Brittany was a country


Stone Age arrowhead from Brittany

Brittany was already settled in the Paleolithic, which is evidenced by isolated tool finds from the Acheulean culture. Only a few traces of human settlement are known from the Mesolithic, namely scrapers from the Moustérien industry, while rock paintings and hewn flint stones are missing. While people had lived from hunting, fishing and collecting until then, they became more and more popular from 5000 BC onwards. Settled down and practiced livestock and agriculture in the Neolithic. The megalithic systems were also built during this time. Most (dolmens, tumuli and menhirs) were built between 4500 and 2000 BC. Built or used.

From the subsequent Early Bronze Age (beginning between 2000 and 1800 BC) rich grave finds (dagger graves of series I and II) attest to contacts with England (Wessex culture), Denmark and southern Germany (Singen group). In the Bronze Age, Brittany was an important trading center because of its metal deposits, which can be concluded from numerous other extensive hoard finds. The Breton bronze axes with straight shafts (1200 to 1000 BC) were common throughout Northern Europe.[2]

The comparatively late in Brittany, namely from the 6th century BC. The beginning of the Iron Age was marked by the immigration of the Celts, who called Brittany Aremorica or Armorica ("land by the sea"). They did not displace the entire already resident population, but completely ended the bronze culture of the peninsula. While iron finds from this era are rather rare, the ceramic finds testify to a diverse pottery culture. Fortified settlements (Oppida) were located on headlands, hills and in enclosed fortifications. In the 2nd century BC BC five Celtic tribes lived on the Breton peninsula: the Venetians in the south, the Osismians in the northwest, the Redons in the east, the Coriosolites in the north and finally the Namneten in the southeast. They did not form a unit, but were divided. The most powerful tribe among them were the Venetians, who lived in the 1st century BC. Ruled all other tribes. They were at the head of the alliance of all Breton tribes, which the Romans from 58 BC onwards. Resisted.

In the year 56 BC In BC, Julius Caesar and his legions defeated almost the entire Venetian fleet in a devastating sea battle, thereby ending the economic prosperity of this tribe as well as the Gallic supremacy in shipping. The Romanization of Brittany began immediately after the conquest and, in addition to the triumphant advance of Roman administration, architecture and street layout, primarily consisted of the founding of Roman cities such as Nantes, Rennes, Vannes, Carhaix-Plouguer and Corseul. However, it was not over until the end of late antiquity. At this point in time, the Celtic language of Gaul, Gaulish, had probably almost completely disappeared.

Breton immigration

Already at the time of the Roman colonization there had been intensive contacts between the Aremorican peninsula and the British island. In the late 4th century the fortified towns and forts on the coast belonged to the Limes of the so-called Saxon coast, whose garrisons were under the command of a Dux tractus Armoricani et Nervicani.[3] After the Roman army withdrew at the beginning of the 5th century, under Emperor Honorius, the Provençals drove out the Roman administrative officials around 409 and declared themselves independent.[4] Germanus of Auxerre traveled to the imperial court in Ravenna in 437 to show indulgence for the inhabitants of Aremorica. The influential Roman army master Aëtius had sent Alan troops on a punitive expedition against the Bagauden there, who had risen under the leadership of a certain Tibatto. The Aremorican tribal leaders and cities subsequently formed a protective alliance against the Anglo-Saxon looters, which existed until the conquest of the country by the Frankish king Clovis I around 500.

During the decline of the Western Roman Empire, from around 450 AD, Christianized Welsh people in particular immigrated to the Breton peninsula. At the same time, the settlement areas of the still pagan Saxons, Angles and Jutes on the British main island continued to expand. For about two centuries, so-called island celts crossed into Brittany at irregular intervals in order to escape the uncertain political conditions of their original homeland. They settled and Christianized Aremorica and brought their language to Gaul, which had been Romanized for a long time. So Breton does not go back to the Celtic idiom that was still spoken in Bretagne in Caesar's time. In the course of the revival of the Celtic language and culture, the influence of the Gallo-Romans was steadily pushed back until they finally lost their dominance around 580. According to François Falc'hun, however, the Breton dialect used in the region around Vannes still goes back to the original Celtic language Aremoricas.[5]

Kingdom, Carolingian, Duchy of Brittany

Fortresses and garrison towns in the Breton region
Approximate borders of the Kingdom of Brittany 845–867

In 497, the Bretons submitted to the Frankish Merovingian king Clovis I, but the sovereignty of the Merovingian kings remained very loose before it was completely thrown off after the (first) Franconian division and the death of Clovis's son Childebert I .

Around 600, after power struggles, the Bretons founded a kingdom that lasted 200 years and was not smashed until 799 by the Frankish ruler Charlemagne.

In 786, Karl made eastern Brittany the Breton border march and thus part of the Franconian Empire, the first margrave was Hruotland. After the division of the empire, the Breton Count Nominoë defeated the West Franconian King Charles the Bald in 845 at the Battle of Ballon and captured Nantes in 850. In addition to the four departments mentioned above, the core area of ​​historic Brittany has also included today's Loire-Atlantique (Bret. Liger-Atlantel) department since 851.

After Nominoë's death (851), as had been the case for centuries, disputes arose between the individual areas. Nominoës nephew Salomon allied himself with the Norman Vikings and received the Cotentin peninsula from West Frankish King Charles II in 867 in order to persuade him to help defend the Normans. But at the latest in 930 Contentin, where the Normans established themselves, fell to Normandy, and in 952 Brittany itself had to recognize the sovereignty of the Norman dukes. The time of kingship in Brittany ended before the turn of the millennium, followed by the establishment of countless smaller duchies that constantly fought over the country. In contrast, the West Franconian Empire stabilized as the Kingdom of France and in Normandy a duchy was increasingly expanding into Brittany.

The area of ​​the Duchy of Brittany maintained a relative independence in armed conflicts with the Normans, French and English until the 15th century.

Middle Ages and French feudal times

After all, the duchies could not withstand the threats from their neighbors and called foreign countries for help. These were France and England, who wanted to assert their claims to rule over Brittany in the following years and were also involved in the War of the Breton Succession, which raged for 20 years in the middle of the 14th century. England's favorite Jean de Montfort succeeded in gaining power and asserting himself as Duke of Brittany. Years of prosperity and growth followed, until Duke Francis II went to battle against the French at the end of the 15th century and lost miserably (1488, St. Aubin du Cormier, East Brittany).

Anne de Bretagne (1477–1514), the daughter of Duke Francis II, was the last independent ruler of Brittany. She married two French kings one after the other: Charles VIII in 1490, and his great cousin and heir to the throne, Louis XII. 1499. In order to guarantee the succession to the throne and not to provoke any disputes in this regard, the still young Anne gave birth to her first children at an early age (eleven in all), but only three of them were older than three years. Her daughter, Claude de France, married Franz I. At a meeting of estates in the southern Breton town of Vannes in 1532, he proclaimed the official "annexation" to the French kingdom. Even 400 years later, some Breton nationalists felt "occupied" by the French state. B. manifested in the demolition of the Unification Monument in Rennes (Bret. Roazhon) in 1932.

Modern times

As part of the Cellamare conspiracy, the Bretons rose under Marquis de Pontcallec in 1718. In 1720 he and three co-conspirators were executed

Within France, Brittany was primarily of maritime importance. From 1631 Brest became the best and most fortified naval port in France. The Breton port cities and coastal towns became the cradle of many outstanding naval officers in the French Navy; Jacques Cartier, René Duguay-Trouin, Robert Surcouf and Martin Fourichon came from Saint-Malo alone. The marine engineer Jacques-Noël Sané came from Brest, the Admiral de Guichen from Fougères, and the Admiral Picquet de la Motte from Rennes. As home ports and shipyards of the French Atlantic fleet, Brest, Lorient and Saint-Malo have been of great strategic importance since the 17th century, and the French Naval School has been located in Lanvéoc near Brest since the 19th century.

As a province of France, Brittany got the right to its own assembly of estates (French états). There was also a supreme court of justice in Brittany, which had to protect Brittany's rights vis-à-vis the crown. This so-called parliament, which met in Rennes, lasted until the French Revolution.

The years after the annexation were marked by high prosperity and prosperity.This was particularly true of the coastal cities, whereas the hinterland continued to be characterized by poverty and backwardness. The discontent was expressed in the stamp paper revolt of 1675, an uprising against royal taxation.

From around 1700 onwards, New Bretonic gradually developed, largely thanks to scientific research into the language. If it was difficult to preserve the Breton language and culture in the past under French rule, everything came to a head after the French Revolution. While the Bretons had high hopes for it, the revolutionaries now showed themselves to be repressors by banning the Breton language and the free practice of religion by the Catholics living there. A counterrevolutionary guerrilla developed, the Chouans (French tawny owl, because the members could be recognized by the call of this bird). Similar to the south of the Loire in the Vendée, the French Republic needed many years and large troop contingents to master the uprising. But the language and culture were preserved, supported by the majority of the population and groups of independence fighters.

Fearing that French could have a bad influence on Breton, the "Union Régionaliste Bretonne" was founded in 1898 with the aim of popularizing the idea of ​​an independent Brittany. Then there was the "Fédération Régionaliste de Bretagne" founded in 1911, which campaigned for the autonomy of Brittany and published the newspaper "Breiz Dishual" (Free Brittany). However, both companies had to cease their activities in the turmoil of the First World War.

First World War and the interwar period

During the First World War, the Bretons paid a high blood toll on people. Around 10% of the total population, i.e. around 240,000 soldiers, perished, that is every fourth Breton who went to war. In comparison, only one in eight French soldiers lost his life. One of the reasons for the heavy losses on the part of the Bretons was their commitment to the front line. Barely able to speak the French language, it should have happened that they were shot by their French compatriots because they thought they were spies.

Due to the high casualties caused by the war, the Bretons felt even more incited to push for independence. Right-wing intellectuals founded the newspaper Breiz Atao (Bretagne Forever), which advocated a free Brittany in a Europe without borders, while the more extreme circles founded the "Nationalist Breton Party" (PNB) in 1934, which became more and more fascist in the following years And the underground organization Gwen ha du (white and black), named after the Breton flag, came into being. The latter tried to enforce their efforts by force of arms.

Second World War

Villagers suspected of supporting the Resistance are interrogated by the occupiers (Brittany, July 1944)
British-French paratroopers and the Resistance's area of ​​operations in Brittany in June and July 1944

After the economic boom in the 1930s, the Second World War broke out. At the beginning of the war, the modern and powerful battleships Richelieu and Dunkerque as well as the submarine cruiser Surcouf were anchored in Brest. In 1940 the light cruiser De Grasse was just being built in Lorient. The equally modern sister ships of the Dunkerque and the Richelieu, the Strasbourg and the also still unfinished Jean Bart were moored in Saint-Nazaire (Loire-Atlantique). Two aircraft carriers (the Joffre and the Painlevé) were also to be built in Saint-Nazaire.

First, in 1940, the French government considered withdrawing to the Reduit in Brittany after the fall of Paris and entrenching it there with the help of the French and British fleets. However, given the lack of protection against German bombers, the plan was rejected[6] and the government fled to Bordeaux and Vichy, respectively. The commander of the Brest naval district, Admiral Jean de Laborde, shipped the gold reserves of Belgium and Poland stored in Brest to Dakar on June 16. The Richelieu, Dunkerque and Surcouf ran together with 80 other warships and 76 civilian ships from Brest to French West Africa and French Algeria, from Lorient on June 18, 15 warships and 35 minesweepers escaped.[7] 32,000 Allied soldiers were evacuated from Brest and 57,000 from Lorient. The Strasbourg and Jean Bart also escaped from Saint-Nazaire to French North Africa. The unfinished De Grasse fell into the hands of the German conquerors in Lorient on June 19, as did the unfinished Joffre in Saint-Nazaire.

After Brittany fell to the German troops almost without a fight, they turned the coasts into fortresses. The port and arsenal of Brest, which the French had destroyed when they withdrew, was rebuilt by the Germans as well as Lorient as a submarine port. The 1st U-Flotilla and the 9th U-Flotilla were stationed in Brest, the 2nd U-Flotilla in Lorient and the 6th U-Flotilla and the 7th U-Flotilla in Saint Nazaire. From his headquarters in Lorient, Admiral Dönitz led the submarines into the battle of the Atlantic. The submarine ports and the coastal fortifications were then the target of the Allied bombing, and most of the coastal cities were largely destroyed.

The German occupying power immediately began to promote the autonomous aspirations of the Bretons directed against Paris.[8] Despite many war victims, some Bretons (e.g. Célestin Lainé) saw collaboration with the Germans as the way to the desired state independence. Members of the "Nationalist Breton Party" (P. N. B.) participated and some Bretons (around 40) wore the uniform of the Waffen SS under the name Bezen Perrot. A Breton “National Council” was set up in Pontivy as early as July 1940, and in 1941 the French Vichy government had to allow lessons in the Breton language and history under German pressure.[9]

Also in 1941, the centuries-French Loire-Atlantique (Bret. Liger-Atlantel) with the capital Nantes (Bret. Naoned) and the port of Saint-Nazaire by the Vichy government without a referendum and without the consent of the local political representatives from the rest of the Brittany severed. This separation has not been reversed to this day, although, according to information from Breton autonomists, the last surveys clearly showed a willingness to reunite the (now almost exclusively francophone) Bretons of Loire-Atlantique.[10]

However, there was also resistance to the occupiers. After the Allied landing in Normandy in June 1944, British and French parachute troops also landed in Brittany and increased the resistance. Most of Brittany was liberated in August 1944, and Brest fell in September after the Battle of Brittany. Only in the war ports of Lorient and Saint-Nazaire did the German crews hold out until the end of the war in May 1945 - on the one hand following a senseless command from the Fiihrer to hold the naval bases at all costs and to the last man, on the other hand because the Allies were making a quick advance northwards and the East against Germany was more important than the laborious fight against the last German garrisons in the extreme west of France, which were blocked anyway.

After 1945

After the Second World War, the regionalists, who were hated as collaborators, went into hiding and the liberal forces brought a revival of the Breton language and culture. This was reinforced when President Charles de Gaulle set up a committee to promote the interests of Brittany in 1951 and promoted the culture and language. Thanks to government support, the region experienced an unexpected economic boom and further emigration of the Bretons was prevented. These measures have made the peninsula the most important agricultural region and, after the Côte d'Azur, the second most important tourist region. In 1978 the Amoco Cadiz tanker accident occurred on the coast of Brittany. In 1999 the tanker Erika sank south of the coast of Brittany.

With the establishment of the regions in 1960, the region of Brittany was created within the current borders. In 1972 the region received the status of an établissement public under the direction of a regional prefect. The decentralization laws of 1982 gave the regions the status of collectivités territoriales (local authorities), which until then had only been enjoyed by the municipalities and the départements. In 1986 the regional councils were directly elected for the first time. Since then, the region's powers vis-à-vis the central government in Paris have been gradually expanded.

The arsenal of Brest was the place of manufacture in 1957 and the home port of the French aircraft carrier Clemenceau from 1961–1997, since 2001 the port of Brest has been the home port of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, which was also built there in 1994.

In autumn 2013 there were protests against French and European economic policy in Brittany.[11]