Brittany is known as Bretagne in French and at first it was a province and duchy and only later turned into a region. Rennes, former provincial capital, is the chief city.
In ancient times the region was part of Armorica. Julius Caesar invaded the country in 56 bc and it thus became the Roman province of Gallia Lugdunensis.
After the withdrawal of the Romans many Britons fleeing the Teutonic invaders took refuge in the northwestern part of Armorica. They gave the region its present name. The Britons (later called Bretons) gradually converted the Armorican Celts to Christianity.
In 922, Geoffrey, count of Rennes, proclaimed himself duke of Brittany. It became through marriage a possession of Geoffrey Plantagenet, son of Henry II, king of England, in 1171.
It came back to a line of French dukes at Rennes during the 13th century. The union with France became permanent by treaty in 1532 during the reign of the French king Francis I.
After 1532, Britanny retained a certain fiscal and regulatory autonomy, which was defended by the États de Bretagne despite the rising tide of royal absolutism.
During the 18th century, Nantes rose to become one of the most important commercial centres of France.
On 4 August 1789, the National Constituent Assembly in Paris unanimously proclaimed the abolition of feudal privileges. These included the privileges of the provinces such as Britanny. Because of that, Brittany lost the juridical existence, autonomy, Parlement, and administrative, fiscal and legal peculiarities guaranteed since the Edict of Union of 1532.
Ninenteenth-century Brittany acquired a reputation for timeless autarky, as an image of the province as a bastion of peasant traditionalism, religious festivals, and wild landscapes was developed. At the same time, Breton life became more and more integrated with that of the rest of France, particularly under the Third Republic.
When France was divided into administrative regions by the Vichy government, the Bretagne region then included only four of the five departments that traditionally used to form the breton territory. This removal of Loire-Atlantique containing Nantes from the Breton region has been a matter of much controversy.
Brittany is situated in north-west France with the English channel to the north, the Bay of Biscay to the south, and Rennes as region capital.
With 2000 kilometres of coast, numerous islands and beaches, ports and historical towns there is a great deal to discover – much more than you can expect to visit in a fortnight! For the most popular coastal destinations in the region see Brittany beaches and resorts.