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CHARENTE

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Originally appearing in Volume V05, Page 858 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CHARENTE, an inland department of south-western France, comprehending the ancient province of Angoumois, and inconsiderable portions of Saintonge, Poitou, Marche, Limousin and Perigord. It is bounded N. by the departments of Deux-Sevres and Vienne, E. by those of Vienne and Dordogne, S. by Dordogne and W. by Charente-Inferieure. Area 2305 sq. m. Pop. (1906) 351,733• The department, though it contains no high altitudes, is for the most part of a hilly nature. The highest points, many of which exceed l000 ft., are found in the Confolentais, the granite region of the extreme north-east, known also as the Terres Froides. In the Terres Chaudes, under which name the remainder of the department is included, the levels vary in general between 300 and 65o ft., except in the western plains —the Pays-Bas and Champagne—where they range from 40 to 300 ft. A large part of Charente is thickly wooded the principal forests lying in its northern districts. The department, as its name indicates, belongs mainly to the basin of the river Charente (area of basin 386o sq. m.; length of river 225 m.), the chief affluents of which, within its borders, are the Tardoire, the Touvre and the Ne. The Confolentais is watered by the Vienne, a tributary of the Loire, while the arrondissement of Barbezieux in the south-west belongs almost wholly to the basin of the Gironde. The climate is temperate but moist, the rainfall being highest in the north-east. Agriculturally, Charente is prosperous. More than half its surface is arable land, on the greater part of which cereals are grown. The potato is an important crop. The vine is predominant in the region of Champagne, the wine produced being chiefly distilled into the famous brandy to which the town of Cognac gives its name. The best pasture is found in the Confolentais, where horned cattle are largely reared. The chief fruits are chestnuts, walnuts and cider-apples. The poultry raised in the neighbourhood of Barbezieux is highly esteemed. Charente has numerous stone quarries, and there are peat workings and beds of clay which supply brick and tile-works and earthenware manufactories. Among the other industries, paper-making, which has its chief centre at Angouleme, is foremost. The most important metallurgical establishment is the large foundry of naval guns at Ruelle. Flour-mills and leather-works are numerous. There are also many minor industries subsidiary to paper-making and brandy-distilling, and Angouleme manufactures gunpowder and confectionery. Coal, salt and timber are prominent imports. Exports include paper, brandy, stone and agricultural products. The department is served chiefly by the Orleans and Ouest-Etat railways, and the Charente is navigable below Angouleme. Charente is divided into the five arrondissements of Angouleme, Cognac, Ruffec, Barbezieux and Confolens (29 cantons, 426 communes). It belongs to the region of the XII. army corps, to the province of the archbishop of Bordeaux, and to the academic (educational division) of Poitiers. Its court of appeal is at Bordeaux. Angouleme (the capital), Cognac, Confolens, Jarnac and La Rochefoucauld (q.v.) are the more noteworthy places in the department. Barbezieux and Ruffec, capitals of arrondissements and agricultural centres, are otherwise of little importance. The department abounds in churches of Romanesque architecture, of which those of Bassac, St Amant-de-Boixe (portions of which are Gothic in style), Plassac and Gensac-la-Pallue may be mentioned. There are remains of a Gothic abbey church at La Couronne, and Roman remains at St Cybardeaux, Brossac and Chassenon (where there are ruins of the Gallo-Roman town of Cassinomagus). CHARENTE-INFERIEURE, a -maritime department of south-western France, comprehending the old provinces of Saintonge and Aunis, and a small portion of Poitou, and including the islands of Re, Oleron, Aix and Madame. Area, 2791 sq. m. Pop. (1906) 453,793. It is bounded N. by Vendee, N.E. by Deux-Sevres, E. by Charente, S.E. by Dordogne, S.W. by Gironde and the estuary of the Gironde, and W. by the Bay of Biscay. Plains and low hills occupy the interior; the coast is flat and marshy, as are the islands (Re, Aix, Oleron) which lie opposite to it. The department takes its name from the river Charente, which traverses it during the last 61 m. of its course and drains the central region. Its chief tributaries are on the right the Boutonne, on the left the Seugne. The climate is temperate and, except along the coast, healthy. There are several sheltered bays on the coast, and several good harbours, the chief of which are La Rochelle, Rochefort and Tonnay-Charente, the two latter some distance up the Charente. Royan on the north shore of the Gironde is an important watering-place much frequented for its bathing. The majority of the inhabitants of Charente-Inferieure live by agriculture. The chief products of the arable land are wheat, oats, maize, barley and the potato. Horse and cattle-raising is carried on and dairying is prosperous. A considerable quantity of wine, most of which is distilled into brandy, is produced. The department has a few peat-workings, and produces freestone, lime and cement; the salt-marshes of the coast are important sources of mineral wealth. Glass, pottery, bricks and earthen-ware are prominent industrial products. Ship-building, brandy-distilling, iron-founding and machine construction are also carried on. Oysters and mussels are bred in the neighbourhood of La Rochelle and Marennes, and there are numerous fishing ports along the coast. The railways traversing the department belong to the Ouest-Etat system, except one section of the Paris-Bordeaux line belonging to the Orleans Company. The facilities of the department for internal communication are greatly increased by the number of navigable streams which water it. The Charente, the Sevre Niortaise, the .Boutonne, the Seudre and the Gironde furnish 142 M. of navigable waterway, to which must be added the 56 m. covered by the canals of the coast. There are 6 arrondissements (40 cantons, 481 communes), cog-nominal with the towns of La Rochelle, Rochefort, Marennes, Saintes, Jonzac and St Jean d'Angely—La Rochelle being the chief town of the department. The department forms the diocese of La Rochelle, and is attached to the 18th military region, and in educational matters to the academic of Poitiers. Its court of appeal is at Poitiers. La Rochelle, St Jean d'Angely, Rochefort and Saintes (q.v.) are the principal towns. Surgeres and Aulnay possess fine specimens of the numerous Romanesque churches. Pons has a graceful chateau of the 15th and 16th centuries, beside which there rises a fine keep of the 12th century. CHARENTON-LE-PONT, a town of northern France in the department of Seine, situated on the right bank of the Marne, at its confluence with the Seine, 1 m. S.E. of the fortifications of Paris, of which it is a suburb. Pop. (1906) 18,034. It derives the distinctive part of its name from the stone bridge of ten arches which crosses the Marne and unites the town with Alfortville, well known for its veterinary school founded in 1766. It has always been regarded as a point of great importance for the defence of the capital, and has frequently been the scene of sanguinary conflicts. The fort of Charenton on the left bank of the Marne is one of the older forts of the Paris defence. In the 16th and 17th centuries Charenton was the scene of the ecclesiastical councils of the Protestant party, which had its principal church in the town. At St Maurice adjoining Charenton is the famous Hospice de Charenton, a lunatic asylum, the foundation of which dates from 1641. Till the time of the Revolution it was used as a general hospital, and even as a prison, but from 1802 onwards it was specially appropriated to the treatment of lunacy. St Maurice has two other national establishments, one for the victims of accidents in Paris (asile national Vacassy), the other for convalescent working-men (asile national de Vincennes). Charenton has a port on the- Canal de St Maurice, beside the Marne, and carries on boat-building and the manufacture of tiles and porcelain.
End of Article: CHARENTE
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