Vendean plain, is an intensive wheat-growing region. Upper Poitou is a rich agricultural area; it also has a large dairy industry. A part of the Roman province of Aquitaine, Poitou (known as "the city of the Pictons") fell to the Visigoths (5th cent.) and to the Franks (507). The counts of Poitiers, who originated in the 9th cent., assumed the title duke of Aquitaine. The area was frequently contested by England and France, passing back and forth in possession until the end of the Hundred Years War, when Charles VII definitively incorporated it in the French crown lands.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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