- Population: 1,640,068
- Pop.density (people per km2): 64
Three principal communes
Poitiers, the ancient capital of the region, is perched on a hill overlooking the River Clain. The city has a captivating history involving some of the most famous French battles. The town's long history is revealed by many historic sites such as the Roman baths and amphitheatres, the Baptistery of Saint John (4th-12th century), the Cathedral of Saint Pierre (12th-14th century), and the palace of the counts of Poitou. It has long been a reputed seat of learning with a well-established university founded in 1431. Today Poitiers is the agricultural, industrial, and administrative centre of the region.
La Rochelle (116,157)
Known as "the pearl of the Charente", La Rochelle is both an important Atlantic coast fishing port and a popular summer resort. During the 16th century it was a centre of the Huguenot resistance to the crown. Conceded by treaty to the Huguenots in 1573, the city was besieged by Cardinal Richelieu in 1627-28. During the 18th century La Rochelle's port handled most of France's trade with Canada; but with the loss of Canada the port activity declined. The old section of the city contains the 16th-century town hall and 14th-century towers guarding the harbour entrance. Occupied by the Germans during World War II, La Rochelle withstood an Allied siege from September 1944 to May 1945. Major industries include petroleum refining and chemical, aircraft, and automobile manufacturing.
Deep inland Angoulême is a lovely, fortified town built on two levels by the Charente River. The town was the subject of a fierce tussle between the English and the French during the 100 Years War and also suffered terrible damage during the 16th century Wars of Religion. It has a rich tradition of paper-making which dates back to the 17th century when the river was thought to be so pure that it produced the best quality paper in the country. Angoulême also manufactures a wide variety of goods such as machinery, carpets and textiles and is besides a centre for the wine trade.