1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vendée

VENDÉE, a maritime department of western France, formed in 1790 out of Bas-Poitou, and taking its name from an unimportant tributary of the Sevre Niortaise. It is bounded by Loire-Inferieure and Maine-et-Loire on the N., by Deux-Sevres on the E., by Charente-Inferieure on the S. and by the Atlantic Ocean on the W. for 93 m. Pop. (1906) 442,777. Area, 2708 sq. m. The islands of Yeu (area, 8^ sq. m.) and Noirmoutier (q.v.) are included. The Sevre Nahtaise on the N.E. and the Sevre Niortaise on the S., besides other streams of minor im- portance, form natural boundaries. The department falls into three divisions — woodland (Bocage), plain (Cdte) and marsh (Marais).

The highest point (748 ft.) is situated in the woodland, which occupies the greater part of Vendee, on the water-parting between the Loire and the rivers of the coast. This region, which, geologically, is composed of granite, gneiss, mica-schist, schist and lias, abounds in springs, and is fresh and verdant; the landscape is characterized by open fields surrounded by trees, which supplied ambushes and retreats to the Vendeans in the civil war at the end pf the i8th century. The marshes, raised above the sea-level within historic times (four centuries ago), consist of two portions, the Breton marsh in the north and the Poitevin marsh in the south; "the latter extends into the departments of Charente-Inferieure and Deux-Sevres. The region includes productive salt marshes and fertile cultivated areas artificially drained. Its area is constantly being increased by the alluvium of the rivers and the secular eleva- tion of the coast. The celebrated beds of sea-shells near St Michel en l'Herm — 2300 ft. long, 985 ft. broad and from 30 to 50 ft. deep — show to what extent the coast has risen. The plain of Vendee lying between the Bocage and the Poitevin marsh is bare and treeless, but fertile, though poor in springs ; geologically it is composed of lias and oolite. The department is drained by the Sevre Nantaise (tributary of the Loire) and the Boulogne (a feeder of Lake Grandlieu in Loire-Inferieure), both draining into the basin of the Loire; and by the Vie, the Lay (with the Yon), and the Sevre Niortaise (with the Autise and the Vendee), which flow into the Atlantic. The climate is that of the Girondine region , mild and damp, the temperature rarely rising above 77" or falling below 18 F.; 120 to 150 days of rain give an average annual rainfall of 25 in. The woodland is colder than the plain, and the marsh is damp and unhealthy.

The department is agriculturally prosperous. Wheat is the most important crop, oats, potatoes, clover, lucerne and mangold- wurzels ranking next. Beans, flax and colza may also be mentioned. Wine is grown in the south of the department. The rearing of live stock flourishes in the Bocage and the marsh, the pastures of the latter nourishing fine oxen and horses, and sheep famous for the excellence of their mutton. Cider-apples, pears, peaches, plums, cherries and walnuts are among the fruits grown. Coal is mined in the south-east of the department (basin of Vouvant) and antimony is found; limestone is quarried. The spinning and weaving of wool, cotton and flax is carried on, and there are potteries, paper-mills, tan-yards, dye-works, manufactories of hats, boots and shoes, glass and lampblack, flour-mills, distilleries, oil-works, tile-works and shipbuilding yards. Sardines and tinned foods are prepared. The sardine fishery is active on the coast and there are extensive oyster-beds near Sables-d'Olonne. Corn, cattle, mules, fish, salt, wine, honey, wood, glass and manure are exported; wine, wood, building material, coal, phosphates and petroleum are among the imports. Sables-d'Olonne is the principal fishing and commercial port.

Vendee is served by the Ouest-Etat railway and has 81 m. of navigable rivers and canals. The department forms the diocese of Lucon, has its court of appeal and educational centre at Poitiers, and is included in the district of the XL Army Corps (headquarters at Nantes). There are three arrondissements (La Roche-sur-Yon, Fontenay-le-Comte and Sables-d'Olonne), 30 cantons, and 304 communes. The principal towns are La Roche-sur-Yon, Les Sables-d'Olonne, Fontenay-le-Comte and Lucon, which are treated under separate headings. Other places of interest are Foussais, Nieul-sur-1'Autise and Vouvant, with Romanesque churches; Pouzauges, which has a stronghold of the 13th century; Maillezais, with the ruins of its old cathedral ; Talmont and Tiffauges, both possessing ruined castles; and Le Bernard with noteworthy megalithic remains.