The France Page - Regions
Picardy stretches from the long sand beaches of the Somme estuary in the west to the vast forests and pastures of the Thiérache in the east and down to the chateaux of Chantilly or Pierrefonds near the Paris Area and vineyards of the border with Champagne (Champagne picarde) to the south.
In the 5th century the area was occupied by the Franks, and in the feudal period it encompassed the six countships of Boulogne, Montreuil, Ponthieu, Amiénois, Vermandois,and Laonnois.
The name "Picardy" (which may have referred to a Frankish tribe of picards or pike-bearers) was not used until the 12th or 13th century. During this time, the name applied to all lands where the Picard language was spoken, which included all the territories from Paris to the Netherlands. In the Latin Quarter of Paris, people identified a "Picard Nation" (Nation Picarde) of students at Sorbonne University, most of whom actually came from Flanders.
In the 16th century, the governement (military region) of Picardy was created. This became a new administrative region of France, separate from what was historically defined as Picardy. The new Picardy included the Somme département, the northern half of the Aisne département, and a small fringe in the north of the Oise département.
In the 17th century, an infectious disease similar to English sweat originated from the region and spread across France. It was called Suette des picards or Picardy sweat.
Sugar beet was introduced by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, in order to counter the United Kingdom, which had seized the sugar islands possessed by France in theCaribbean. The sugar industry has continued to play a prominent role in the economy of the region.
One of the most significant historical events to occur in Picardy was the series of battles fought along the Somme during World War I. From September 1914 to August 1918, four major battles, including the Battle of the Somme, were fought by British, French, and German forces in the fields of Northern Picardy.
Language and culture
Historically, the region of Picardy has a strong and proud cultural identity. The Picard (the local inhabitant and traditionally Picard language speakers) cultural heritage includes some of the most extraordinary Gothic churches (Amiens and Beauvais cathedrals or Saint-Quentin basilica), distinctive local cuisine (including ficelle picarde, flamiche aux poireaux, tarte au maroilles), beer (including from Péronne's de Clercq brewery) and traditional games and sports, such as the longue paume (ancestor of tennis), as well as danses picardes and its own bagpipes, called the pipasso.
The villages of Picardy have a distinct character, with their houses made of red bricks, often accented with a "lace" of white bricks. A minority of people still speak the Picard language, one of the languages of France, which is also spoken in Artois (Nord-Pas de Calais région). "P'tit quinquin", a Picard song, is a symbol of the local culture (and of that of Artois).
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