Charente History

The Charente was one of the original 83 departments created at the time of the French Revolution from the former province of Angoumois to the West and South of Saintonge.

Salt production in the Charente regionCognacBefore the department’s creation, much of the area was on the whole commercially successful mainly thanks to traditional industries for example the production of cognac and salt.

Much of the 20th century saw the river Charente silted up and unnavigable but during the 18th century it did provide important links with coastal shipping routes available both for use by traditional businesses and also for some of the newly developing ones such as paper and iron smelting.

During the early part of the 19th century, the speedy pace of commercial and industrial development led to a period of increased prosperity and in fact the department’s population peaked in 1851. During the second half of this same century, Charente, along with many of France’s rural departments experienced a decline in the level of population as many of the people of working age moved away to work in the cities and in France’s overseas empire. In the early 1870s, with the arrival of phylloxera, many of the people involved in the Charente wine industry were to experience financial ruin.

Inevitably, the 20th century with its two major World Wars saw the Department adversely affected in its core traditional industries and even in the second half of the 20th century it experienced little growth and the population level remained remarkably stable at around 350,000. However, the conurbation surrounding Angoulême, has seen an addition of some 10,000 to the overall population due to industrial and commercial developments in the first part of the 21st-century.

There has been much immigration from overseas into the region recently and Census data collected in 2006 showed that the number of British citizens resident in the department had risen to over 5,000 placing the department fourth in this respect behind the capital: Paris, Dordogne and the Alpes-Maritimes.