Picardy

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This article is about the historical French province. For other uses, see Picardy (disambiguation).

Picardy (French: Picardie) is a historical province of France, in the north of France. The historical capital and largest city is Amiens.

The area was occupied by the Franks in the 5th century and in the feudal period it encompassed the six countships of Boulogne, Montreuil, Ponthieu, Amiénois, Vermandois, and Laonnois.[1]

During the Middle Ages,the name applied to an area much larger than what is now thought of as Picardy, the name 'Picardy' referred to that part of France north of Paris, and it even included the Dutch speaking Flanders.This area corresponds to all the territories from Paris to the Netherlands. In the Latin Quarter of Paris, people identified a "Picardy Nation" (Nation Picarde) of students, most of whom actually came from Flanders, who studied in the prestigious Sorbonne University.[2]

In a narrower sense, Picardy refers to the area covered by the gouvernement (military region) of Picardy as created in the 16th century. This area is the Somme département, the northern half of the Aisne département, and a small fringe in the north of the Oise département. This is what most people think of as Picardy today. The older definition survives in the name of the Picard language, which applies not only to the dialects of Picardy proper, but also to the Romance dialects spoken in the Nord-Pas de Calais région, north of Picardy proper.

Picardy proper now lies inside the administrative region of Picardy, making up half of this region. Before the French Revolution, the coastal areas of Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais were considered part of Picardy, but are now part of the Nord-Pas de Calais région. However, anciently these areas belonged to the province of Artois, and had been detached from Artois in the 15th century.

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.

Northern Picardy is a vast plain with open fields, famed for the gruesome Battle of the Somme[2]. The region 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. The main crops of Picardy are wheat, sugar beet, and fodder. Sugar beet was introduced by Napoleon I during the Napoleonic Wars in order to counter the United Kingdom which had seized the sugar islands possessed by France in the Caribbean. The sugar industry made the fortune of Picardy in the 19th century.

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