Shot of Guizancourt, a small village in the Somme, Picardy, France.
Somme is a department of France, located in the north of the country and named after the Somme river. It is part of the Picardy region of France.
The north central area of the Somme was the site of a series of battles during World War I. Particularly significant was the 1916 Battle of the Somme. As a result of this and other battles fought in the area the department is home to many military cemeteries and several major monuments commemorating the many soldiers from various countries who died on its battlefields. The famed Battle of Cressy also took place in this department.
Picardy is one of the 27 regions of France. It is located in the northern part of France.
The historical province of Picardy stretched from north of Noyon to Calais, via the whole of the Somme department and the north of the Aisne department. The province of Artois (Arras area) separated Picardy from French Flanders.
From the 5th century the area was part of the Frankish Empire, and in the feudal period it encompassed the six countships of Boulogne, Montreuil, Ponthieu, Amiénois, Vermandois, and Laonnois. According to the 843 Treaty of Verdun the region became part of West Francia, the later Kingdom of France.
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. During the Hundred Years’ War, Picardy was the centre of the Jacquerie peasant revolt in 1358.
From 1419 onwards, the Picardy counties (Boulogne, Ponthieu, Amiens, Vermandois) were gradually acquired by the Burgundian duke Philip the Good, confirmed by King Charles VII of France at the 1435 Congress of Arras. They were again seized by King Louis XI of France after the Burgundian Wars and the death of Duke Charles the Bold in 1477.
In the 16th century, the government (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 the Caribbean. 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.
This painting by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes recalls the “Golden Age” in the history of the province of Picardy. The Walters Art Museum.
In 2009, the Regional Committee for local government reform proposed to reduce the number of French regions and cancel additions of new regions in the near future. Picardy would have disappeared, and each department would have joined a nearby region. The Oise would have been incorporated in the Île-de-France, the Somme would have been incorporated in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais and Aisne would have been incorporated in the Champagne-Ardenne. The vast majority of Picards were opposed to this proposal, and it was scrapped in 2010 (see newspaper: “Courrier Picard”).
Today, the modern region of Picardy no longer includes the coastline from Berck to Calais, via Boulogne (Boulonais), that is now in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, but does incorporate the pays of Beauvaisis, Valois, Noyonnais, Laonnois, Soissonnais, Omois, among other departments of France. The older definition of Picardy 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, and parts of the Belgian province of Hainaut.
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