Poitou, an ancient province in the west of France, bounded N. by Brittany, Anjou, and Touraine, E. by Berry, Marche, and Limousin, S. by Angoumois, Saintonge, and Aunis, and W. by the bay of Biscay. It was divided into Upper Poitou (the eastern half) and Lower Poitou (the western), the capital of the whole being Poitiers. Previous to the conquest of Gaul by Cassar, it was inhabited by the Pictones or Pictavi; it afterward formed a part of the province of Aquitania, was conquered by the Visigoths early in the 5th century, fell into the hands of Clovis, king of the Franks, in 507, and under his Merovingian successors was held by the dukes of Aquitania. During the reign of Pepin the Short it became part of the Car-lovingian empire, and Charlemagne gave it counts of its own in 778. It passed into the hands of the family of Plantagenet by the marriage of Henry II. of England with Eleanor of Aquitaine, was taken from John Lackland in 1204 by Philip Augustus, and was recaptured by the English after the battle of Poitiers in 1356, remaining in their hands till 1369, when Charles V. again subjected it.

Before the execution of Louis XVI. the Poitevins rose in insurrection against the convention, and under the name of Vendeans and the leadership of their lords waged a terrible war. (See Vendee.) They were partly subdued by Gen. Hoche in 1795. Attempts to renew civil war took place in 1815, during the hundred days, and after the fall of Charles X. in 1830 and 1832, but failed. Poitou is now dvii-ded chiefly among the departments of Vienne, Deux-Sevres, and Vendee.