Brittany

JPEG Map of Brittany (68KB)
Map of Brittany (68KB)

General information factsheet
+ Geography and climate
+ Population
+ Government and sovereignty
+ Economy
+ Historical background


Geography and climate

Location: Western Europe, large peninsula on the west of France, 150 km south of Great Britain.
Area: 27,209 sq km (approximately the size of Belgium or Maryland).
Coastline: 2,730 km.
Terrain: Continuous alternance of gently rolling hills and plain areas.
Forest surface: info not available.
Highest elevation
: Monts d'Arrée (384 m) in western Brittany.
Climate: Temperate maritime, influenced by the North Atlantic current -the Gulf Stream; mild winters, warm summers and consistently humid.
Average temperature and rainfall index:

  Rennes (East) Brest (West) Lorient (South)
Temp. August 23 C / 12 C 20 C / 12 C 21 C / 13 C
Temp. January 7 C / 1 C 8 C / 3 C 8 C / 3 C
Rainfall 670 mm 1130 mm 810 mm


Population

Time for a glass of Cider - Photo © CRTB - Erich Spiegelhalter
Time for a glass of Cider - Photo © CRTB - Erich Spiegelhalter

Population: 2.9 million.
The population of Brittany is homogeneously distributed across the whole Atlantic coast.
Main cities: Rennes, Nantes, Brest, Lorient.
Breton diaspora: Largest Breton emigrant communities are found in Paris, France and in Québec.
Population growth rate: info not available.
Ethnic composition: Base of Celtic (Gaul and Brithonic), Latin and Germanic (Frankish). New population contributions from France, and former French colonies in north Africa.
Religious affiliation: Majority of Christian Roman Catholic affiliation.
Official languages: French. Spoken and understood by 100% of the Breton population.
Unofficial languages: Breton (spoken in western Brittany) and Gallo (eastern Brittany). France has not ratified the European Charter for Regional Languages and no linguistic data is included in the census. It is estimated that Breton is spoken by 300,000 fluent speakers. No data available on Gallo language.


Government

Parlement de Bretagne, Rennes Photo © Ville de Rennes
Parlement de Bretagne, Rennes - Photo © Ville de Rennes

Sovereignty: Territory of France since 1532. In 1982 Région Bretagne became an administrative region of France with limited autonomy on economy, infrastructures, environment, education and culture.
Government type: Administrative region of the French Republic.
Capital: Rennes.
Administrative divisions: 4 French departments of Île-et-Vilaine, Côtes d'Armor, Morbihan, Finistère.
Constitution: French constitution of 28 September 1958, modified in 1962, 1992, 2000.
Legal system: French civil law system.
Executive branch of Région Bretagne: composed by the President of the Regional Council (Président du Conseil Régional) and a Cabinet (Éxecutif Régional) appointed by the President of the Regional Council.
Legislative branch of Région Bretagne: composed by two assemblies - the Conseil Régional (assembly of 83 members elected by popular vote, serve six year term) and the Conseil Économique et Social Régional (advisory body formed by economic, social and cultural institutions).
Judicial branch: Paris based Supreme Court of Appeals, Constitutional Council and Council of State.
Current Government in Région Bretagne: Left-wing government coalition of Parti Socialiste, Parti Communiste Français, and Bretagne Écologie. President: Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Political parties in Région Bretagne: Parti Socialiste (PS); Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP); Les Verts; Parti Communiste Français (PCF); Parti des Radicaux de Gauche (PRG); Union Démocratique Bretonne (UDB)
National holiday: No Breton national day is officially celebrated.
Official flag: Gwenn-ha-Du (White and Black). Inspired by the flag of the USA, nine alternating equal black and white stripes standing for the Breton and Gallo speaking counties respectively, and eleven ermine spots representing the Duchy of Brittany.


Economy

 Oyster farms, Cancale - Photo © CRTB - Erich Spiegelhalter
Oyster farms, Cancale - Photo © CRTB - Erich Spiegelhalter

Overview:
- Brittany is a small, agricultural based economy which is undertaking attempts of economic diversification.
- Traditionally one of the poorest regions of France, Brittany has been enjoying higher average growth than France since the 1980's.
- Brittany's French-leading agriculture and fishing industries remain key sector of the Breton economy.
- Exports have been growing on a 6% average since 1995, totalling EUR 10 billion in 2000.
- Thanks to their highly skilled workforce, Brittany is attracting investment and companies from the IT and electronics sector.
- Brittany's tourism industry benefits from a strategic geographical location, excellent sea and land infrastructures, warm weather and French savoir-vivre. Over 3.5 million tourists spend their holiday in Brittany every year (40% of which come from Great Britain), making Brittany, France’s 4th main tourist destination.
GDP Purchasing Power Parity: approx. € 56.6 billion (2000).
GDP real growth rate: info not available.
GDP per capita: purchasing power parity - approx. € 19,345 (2000).
Population below poverty line: info not available.
Labour force: info not available.
Labour force - occupation by sectors: agriculture 8%, industry 18%, services 74% (2000).
Unemployment rate: 7.7% (2002).
Budget: info not available.
Currency: Euro (EUR).
Industries: Food products, cars, electronics, telecommunications, manufacturing, tourism.
Main airports: Rennes, Nantes, Brest.
Main ports: Nantes, Brest, Lorient, Saint-Malo.


Historical background

 Menhirs of Monteneuf - Photo © CRTB - Erich Spiegelhalter
Menhirs of Monteneuf - Photo © CRTB - Erich Spiegelhalter

- Megalithic culture in Brittany circa 4500-1500 BC. Stone constructions characteristic of the Irish landscape and heritage.
- Bronze Age and trade in the European Atlantic, 1500-700 BC.
- Celtic culture flourishes in Gaul ca. 900-500 BC.
- Roman empire: the Romans conquers Armorica (today's Brittany) in 56 BC.
- Christianity spreads in Armorica ca. 350 AD, blending with native beliefs and greatly influencing Breton society to this day.
- Fall of the Roman empire ca. 410 AD.
- Germanic invasions: Angles and Saxons invade Great Britain from 500 AD. Celtic refugees (known as Britons) move to Armorica escaping from the invasions. The arrival of Britons is so large that Armorica becomes Brittany.
- Viking age: Scandinavians and Normans raid Brittany between the 9th and 10th centuries.
- Duchy of Brittany: Between 841-1514 Brittany becomes a sovereign Duchy composed of a Breton speaking population in the west and a Gallo speaking population in the east. Brittany begins to enter under the influence of France after the Succession War of 1341-1364.
- French rule: Treaty of Union of France and the Duchy of Brittany in 1532. Political power is transfered to Paris. Breton economy and commerce constrained due to continuous French wars in Europe. Disappearance of the Breton nobility and bourgeoisie social classes. Parliament of Brittany abolished in 1790. French Republic forbids church services and preaching in Breton language in 1902. Economic underdevelopment of Brittany, 19-20th century, many Bretons emigrate to other parts of France.
- Breton renaissance, 19th century: Breton intellectuals advocate the right of the Breton people to express their culture. Celtic idiosincracy is considered the cornerstone of Breton identity. Cultural and political organisations are created. Pan-Celtic links are established.
- World Wars: Over 329,000 Bretons die in World War 1, 1914-1918. Brittany is occupied by Nazi Germany during World War 2, 1939-1945.
- Detachment of Nantes, 1956: south east Brittany and the city of Nantes detached from Brittany and pasted on to the Loire region. Campaigning over the re-integration of Nantes in Brittany still alive today.
- European Union: As a part of France, Brittany becomes a territory of the EEC - EU in 1957.
- Political activism : Political parties, cultural organisations and other pressure groups re-emerge from the 1960's demanding devolution of sovereignty on Breton affairs to the Breton people.
- Political devolution: In 1982 France decentralised part of the state apparatus and Brittany obtained a limited autonomy over regional economy, infrastructure, environment, education and culture.

Tagged under: Brittany