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Charente-Maritime is a department on the west coast of Francemarker named after the Charente Rivermarker.


Previously a part of Saintonge, Charente-Inférieure was one of the 83 original departments created during the French Revolution on March 4, 1790. On September 4, 1941, it was renamed Charente-Maritime.

When first created, the commune of Saintesmarker was assigned as the prefecture of the department (Saintes had previously been the prefecture of Saintonge). This changed in 1810 when Napoléon passed an imperial decree which moved the prefecture to La Rochellemarker.

During World War II, the department was invaded by the German army and became part of occupied France. To provide defence against a possible beach landing, the Organisation Todt constructed a number of sea defences in the area. Defences such as pillboxes are particularly noticeable on the beaches of the presqu'île d'Arvert and the island of Oléronmarker.

At the end of the war there were only two pockets of German resistance: La Rochelle, in the north and Royanmarker in the south. Despite being almost completely destroyed during an RAF bombing raid on January 5, 1945, the town of Royan wasn't liberated by the French resistance until April of the same year. La Rochelle was finally captured on May 9, 1945.


Charente-Maritime is part of the Poitou-Charentesmarker administrative region. It is the second largest and the most populated department in the region with a land area of 6864 km² and 598 915 inhabitants as of 2006.

The important rivers are the Charentemarker and its tributaries, the Boutonnemarker and the Seugnemarker, along with the Sèvre Niortaisemarker, the Seudremarker, and the Garonnemarker, in its downstream part, which is the estuary of the Girondemarker.

The department includes the islands of Île de Rémarker, Île d'Aixmarker, and Ile d'Oléronmarker.

The department forms the northen part of the Aquitaine basin. It is separated from the Massif Armoricain by the Marais Poitevinmarker to the north-west and from the Parisian basin by the Seuil du Poitoumarker to the north-east. The highest point in the department is in the woods of Chantemerlière, near the commune of Contrémarker in the north-east, and rises to 173 m.

Charente-Maritime is surrounded by the departments of Girondemarker, Charentemarker, Deux-Sèvresmarker, Dordognemarker and Vendéemarker.


The climate is mild and sunny, with less than 900 mm of precipitation per year. Average temperatures vary from 20 °C in summer to 5 °C in winter.


The economy of Charente-Maritime is based on three major sectors: tourism, maritime industry, and manufacturing. Cognac and pineau are two of the major agricultural products.

During the summer months, families flock from all over Europe to bask in the sun and enjoy the local seafood.

Charente-Maritime is the headquarters of the major oyster producer Marennes-Oléron. Oysters cultivated here are shipped across Europe.

Rochefortmarker is the site of shipbulding and a French naval base.

La Rochellemarker is a seat of major French industry. Just outside the city is a factory for the French engineering giant Alstom, where the TGV, the cars for the Paris and other metro are manufactured. It is a popular venue for tourism, with its picturesque medieval harbour and city walls.


The inhabitants of the department are called Charentais-Maritimes.


The President of the General Council is Dominique Bussereau of the Union for a Popular Movement.

Party seats
Union for a Popular Movement 18
Socialist Partymarker 15
Miscellaneous Right 8
Left Radical Party 7
The Greens 1
New Centre 1
MoDem 1


]Popular destinations include, La Rochellemarker, Royanmarker, Saintesmarker, St Jean d'Angely, Rochefortmarker, Île d'Aixmarker, Île de Rémarker and Île d'Oléronmarker.

The department is served by the TGV at Surgèresmarker and La Rochelle. It can also be reached by motorway by the A10 (E5, Parismarker-Bordeauxmarker) and A837 (E602, Saintesmarker-Rochefortmarker).

See also

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